One of the (many) reasons the Anglican church struggles to maintain unity stems from the fact it no longer uses a uniform prayer book. Common Worship might delight or dismay depending on churchmanship but chances are you will find something to approve of. The reason being that it is not one prayer book at all but an a la carte menu offering wide variety of Eucharistic prayers and liturgies according to personal taste. This might placate an increasingly schizophrenic community but the one thing it cannot do is produce unity of thought and expression.
The simple truth is that ‘you are what you pray’ with the words we use in our worship defining, moulding and forming us as ecclesial communities. Thus where the church of 1910 was united as around one altar through shared use of the Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican church of 2010 has little in terms of worship or identity holding it together at all.
To understand how this quickly leads to disunity let us ponder a town with three Anglican churches, one evangelical, one Anglo-Catholic and one liberal/middle of the road. In 1910 they would have offered distinct worship but the BCP would have been a common link between them. At Diocesan functions this shared liturgy would have bound them together even if they might have argued vehemently over matters of doctrine. Whereas today the evangelical church will likely adopt its own liturgy by use of power point and overhead projector, the middle of the road parish will opt for a pick and mix economy borrowing from all and any source (but especially Iona liturgies!) [and] Finally the Anglo-Catholic parish is likely to use the Roman Rite with exotic processions and devotions thrown in for good measure. When the three now come together there is very little they share and the old arguments over doctrine now extend to liturgical practice as well.
Now the Saint Barnabas’ liturgy is a curious thing but it is beautiful, dignified and effective. Being a thoroughly modern Anglican in one respect I am thoroughly unwilling to change it at present! Consider me part of the problem not the cure then as no copy of Common Worship has ever crossed the threshold. But I do think a common liturgy will prove essential to the future of any Ordinariate.
Might we say the same of the Church of England at large? My heart says ‘yes’ my head says ‘too late!’ For the lamentable, schismatic truth is that, following women’s ordination, we cannot even unite around one altar. No bishop in the Church of England can function sacramentally with every member of clergy in their care! This suggests it is too late for meaningful unity unless synod opts to either dismiss all opponents or cease ordaining women at all.
It is very hard to over emphasise how disastrous this is- it tells us that schism is not around the corner but already here. We are living with its devastating effect and that is what is causing so much pain, disunity and confusion. Can a church have much future when bitterly divided? How do we preach reconciliation between God and man when there is no reconciliation from within? Jesus warned that a house divided cannot stand- that is what makes sorting this mess a priority for Synod. But with the latest revision committee unable to reach any meaningful compromise it seems a miracle is needed. How sad that none of this was foreseen by those who tinkered with holy orders in order to placate societal notions of fairness and inclusivity.
Fr. Tomlinson views a common liturgy as essential to the success of a future personal ordinariate. But should the English personal ordinariate enforce liturgical uniformity, what would this liturgy look like? Anglicanorum Coetibus offers the use of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite (presumably in both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Forms) in addition to (yet to be approved) Anglican rites. Most Anglo-Catholics in England now use the Modern Roman Rite. Is it time to return to more distinctively Anglican forms, and, if so, how would this be received by congregations who have now used the Novus Ordo for decades?
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