Book of Common Prayer

Book of Common Prayer
   The Book of Common Prayer, the liturgical text most identified with the Anglican tradition, was the first complete book of church liturgy endorsed by both a church hierarchy and a government body. It was prepared by Protestant clerics who came to power after Henry VIII broke with the Roman church (1534 Act of Supremacy), and who gained additional power under the child-king Edward VI (r. 1547-53).
   In 1543, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declared that by Henry's wish all references to the pope should be removed from all prayer books in his realm, as should all "apoc-ryphas, feigned legends, superstitions, orations, collects, versicles, and responses . . . [and] all saints which be not mentioned in the Scripture or authentic doctors." The service "should be made out of the Scripture and other authentic doctors." Two years later, Henry ordered that the English language be introduced into worship in place of Latin.
   The first Parliament under Edward passed an act already approved by church convocation requiring that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper be publicly administered under both kinds (bread and wine) and in the English language. Parliament approved the new prayer book on January 21, 1549, and ordered that all ministers in the jurisdiction ruled by Edward VI "be bounden to say and use the Mattens, Evensong, Celebration of the Lord's Supper, commonly called the Mass, and administration of each of the Sacraments, and all their common and open Prayer in such order and form as is mentioned in the same book, and none other or otherwise." In 1550, Parliament ordered all the old mass books destroyed, as the Book of Common Prayer was the only legal form of worship in England.
   Mary I (r. 1553-58) tried to reestablish Roman Catholic prayer; her successor, Elizabeth I, rein-stituted the Edwardian prayer book in 1559, with a few alterations. The Book of Common Prayer, with some minor additions and changes under Elizabeth and James I, was used until 1645, when it was replaced by the Puritan Presbyterian Directory; the Puritans tried to destroy all copies of the Book of Common Prayer.
   With the restoration of the monarchy, the prayer book was reinstituted in British churches. Parliament, in accord with church authorities, issued a revision in 1662, which for the first time included the Psalter. Scriptural quotes were revised to conform to the text of the 1611 KING James Version of the Bible. This prayer book has remained in force, with only minor changes in 1871, 1872, and 1880. As individual ministers and congregations are authorized to use the liturgy as a base from which variations can be made (most noticeably by high-church Anglo-Catholics and low-church Evangelicals), demands for changes have been considerably reduced.
   The prayer book was carried to the new English colonies in the 17th century. After the American Revolution, the newly independent Episcopal Church published a prayer book in 1790. It was adapted from the 1662 edition, with changes reflecting the political autonomy of the new country; it also included a Psalter/Hymnal. The American edition of the Book of Common Prayer was the product of the church alone, without any role by the secular government. As such, it can be changed relatively easily, and revisions have been introduced periodically. The 1928 edition was used through much of the 20th century.
   In the 1970s, the Episcopal Church went through a period of turmoil over issues such as ordaining women as ministers. The church proposed a new prayer book eventually approved in 1979. Many believers criticized it for breaking too much from the 1928 edition. A significant number of conservative members withdrew from the church and established what they described as traditional Anglican churches. While divided into several episcopal jurisdictions, they all agreed to continue using the 1928 prayer book.
   Elsewhere in the world, the 1662 edition was used in the missions established by the Church Missionary Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.As these mission churches matured, the new jurisdictions adapted the Church of England Book of Common Prayer to guide their worship.
   The Book of Common Prayer in its several editions illustrates the role of the Anglican tradition as a bridge between the Protestant community and the Roman Catholic Church. Anglicans are the most liturgically oriented Protestants and thus the ones most open to the possibilities of reconciliation with the Roman tradition.
   Further reading:
   ■ J. H. Benton, The Book of Common Prayer: Its Origin and Growth (Boston: the author, 1910)
   ■ David N. Griffiths, The Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer 1549-1999 (New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2002)
   ■ William Muss-Arnolt, The Book of Common Prayer among the Nations of the World (New York: E. S. Gorham, 1914).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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  • Book of Common Prayer — Book of Com|mon Prayer, The a book used in Church of England and Episcopal churches, which contains the words spoken by the priest and by the people in church at weekly services and at weddings, funerals etc …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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