The End of the Prayer “Book” Era?



By Lee Ann Walling




When last we met in this blog space, the House of Deputies had passed a resolution that called for revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, with a timeline that stretched to 2030.

Not so fast. The House of Bishops had serious heartburn over the resolution as it was worded at the time, and it faced several dozen amendments and likely implosion.

The Right Rev. Andy Doyle, Bishop of Texas, worked with other bishops to craft an amended resolution that was strikingly different from the original, yet it resonated with an overwhelming majority of deputies, who passed it on July 11 with a voice vote. Rather than focusing on a revised “Book” of Common Prayer, the resolution emphasizes liturgical revision.

Some key provisions of resolution A068, which you should read for yourself:

  • The 1979 Book of Common Prayer will be “memorialized” as a Prayer Book of the church “preserving the psalter, liturgies, the Lambeth Quadrilateral, historic documents, and trinitarian formularies ensuring its continued use”;
  • That the revision “utilize the riches of Holy Scripture and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, class and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship;”
  • “That our liturgical revision utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity;”
  • That the liturgical revision take into consideration the use of emerging technologies which provide access to a broad range of liturgical resources;
  • That, at each step of the revision process, the materials be professionally translated into English, Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole; and
  • That a new Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision be created “with leaders who represent the expertise, gender, age, theology, regional, and ethnic diversity of the church.”

“It balances the two big conflicting concerns: desire for complete rewrite of the Prayer Book (a big, long-term task) with the desire to authorize and translate new texts as soon as practical,” the Right Rev. Kevin Brown reflected. “The result is much better than either of the two Blue Book options alone. It takes the best of both.”


The original options were 1) a complete revision and 2) a three-year period of deep discernment and engagement with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.


“Personally, I came to General Convention wanting the church to rethink how and when we revise and authorize official liturgies – that is, finding a process that doesn’t take decades. Right now, that cycle is every 50-60 years; that is too long,” Bishop Brown said. “The resolution is a great move in that direction.”


It’s a bit ironic that the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, so controversial when it was launched, will now be “memorialized,” much as the 1662 Prayer Book is still the Church of England’s official prayer book although it has been displaced during Sunday worship with many local variations.

Lee Ann Walling, a second-time deputy, attends Christ Church, Milford. She was appointed to the legislative Committee on Evangelism and Church Planting.

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