“Common Prayer” and “Common Worship”
are Not the Same
A joint statement issued by the Prayer Book Societies
of England, Canada, the United States and Australia
following the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
When the Episcopal Church of the USA decided in the 1970’s to keep the term “Common Prayer” for it’s new Prayer Book, it kept both a revered and ancient expression and injected into that expression a new meaning. With this new meaning it started a trend in the Anglican Communion, a trend which is fast becoming a dominant theme.
Anyone who examines the classic Books of Common Prayer (e.g. 1549, 1552, 1662 and in many editions world-wide since 1662) notices that there is one and ONLY ONE rite for Holy Communion, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer. The “Common” has reference to one people in one jurisdiction having the same content to their weekly and daily prayer & worship. While the readings from Scripture change and while the Psalms are different each day, the basic structure and content are constant for 365 days of the year.
Anyone who examines the 1979 American Prayer Book, or the English Alternative Service Book or the Book of Alternative Services of Canada (1985), or the AAPB (1979) or the APBA (1995) of Australia notices that there are multiple rites for Holy Communion and the Daily Offices.
Likewise anyone who examines the proposals for the new English book to be called “Common Worship” will notice that in it are multiple rites.
North American jurisdictions have adopted multiple Consecration prayers for the Order of Holy Communion which further multiply the rites in order to satisfy sectional interests even before plans for books of “Common Worship” are disclosed. “Common” in modern liturgical usage seems to be used in several ways– e.g., a common structure to the Eucharist and Daily Offices; containing identical elements in all rites– Lord’s Prayer and Creed; and being the totality of authorised rites for one jurisdiction.
To convey any of these meanings does not require the use of the word “Common”. The American 1979 Book could have been called, “An American Prayer Book” and the proposed English Book “English Worship” or “Anglican Worship” or some other title. In using the word “Common” the modern liturgists and their supporters are seeking to retain the support of those who have been brought up to equate “Common Prayer” with the Anglican Way. Some may well judge this to be deceitful.
What is virtually sure to happen is that much of the Anglican Communion will follow the example of the Church of England (which has followed that of the Episcopal Church, USA) and that the word “Common” will come to mean “a variety of rites in which there are common elements and/or a common structure.”
One result of this will be that the classic Common Prayer of the Anglican Way will be eclipsed because it will be claimed that it is found in the new “Common Worship” as one option amongst others. The classic Common Prayer is not merely a set of Rites. It is a total form or system of godly order and worship intended for parish, family, and individuals within a diocese and national jurisdiction. When it is broken up and treated as a set of parts to be placed alongside other modern services then it ceases to be The Common Prayer and becomes merely a part of modern relativism.
In the breaking up of The Common Payer is the fracturing and even the disappearance of The Anglican Way. Those who lead the Anglican Communion in this direction are propagating a generic and a relativist form of the Christian religion. For, in principle, once variety is affirmed there is an open door to further rites, orthodox or not.
Bishops, who guard the Faith, have a special duty to make sure that the classic Common Prayer does not get broken up and made part of a modern form of Anglicanism, which is neither distinctive nor biblical.
National Director, Prayer Book Society of Canada
Chairman, The Prayer Book Society (England)
(The Rev’d) DAVID ROBARTS
The Prayer Book Society in Australia
(The Rev’d Dr.) PETER TOON
President, The Prayer Book Society of the Episcopal Church