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transparent, simple, clear liturgy rules?

New Zealand Prayer BookDo you think that the liturgical rules for New Zealand’s Anglican Church are transparent, simple, and clear?

Christchurch diocese does not. The synod of the Christchurch diocese, unanimously and with acclaim, passed a motion which included asking:

“the Standing Committee of the General Synod/ te Hinota Whanui to urgently set in place a review of the labyrinthine liturgical rules of our province and produce a straightforward report which makes clear
1) what is required,
2) what is allowed, and
3) what is forbidden,
and that this review become the foundation for a renewal of the way we categorise our liturgical resources to a transparent, simple system.”

As part of the response to the motion I was invited to a meeting with the Common Life Liturgical Commission (CLLC). What they understood as having transpired at that meeting and how I viewed it may differ. Let’s leave any where-you-stand-affects-what-you-see difference and move forward.

In reply to the above motion, our diocese received the following response:

The liturgical rules of this Church are already transparent, simple and clear if one reads the Canons and Standing Resolutions of the General Synod, and these were explained to the Rev’d Peters at the above meeting, but to aid understanding CLLC has commissioned a one-page simple guide to where and how to find what is ‘authorized’ liturgy in this church. This guide will be presented to the Bishops’ meeting this month and then reported to GSTHW (General Synod /te Hinota Whanui) 2012.

In other words: our whole diocese, in all three houses (bishop, clergy, laity), is wrong. “The liturgical rules of this Church are already transparent, simple and clear”. According to this, no one in our diocese, in any of the three houses, is actually reading “the Canons and Standing Resolutions of the General Synod”. Had anyone actually done that, we would have realised that this part of our motion was unnecessary.

To help us, CLLC commissioned “a one-page simple guide”.

You can imagine, I looked forward eagerly to this guide. The bishops met. They approved the guide. The one-page simple guide was placed on our church’s website’s liturgy page. Right at the top: “Where to find authorised Liturgical Resources, Regulations, and Rules of this Church – click below”. And “click below” people did. After which they would email me to tell me that they “couldn’t open the document”!

The first thing you notice, ironically, is that the church’s one-page simple guide to help people find what is transparent, simple, and clear in our liturgical rules is on our church’s website in a format that cannot easily be opened!

I’ve downloaded it for you. And put it into a standard format. You can now download it from here. I’ve also placed it as a normal webpage here. Seriously – have a look! And then come back here.

The third thing anyone notices, anyone with even the most minimal formation, training, and study in liturgy, is that this one-page simple guide to help people find what is transparent, simple, and clear in our liturgical rules is that it omits any reference to the Book of Common Prayer!

Now I’m no great advocate for the BCP, but it is an unalterable foundational formulary of our church! Why does it appear to be missing from the one-page simple guide to help people find what is transparent, simple, and clear in our liturgical rules? Furthermore, some of the BCP is now forbidden in our church. Which bits? Well permit me to suggest that this should be fairly easy to find! Silly me. And then there’s some of the 1928 BCP that’s allowed here and some is not… [Also don’t forget we are celebrating the 350th anniversary of 1662 BCP this year…]

The second thing you notice is that this one-page simple guide goes absolutely no way towards helping people to work out what is required, what is allowed, and what is forbidden. Take the issue of the day: from this one-page simple guide may we bless a committed same-sex couple using the rite produced by our church’s liturgy commission or may we not?

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6 Responses to transparent, simple, clear liturgy rules?

  1. The answer to your last question is simple, Bosco, and I am surprised you have not thought of it 🙂

    It is: “Er. Um. Maybe. No, maybe not.”

  2. Back in 2011, when you were “stopping the presses”, you wrote “The positive is that if there is to be a revised Prayer Book something much better could be the result”. From the sounds of it now, the CLLC cannot imagine that being possible.

    I am going to guess that they are simply caught up in what happens often in administration work – the over-familiarity with what they deal with makes it hard to see it as others might. Would the next step be to prepare a better one-page summary (and work up towards a clearer Prayer Book and so on), to show what is meant?

    • Mark, I am waiting to hear what is to be presented to GSTHW this year and may blog about that when that has been clarified. There are some who hope that if a revision does get produced it be a leap forward, not backwards. As to producing a “better one-page summary” – I’m of the opinion that the rules are such a mess that this is not possible, and that what was passed at our diocesan synod is the better way forward. Blessings.

  3. Wow! Thanks Bosco. I think the one-pager actually does a brilliant job of making your point for you. I’ve researched this stuff (and even written some of it) and even my eyes were crossed by the time I reached the end. If this is an example of Anglicans being “transparent, simple and clear” then God help us all!
    Many of my progressive peers disagree with my support for liturgical rules – they see them as constraining and draconian rather than unifying and consultative – and examples like this won’t change their minds.
    Blessings, Brian

    • Thanks, Brian. Your comment is much appreciated. I cannot tell whether our liturgical rules are constraining and draconican or unifying and consultative because I often cannot figure out what our liturgical rules are… Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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