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Authorised Services

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We have done those things which we ought not to have done

General General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) at its recent meeting quietly acknowledged that our province’s messy liturgical life, not to put too fine a point on it, is illegal. And it set in train an unprecedented process to start remedying this. Since GSTHW has now ruled that much of our liturgical life has been inconsistent with the 1928 Act of Parliament and lacked fundamental authorisation in the first place, it will be interesting to follow whether such activities cease, and what is done about past actions that have ongoing consequences – such as, for example, the bishops having used ordination rites that lack authorisation…

First, then, the good news: starting from discussions on this website, the Christchurch diocesan synod asked General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) to clarify
1) what is required,
2) what is allowed, and
3) what is forbidden
in our liturgical life.

GSTHW 2012 did not get to deal with this, and passed it on to GSTHW Standing Committee. This Bill, passed at GSTHW 2014, is the response to that. It now needs to go around all the diocesan synods and hui amorangi, back to GSTHW, and if it passes through all that, it then waits a year for anyone who seeks to challenge it. [This is quite different to what is formally reported here: that this has been “confirmed and passed into law” is obviously quite incorrect.]

The preamble of the Bill underscores the above:

Whereas General Synod/te Hinota Whanui in 2012 had been advised of a resolution asking for a review of the liturgical rules of our Church with a view to improving clarity and where necessary simplification, and
Whereas that resolution was not considered due to lack of time but was referred to the General Synod Standing Committee, which deemed it unable to be considered by them, and
Whereas the Common Life Liturgical Commission, the House of Bishops, and the Chancellors and Legal Advisors Group have considered these matters and recommend some amendments…

Breaking the Law?

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is recognised as a voluntary compact with its own Act of Parliament, The Church of England Empowering Act, 1928. This Act allows certain changes to be made. This church can add to or alter the Formularies (agreed doctrine and practice), and, as part of that, under certain very limited conditions, can “permit experimental use of new or amended form of service”:

Where a proposal to add or alter the Formularies has been approved by the General Synod with a view to its being made known to the several Diocesan Synods, the General Synod may by resolution determine that, after the proposal has received the assent of the majority of the Diocesan Synods, the experimental use of the new or amended form of service be permitted under such conditions and for such period (terminating not later than the last day of the next ensuing ordinary session of the General Synod) as the General Synod shall determine.

This possibility was added in 1966 as part of the process of revising the Prayer Book. [For a complete history, read my thesis].

But, even with the above as clear as possible, the church has actually produced a plethora of what it has been calling “experimental services” which obviously have no legal standing whatsoever. They are not on their way to becoming Formularies. They have not been approved by General Synod. They have not “received the assent of the majority of the Diocesan Synods”.

Title G Canon XIV purports to be about the Authorisation of Forms of Worship, and Liturgical Standing Resolution (SLR3) purports to delineate experimental forms of service.

But the new Bill acknowledges,

The issues with Title G Canon XIV and SLR3 are two–fold – (1) inconsistency with the 1928 Act and (2) lack of fundamental authorisation in the first place.

The Bill then seeks to amend the church’s Constitution by inserting into it a definition of “Authorised Services”

“Authorised Services ” includes (a) Formularies, (b) Experimental uses as authorised by the 1928 Act, and (c) other services authorised under Title G Canon XIV.

Clergy and others, of course, vow and sign to only use “Authorised Services”*.

Now watch carefully: GSTHW 2014 now does something I cannot recall having seen before. It first indicates that Title G Canon XIV, that it has just mentioned in this Bill, is inconsistent with the 1928 Act and lacks fundamental authorisation in the first place. Then here’s the bit I’ve never seen before: the Bill indicates that

Title G Canon XIV could then be repealed and replaced with a new Canon which effectively authorises the kinds of activities referred to in the current Canon and SLR3. [presumably once this Bill has gone through due process, all diocesan synods, hui amorangi, next meeting of GSTHW, lying a year on the table]

The current Bill, going through the process of the next three years, does not effect the Bill’s intention!!! But it will be incumbent on future meetings of GSTHW (and the “twice-round process” I have described) to pass a revision of Title G Canon XIV after this Bill has become effective in three years time. Only then will we be clear what “Authorised services” are! The wording of this revision of Title G Canon XIV is not indicated. Furthermore, it is universally held that no meeting of GSTHW can bind future meetings of GSTHW!

It’s not just the above that will need to be dealt with for a new “twice-round process” after this Bill has been confirmed, but

subsequent to that being confirmed, [there will need to be] the repeal of Title G Canon VI, and consequential amendments to Title G Canon XIV, and repeal of SRL3.

Someone cleverer than I will have to explain why all this was not put into this Bill and all done at the same time!

So we are now in limbo: We have just had GSTHW let us all know that we have no definition of “Authorised services”. And, for at least the next 5 years or so, it seems we will not have the sort of definition that the current members of GSTHW want!

The principle of “Trust us we know what we are doing” clearly does not apply, as this Bill is saying loud and clear – “we’ve been doing it wrong for decades” and we haven’t listened to those who have been telling us this…

Why might it matter?

Might this once again be about gays? That’s where the church’s current energy seems to be.

This meeting of GSTHW passed Motion 30 looking to organise a process and structure for blessing same-gender relationships. That motion indicates there may need to be alteration of the church’s constitution and of going to Parliament. But there is not agreement about what is required [My position that blessing committed same-sex couples was allowed has now been explicitly forbidden by Motion 30]. People are getting their ducks in a row. And this Bill may be seen to be part of that.

The church has been perfectly happy with having its liturgical life being chaotic, and has, until now, avoided any attempts at clarifying what is required, allowed, and forbidden.

But those who do not want to see the church stumble its way into blessing or marrying committed-same-sex couples in the same way it has bumbled comfortably into lots of other changes, have started looking carefully at what actually is required, allowed, and forbidden. Intelligent discussion has begun looking at the Church of England Empowering Act (see post-GSTHW examples here and here).

In the discussion about ordaining gays, the possibility that such an ordination could be determined to be invalid was raised. Fears of a Title D (discipline) against a bishop are regularly raised in this regard. But bishops have happily been ordaining (including ordaining new bishops) using a variety of ordination rites other than the Formularies of ordination agreed to by our church [Something explicitly listed as misconduct for a bishop in Title D Canon II 4.3]. Now that GSTHW has ruled such ordinations as inconsistent with the 1928 Act and lacking fundamental authorisation in the first place, will such ordinations (and other so-called “experimental services”) cease? And what will be done about such ordinations which have been done these past years?

But wait, there’s more!

  • Might I presume that, initially, when people talked about authorised services, this concept was synonymous with the Formularies?
  • In the future revising of Title G Canon XIV that this current GSTHW is hoping for it says,

    Services could be authorised by Bishops or whole Tikanga, but would have to be:

    (a) Based on ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ and/or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’ [being our existing framework for liturgical development]

    An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist is one of the more confused and confusing messes of our liturgical rules. To suggest to a future GSTHW that this be the basis for a revised Title G Canon XIV lowers confidence even further.


*Clergy vow and sign that

In public prayer and administration of the sacraments I will use only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by lawful authority.

Now that GSTHW has launched this attempt to define “authorised services”, questions remain about what is meant by “allowed by lawful authority” which is nowhere defined as far as I can see. (Go back to where I was reading).


This is my fifth post reflecting on General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2014:

Similar Posts:

19 thoughts on “Authorised Services”

  1. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco
    I do not think these changes are ‘about gays’ – that is a distraction from your main point that we are and have been in a messy, confused if not chaotic place and now – prompted, it seems to me, by you as much as by any other individual in our church – work is underway to clarify what is authorised and what is not.

    In broad terms I am in agreement that we need to do more than what this bill envisages as the alternative form for ordering eucharist is too broad and needs to be constrained.* Where we might yet not be in ‘narrow’ agreement concerns the nature of flexibility we finally allow ourselves as a church (by 2030?!). But that is a discussion for another day.

    *To cite just one instance, I would like the provision that we might use an authorised eucharist prayer from any other member church of the Communion to be constrained to ‘occasional’. Currently a parish could disregard our agreed ACANZP eucharists completely in favour of (say) recurring use of a eucharist from Egypt or the Southern Cone or Kenya. Fine though those eucharists undoubtedly will be, I struggle as a liturgical patriot to understand why we might use them ahead of our own prayers.

    1. So the next step, Peter, in scraping up the toothpaste, which by now is also mixed with other pastes, and other liquids, and trying to get the actual toothpaste back into the tube is to reverse the removal of the rubric on page 511?

      It originally said, “It [A Form for Ordering the Eucharist] is intended for particular occasions and not for the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist.” That rubric was removed via the twice-round, changing-the-formulary process.

      That issue is already in my mind as the topic for a future post.


      1. Hi Bosco
        As part of the General Synod which approved the change … I shall choose my response carefully 🙂

        1. Yes, perhaps we should reverse the rubric. But,
        2. I would like a reasonable and canonical pathway to support ‘things we do as Anglicans’ whether that be a (regular, not just occasional) ‘All Age Eucharist’ or a ‘Fresh Expressions Eucharist’ which – with the best creativity in the world – does not quite get catered for by p. 404/456/476, but which does seem much needed in a church engaging with a changing world.

        But then there is the Cardy Option, looking at the comment below 🙂

        1. Thanks, Peter. I’m conscious that we may be anticipating a discussion that might go better with my-promised post dedicated to that particular rubric (I’m in no way, however, wanting to censor or prevent a discussion of it here if that’s where the energy is). I wonder if a “Fresh Expressions Eucharist” is understood as “the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist”. More significantly I would argue that we mostly haven’t really looked at what can be done with the, for example, “page 404 rite”. [In part/mainly because we haven’t really needed to grapple with it because we can so easily go down the Form-for-Ordering-the-Eucharist route]. Certainly, I would argue that the “page 404 rite” absolutely caters for “All Age Eucharist” – in fact it concerns me sorely if/when not every eucharist is (potentially) an “All Age Eucharist”. Also (again anticipating) we may not want to revert to the rubric as it was – there may be another option. Blessings.

          1. Pardon my ignorance, but can you please explain “All-age Eucharist” and how that would differ from the regular Eucharist?

          2. I think, Claudia, you would need to ask that question of Peter, rather than of me. I’m with you: all ages should be welcome at all eucharists… (hence my use of scare quotes). Blessings.

          3. Peter Carrell

            Hi Claudia
            In theory we could live in a world where all Eucharistic in all parishes were accessible to all ages. In practice many Anglican parishes combine a main morning Eucharist with opportunity for children to leave the service for some or all of the rest of the service. What follows may then be pretty inaccessible to children in the way the sermon is given and in the music chosen. “All Age” Eucharist then refers to a Eucharist in which children are present for the whole service, the sermon is offered in a manner accessible to all ages and the style of music reflects the presence of all ages rather than an adult slice of ages.

      1. I didn’t get one complaint about the incense – unlike my Presbyterian predecessor’s effort. I gather he used a considerable amount, without the assistance of a thurible[!!], and without explaining it’s symbolism and purpose.

  2. Fr Bosco,

    Do you know what the «lawful authority» really is? It’s Tradition!

    Let’s put us back to the fourth century. Most of the Christians had eventually become Arians. Only a handful of them kept Orthodoxy. The Nicean Council – contemporary with a lot of Arian and non-Arian councils – became “ecumenical” only much later, after the Church had recovered from Arianism. Without the raise of empror Theodosius, Nicæa would have been only a wishful thinking, and the Arian council of Arles II (353) would have become the norm.

    Imagine that council of Arles, and if it required «agreed doctrine and practice» and liturgy agreed by the majority.

    Liturgy can’t be voted on, agreed on, and so and so. I mean, you can do it, and most Churches do that. But what’s the point with doing that? If that’s a valid system, then what will you (or your grandchildren) do, when 99% of the Anglicans of your province be nontheistic? Will you (or your grandchildren) worship with some nontheistic unprayers, just because 99% of the people agree with it?

    Like it or not, the only 100% catholic authority is this: receive the liturgy which has been handed to you by the Christians of the past generations, and forward it to the coming.

    1. Thanks, Georges. Your interesting theory presents an alternative which does not really apply in the context of this post. It appears as yet another of those theoretical Christian ideas that may appear great at first glance but has nowhere been seen to work in practice. Blessings.

    2. With all due respect, Georges, no serious student of Christian liturgy could make the statement you made. Even in the Eastern Orthodox Church, loath as many of its members are to admitting the historical fact, liturgy has evolved, and sometimes radically changed, even within its own “tradition” (with at least councils of bishops voting on it and agreeing on it — sometimes). Were a contemporary Orthodox Christian transported back to sixth-century Constantinople on Good Friday, they wouldn’t recognize the worship service and would probably dismiss it as unorthodox. So much for “changelessness” and “continuity.”

      1. You have entirely missed my point, Gregory. I don’t say there’s no evolution. (By the way, the Byzantine rite comes from the fusion of the Palestinian and Constantinopolitan rites.)

        Radically changed? Not at all. See «La Réforme liturgique byzantine. Étude du phénomène de l’évolution non-spontannée de la liturgie byzantine» by Dom Thomas Pott, and you’ll see that the so and then modifications came always from yet existing sources. Never ex nihilo.

        The councils of bishops never created liturgy. There are, indeed, some shameful examples of distorsion on purpose in the 20th century, but, fortunately, we are overwhelmed by older and/or parallel books.

        Indeed, some of the nowadays “Orthodox” Christians would be scandalized by some early Church practice. Yet, this is not linked to a “change” of liturgical texts, but rather on paraliturgical practice.

        The offertory prayers and the anaphoras go back to the early Church or to the organic incorporation. For example, the “Apostles’ anaphora”, composed in the 3rd century, is still used by the Ethiopian rite; that anaphora was never imposed, by cherished and handled. St Basil’s anaphora: never imposed by an authority, but canonized by the use. And none would dare throw them to the garbage in order to compose new eucharistic prayers that would fit the taste of the day.

        1. Au contraire, Georges.

          Go back to sixth-century Constantinople for Good Friday at the Church of the Holy Wisdom. A comparatively brief, plain, somber worship service. No flower-bedecked “winding sheet” (epitaphion, plashchanitsa). No elaborate outdoor procession. No hours of poetic hymnody. A contemporary Orthodox Christian transported back in time would wonder if he/she was in an Orthodox church.

          Change in liturgy took place.

          The themes for the Sundays of Lent: Triumph of Orthodoxy, Gregory Palamas, Holy Cross, John Climacus, Mary of Egypt, Palm Sunday, right? Except for when they were originally the Holy Prophets, the Prodigal Son, the Publican and Pharisee, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man and Lazarus, Palm Sunday.

          Change in liturgy took place.

          Starting the eucharistic Divine Liturgy with the Great Litany and the Three Antiphons with Little Litanies interspersed? Maybe now, but certainly not for John Chrysostom and those before him: instead, there was a procession of clergy and laity into the church, and the simple greeting “Peace be to all” kicked off the proceedings. Also, no separate office of the “proskomide” before the public start of the Divine Liturgy: it took place, much more simply, before the “Great Entrance” with the eucharistic offering of bread and wine, just as it does in a bishop’s celebration of the Divine Liturgy today (but not when a presbyter presides over one).

          Change in liturgy took place.

          Then there’s the displacement of the “cathedral rite” with the “monastic rite,” starting around the 7th century, first with the Studite Typicon (used in Russia during the 11th-14th centuries), then later the Sabbaite Typicon (used in Russia from the 14th century onwards). (Oh yes, and about those Studites: how about their innovation of poetic hymnody, replacing the Biblical Odes and other scriptural content?)

          Change in liturgy took place.

          Just a few examples, from among many others… Obviously, past generations of Christians, Orthodox or otherwise, didn’t practice your “100% catholic authority” in matters liturgical. They didn’t just “receive the liturgy which had been handed to them by the Christians of the past generations, and forward it to the coming,” in toto, intact, untouched. They evolved it, they embellished it, they adapted it — whether for better or worse, one can argue, but they did so nonetheless.

          Change in liturgy took place.

          I never said “councils of bishops created liturgy.” To be fair, neither did you. They did, however, as a matter of historical record, vote on changes, agree to them, deliberate them, in some instances. (In others, not — change “just happened,” usually under the influence of a prominent monastery, whose practices — innovations, even — got imitated in parishes, and “stuck,” by no formal authority.) The Quinisext Council, the Russian “Stoglav” Council of 1551 (whose liturgical reforms were, oddly enough, not accepted by Russian monks on Mount Athos at the time) and the Moscow Council of 1666-1667 (which provoked the “Old Believer,” or more accurately “Old Ritualist,” schism — a label that designates that change in liturgy took place, if one rite could be “old,” and another “new”), come to mind.

          Many of those conciliar decisions did not “receive the liturgy just as it had been handed to them from the past, and forward it to the future.” They introduced changes.

          So let’s not be so hard on Christians of any stripe in positing some theoretical, but not historically validated or ever really practiced, “changelessness of liturgy.”

          Even evolution, on the basis of precedent and drawing from older sources, is still change.

          1. Gregory, some of the changes you mention were organic evolution, not less, not more. Other are abuses. The Russian councils of 1551 and 1666-7 just took Greek practice, didn’t create ex nihilo. You quote a lot of organic evolutions, and I never contradicted that. But you speak of conciliar decisions that changed the liturgy, without quoting any. That was my point. And, by the way, the Mass attribuated to Chrisostom is not his.

            But even abuses can easily be dropped, because they almost never affected the core. (Prothesis before the liturgy is, in some places, fortunately, done during the Cherubic hymn.)

  3. You seem to be missing my point, Georges.

    You crowed, in somebody else’s house, “Do you know what the ‘lawful authority’ really is? It’s Tradition! Like it or not, the only 100% catholic authority is this: receive the liturgy which has been handed to you by the Christians of the past generations, and forward it to the coming.”

    I’m simply pointing out that, in actual practice, “only 100% catholic authority” doesn’t stand to historical scrutiny. The examples I gave are ample for a comment section on a blog: this isn’t the space to write a doctoral dissertation. When the ordo of the Eucharistic Liturgy changes, and when the themes of Sundays of Lent change (for the worse, in my humble opinion), it’s patently obvious previous generations didn’t “receive the liturgy that was handed to them by the Christians of past generations, and forward it to those yet to come.” They did change it, organically or ex nihilo. They didn’t pass down the same exact thing. Yes, I’ll dare say it: they innovated. And innovation isn’t always a bad thing. (Cyril of Jerusalem, for example, invented plenty in liturgics that didn’t exist previously.)

    We really ought to be more charitable toward other Christians. There are those who like to disparage all “liturgical renewal” as “willy-nilly, made-up, will o’ the wisp,” but if you take the time to read up on what went into most prayer book revisions, behind them you find a lot of solid scholarship, edifying material and *ressourcement* recovering valuables from the past lost over time. It’s not all zeitgeist-driven shlock.

    And, quite frankly, a lot of it moves people and opens their eyes to new depths in Christ. One can wax poetic all day long about the “venerable antiquity” of “fourth-century Eucharistic prayers,” but when current church practice confines presiding bishops and presbyters to murmuring them sotto voce, rather than proclaiming them aloud so the congregation can hear them, it doesn’t do worshippers any good. They miss out on quite a bit that could form and reinforce in them a Christian worldview, approach to life and conscience. Otherwise, the light is just hidden under a bushel basket of “too sacred for you” traditionalism. And in that process, Christians get robbed.

  4. Gregory, indeed, maybe Fr Bosco’s blog is not a place to pollute. Therefore, we can continue this discussion on my blog or e-mail.

    Let me explain you this in parable. Somebody asked about the authority of regulating a language. And I replied that the English language had no academy, and that its only norm was the tradition. Then you came to count out the evolution of the English language. Your arguments is like this: it’s obvious that the English language has been changed many times and across the centuries, therefore, the Sildavian language is legitimate to have an academy who changed the grammar, threw the words out and created new words describing old things.

    The Byzantine rite may be corrupt in the FORM, but not in its essence. Priests murmuring prayers in the Byzantine rite is NOT a valid argument for the Western priests creating new eucharistic prayers according to the taste (or theology, atheology etc.) of the day. And, thanks God, in the Byzantine rite, there’s a good renewal: placing the prayers at their right place, reciting them aloud, placing the prothesis at the Cherubic hymn etc. Some Churches (like in Russia) still struggle with the liturgical language, while other use a vernacular-ish language (e.g. in Transylvania since 1646). And even so, there’s no “official” translation. This is real liturgical renewal.

    And let me give you an example of renewal. In the past (and, for some, still now), the Transylavian monks had to work every day in the fields from dawn to dusk, and had not much time for prayer. Dom Serafin Man *compiled* a new service to be read at 10 pm as the only hour of the divine office. He took the order of the “midnight office”, but stated that every day, in place of the psalm 118 (119), the monks should read a nocturn/cathisma, consecutively; in the end of the service, they added a prayer of the compline. So, this new service was not such much a *new* one, but an organical change from the INSIDE.

    Not only St Cyril of Jerusalem, but lots of people wrote things. But those things entered the liturgy, step by step, by the people’s will, not by official imposition.

    1. “By the people’s will, not by official imposition”?

      Ah, so the driving force of liturgy is democracy, then, not “Tradition”!

      Historical naivete at its best.

      Even the prayer books used in Eastern Orthodox churches bear the imprimatur of their bishops or synods of bishops.

      In other words, official imposition.

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