Thursday, January 21, 2010

Act of Uniformity - 461 years of Biblical Worship

What Began in 1549 with an Act Of Parliament Endures Today!

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s words of worship (and Merbecke’s chant settings of those words) will resonate Sunday in Anglican churches that value scripture and tradition — and are reasonable enough to practice “inclusion” regarding conservative Anglicans. “Conservative” in this sense means “conserving and practicing that which is good.”

Cranmer’s Prayer Book was proclaimed the official liturgy of England by Parliament on January 21, 1549. The Act of Uniformity (text here), as the measure was called, addressed “The Book of the Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church after the use of the Church of England.”
Several minor changes have been made over the centuries, but the towering language — great language for great things — and, more important, the core faith expressed by that language, remain the same in the 1928 BCP. This magnificent book is the keystone of our faith today in the Anglican Church as well as other churches that have adopted it or portions of it (normally through the 1662 version in legal at the time of the great missionary movement during the 18 & 19th centuries). Moreover, the classic Prayer Book is treasured as a jewel in the crown of the entire Western Canon by readers and scholars who appreciate the English language.
It wasn’t until 1979 that the first major revisions appeared in the language and, consequently, in the meaning of the religion itself, chiefly in the secular “Baptismal Covenant.” This sociopolitical phrase is regarded by many revisionists, according to their own words, as the most important declaration in the liturgy. Another revision is a slight manipulation of language in the Creeds that denies the divine nature of Christ. If you haven’t noticed this sly edit hidden in plain sight, read it carefully and you’ll see.

No small changes, these, and vexatious to the vast majority of Episcopalians, who will be happy to learn that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the 1662 & 1928 BCP have been greatly exaggerated by liberal bishops and clergy. Although the 1979 book was adopted by General Convention as the official liturgy — and, as we learned at last summer’s General Convention, is now considered in revisionist circles terribly old-hat – the 1928 BCP is still in use throughout the Church wherever Episcopalians discern the difference. How quickly the 1979 went out of fashion! Yet the classic, scripture-based 1662 & 1928 BCP endures.

If you are clergy, consider observing this pivotal day in Church history by conducting services this Sunday and next from the 1662 or 1928 BCP. You’ll leave church refreshed, renewed, and ready to take on whatever the coming week has in store.

Cranmer Lives
Cranmer Lives.

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