I will confess, I was not feeling great confidence last week when the House of Deputies approved the revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Though I cut my teeth on the 1928 prayer book, it is the 1979 revision which has really formed me deeply. I am generally resistant to change that comes at a rapid pace and I grow frustrated with the seemingly desired rate of that change in our Church. Make no mistake, I am not schismatic, I do not believe that there is ever really a time when Christ calls us to walk apart from one another simply because we cannot grasp the underlying theology of a new development in the ways in which we think about God.
Today after much debate in their legislative session, the House of Bishops proposed a different way forward. The resolution they passed was to memorialize the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), to freeze it, unchanged for the foreseeable future of the church. At the same time, the church encourages provinces, dioceses, and congregations to begin the work of exploring different ways of expressing our liturgy, with an eye towards the Baptismal and Eucharistic theology located in the 1979 BCP.
For those in the know, you will recognize this as the pattern of the Church of England, whose authorized prayer book today is the 1662 version. New liturgies will develop. New forms of expressing our understanding of God will bubble up from the ground, breaking forth like a spring of living water for the church in a changing world. To my mind (and this is not the mind of everyone in the church to be sure), what the bishops have achieved is an excellent compromise. The effort and energy and expense of creating a new prayer book is an undertaking which detracts from our mission imperatives and goals. If we are to focus on the mission and ministry of the church, division is not what we need at the moment.
The House of Deputies will still need to consider the amended resolution from the House of Bishops. Amended is a bit of a misnomer, though, as most of the resolution was rewritten entirely. I will advocate for this resolution on the floor of the House of Deputies as will most of our deputation, I believe.
But to put this in a sort of perspective, there is one person from the Central Gulf Coast here who was involved with the General Convention the last time we undertook the revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Vince Currie has been to every General Convention since 1976. For a bit of perspective, I was three years old the first time he offered his gifts to the work and ministry of our church on the international stage. Now, at 15 General Conventions later, I am 45, and together we look back on his experience of this General Convention and over the years.
Videos will be coming fast and furious over the next couple of days, as will the resolutions. To my recollection, we have dealt with fewer than 100 of 500 resolutions to the General Convention. But we are past the point of most hearings and it is time to begin considering the decisions on the floors of both Houses. Keep us in your prayers. May God bless you and strengthen you to be in His service.