Friday, January 26, 2007

A One Book Solution? Part Two

In Part One, I stated that the Green Book was yet another attempt at (what I consider to be) a flawed strategy, and thus will fail to satisfy most Anglicans. People will continue to use whatever they’re accustomed to using: traditional folks will continue to use one version or another of the classic BCP, and contemporary folks will continue to use (in most cases) services from the 1979 BCP. Whether the AMiA leadership envisions the Green Book project to be a bona fide first step in producing a credible "Book of Alternative Services," or whether, following Toon, the Green Book is viewed more as an "interim measure" (the "bait and switch" strategy – see my earlier post), is difficult to say. However, in the final analysis, this particular “two-book” solution will simply be unable to live up to its design.

Now here's my radical idea: rather than starting with the template of the 1662 or 1928 BCP as the basis for new contemporary Cranmerian rites, why not instead start with the template of the 1979 BCP as the basis for restoring the traditional Cranmerian rites for a truly one-book result? Now hear me out, this is not as crazy as my readers may think. This plan would involve the following rather simple steps:

(1) Perform "restorative surgery" on the 1979 Rite One services (Daily Offices and Holy Eucharist) so that they reflect more accurately the text and spirit of the 1928 rites. (I would also remove the current alternative Eucharistic Prayer in Rite One, and replace it with a 1662-style alternative.)

(2) Include "Rite One" services that are not currently provided in the 1979 BCP, e.g., Baptism, Confirmation, Compline, Noonday Prayer, and the Pastoral Offices. (The Anglican Service Book – produced by the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, PA – is a great resource here since nearly everything of value in the 1979 BCP has been rendered in traditional language.)

(3) In the interest of keeping the size of the new BCP manageable, a revision committee working on such a project perhaps could consider excising some superfluous services and/or placing some services (e.g. Consecration of a Church) into a “Book of Occasional Services.”

(4) Redress the traditional/contemporary language balance (currently heavily weighted toward the contemporary). So, for instance, some offices (e.g. the Daily Offices and the Great Litany) are perhaps best left in their traditional (1928) forms and some contemporary (Rite Two) offices either conflated (e.g. Daily Offices) or discarded altogether. I'd also replace the Psalter with the RSV.

(5) Keep only two or at most three of the alternative Eucharistic Prayers in Rite Two. (My preference would be simply to remove Eucharistic Prayer C. Whatever is done, do not discard Eucharistic Prayer D!)

(6) Make other changes as deemed necessary to bring the new BCP in line with Anglican consensus, while continuing to maintain its comprehensiveness. (For example, include an introductory paragraph to the "Historical Documents" section that clearly states that the Church is NOT relegating these important statements to the dustbin of history.)

A radical plan? Yes, probably too radical for those who hate the 1979 Book. But it is a VERY doable plan and I think the best chance for a “one-book” solution currently being proposed.

In my next installment, I will provide a sample Table of Contents that will shed further light on what such a BCP would look like.


Derek the ├ćnglican said...

Why not use texts from the proposed English 1928 that failed to pass parliment? There's your Compline and a Day Office...

Derek the ├ćnglican said...

Only having one psalter is a problem. Even now to do a Rite I Office with the current '79 Psalter is a bit disjunctive. The RSV would have the virtue of pleasing neither the traditional nor contemporary crowd and--further--doesn'thave the Anglican pedigree. Why not a facing page of the contemporary and traditional Coverdale?

lexorandi2 said...

They're both good proposals, particularly using offices from the English Deposited Book.

Marshall said...

What about pursuing a sort of pan-Anglican project, not unlike the International Consultation on English Texts? The goal would not be a single, Communion-wide (and bdyone) book, but a set of mutually recognized texts. While some who are angry at the Episcopal Church might balk, including Episcopal, Canadian Anglican, and scholars of other more contemporary practices would benefit all for several reasons:

First, the 1979 Prayer Book needs revision. This sort of process would contribute to that development. Some of us have expected that the next book might move to completely contemporary language. While I don't know that it would, having contemporary rites recognized as validly Anglican by those who prefer traditional language would make mutual exchange more possible.

Second, having material more directly reflective of the 1662 Book, whether in traditional or contemporary language, is worth consideration. It is the recognized source for many Anglicans in the Global South, and so would make exchange with them more possible.

Third, a sort of mutual recognition of the quality of scholars and scholarship across the divisions of what it might mean to be Anglican would foster relationships and respect for future conversations that might heal those divisions

Those are some initial thoughts. I in fact do love the 1979 Book, including Prayer C; but I also think it's time to think again. Involving scholars from several quadrants, with a goal of mutually recognized texts without the requirement of a single Book, would be worthwhile. And if it did result in a single Book? The Lutherans, despite their own grave divisions, all trust one book. I don't think that would be a bad thing.

Mark said...

Perhaps the simplest thing would be to scuttle the BCP and replace it with a modern language version of the Westminster Directory with the Gregorian canon.