Liturgical identity card: The 1662 IE and Evangelical Anglicans
An interview with Samuel Bray
By Jake Dell
Samuel L. Bray is a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, as well as a McDonald Distinguished Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. He is a coauthor, with John F. Hobbins, of Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators.
We are pleased to share the first of our four-part interview with him for readers of the Bulletin.
At EFAC-USA one of our goals is “To foster fellowship among Evangelicals in the Anglican and Episcopal churches, and to promote cooperation among all who recognize the ultimate authority of Scripture in matters of faith and practice.” How can the 1662 IE help further this goal?
J. I. Packer once said that the Articles of Religion are the “identity card” for Anglicans. He’s right–the Articles do express the theological position of the Anglican tradition, and they clearly identify the Scriptures as “the ultimate authority . . . in matters of faith and practice.” To vary the metaphor, they show where the Anglican tradition falls on the map of the different churches of the Reformation, all of which called for a recentering of the authority of Scripture. But Anglican theology is not just expressed in propositional form. It’s worked out and expressed liturgically in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). And in the Homilies and the Canons, but those are matters for another time.
This is part of what makes the 1662 BCP so important. Historically, it’s been the Anglican formulary that expresses our doctrine liturgically. Until the late 19th century, the exceptions to this would simply prove the rule. Those are Scotland, where the 1662 BCP remained widely used; and the United States, where it was expressly said that no substantial departure was intended. Since then we’ve embarked on a great experiment: can we allow massive variation—across provinces, within provinces, and even within those who use a single prayer book merely because of its thousands of options—without affecting our theology and sense of identity?
And for Evangelicals in Anglican and Episcopal churches, the results of this experiment are dire. We used to be known as a people of two books—the Bible and the BCP. But there’s been a precipitate decline in knowledge of the former and use of the latter.
So to sum this up, there are two related but distinct reasons why the 1662 BCP has reemerged as a subject of discussion, and not just that, but as a text for daily use by Christians—in a way that would have been surprising and even unimaginable to most observers just 20 years ago.
One reason is the increasingly urgent search for Anglican identity, which has led many Anglicans and Episcopalians to look back to the formularies (especially the Articles, the 1662 BCP, and the accompanying Ordinal). The other reason is the increasingly obvious failure of the Liturgical Renewal Movement to fulfill its promise. I won’t belabor that point, but I wrote an essay called “The Shape Fallacy” that discussed it.
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition (1662 IE) is at the intersection of these developments. It offers the 1662 BCP as a liturgical identity card to Anglicans. And it offers a path of worship and formation, of prayer and Scripture reading, that millions of other Christians have walked before us.
Next time: using the 1662 IE to “correct” Evangelical Anglican worship.