Sunday, December 29, 2013

WHAT'S WITH THE NEW LITURGY?

A Parish Introduction to the ACNA Communion Liturgy

Last month St. Stephen’s [Sewickley, PA] began using the new liturgy of the Anglican Church in North America. The Senior Pastor asked me to write a brief introduction to the Holy Communion liturgy. Here are some FAQs about it.

What is liturgy? “Liturgy” sounds exotic but refers to something simple: order in worship. Every church has a liturgy by whatever name, comprising prayer and praise, Bible reading and preaching. Anglicans believe in “Word and Sacrament,” which constitute the two main parts of the liturgy. They believe that “praying shapes believing” so that a more formal, “said” liturgy can convey the mighty truths of the biblical faith better than something we make up as we go.

What is the Anglican Church of North America? The ACNA is a “province” that separated from the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada in 2009 and realigned with those worldwide Anglican churches of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA). GFCA’s “confession” is called the Jerusalem Declaration and includes the following: We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

Where did the Anglican liturgy come from? When the Protestant Reformation came to England, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and others saw to it that the faith became available in English to everyone through Bible translation and a “Book of Common Prayer.” This Prayer Book went through a number of variations before becoming standard in 1662. The 1662 BCP remains the universally recognized liturgy worldwide and is translated into many local languages. Some of its language, e.g., the “thee’s” and “thou’s,” are no longer colloquial, and hence it has been revised.

American Prayer Books, especially the traditional forms in the1928 BCP and the 1979 “Rite One,” have followed the English liturgy. In 1979, the Episcopal Church adopted a major revision to its Prayer Book, which included some elements many now think of as standard, e.g., “The Peace” and participation of lay people in readings and prayers. This Prayer Book is not owned by the Episcopal Church, and many ACNA churches have been using it on an interim basis.

Is the ACNA liturgy old or new? The ACNA Communion service is one of the “Texts for Common Prayer” produced by a Task Force in 2013. The liturgy is, according to the Task Force Chairman, “more old than new” because it is loyal to the 1662 standard. While it retains some innovations from the 1979 BCP, it restores many traditional features, some so minor you may not notice them until your tongue trips over them. For instance, “The Lord be with you” is now followed by “And with your spirit.” Why go back to this old wording about your spirit? Many Anglicans have concluded the older language was more majestic. Beyond that, an important understanding has been lost on modern people: you actually have a spirit, a soul; and when you worship, God moves your heart by His Spirit.

Is this liturgy final? No. These “Texts for Common Prayer” are still in the beta phase. The Task Force that produced them says: “These working texts are not yet finalized, awaiting response from the experience of their wide use in the Church” and they ask for further comments to be submitted to: liturgytaskforce@anglicanchurch.net. I have written a set of “Grace Notes” on the liturgy, including some suggestions for improvement. You may do likewise.

Is this the only liturgy allowed at St. Stephen’s? What about Sat@Six and the 11am service? The new Communion service is designed to be the main Sunday liturgy, but it does not exclude other forms of worship. I would suggest that everyone experience the new liturgy periodically.

What about music? There is no prescribed music to accompany the new liturgy. There is a parallel tradition of historic Anglican hymnody found in the bound hymnals. Once again, I would commend “blended” music in all services that includes the best of what is traditional and contemporary.

Further Resources


You may find the following online resources helpful: 
Books of Common Prayer

GAFCON
The Jerusalem Declaration may be found at: http://gafcon.org/the-jerusalem-declaration.

See my summary on “The Global Anglican Future” for the adult class on “Anglicanism 101” at

Anglican Church of North America

ACNA Texts for Common Prayer
The introductory page for the Texts is here:

From that page you can download texts. There is also a useful FAQ section available. 

“Grace Notes”
My more detailed comments on the Communion Liturgy may be found at:


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