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Episcopal Church Shows NZ A Way Forward

The unconstitutional 2020 Prayer Book and the 2005 Prayer Book

New Zealand Anglicanism is in difficulties. Are the majority of us forbidden from using some of the services in the 2020 book with the title A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa?

This book, published in 2020, contains services that haven’t even been seen by a meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW), let alone gone through the “twice-round” process that would make all of its content formularies. The Foreword to this book admits that “in addition to new formularies this edition includes…” Furthermore, the status of much of the Te Reo Māori content is different to that of the Pākehā English: in many cases, the English has gone through the GSTHW process – the Te Reo Māori has not gone through that process, which would give it equal authority to the English. The Te Reo Māori is simply a translation of what GSTHW has authorised in English. The same is true for Tikanga Polynesia.

Some might respond that Title G Canon X allows for the translation, publication, and use of formularies. That is one temporary way forward as it does not resolve the different status of the translation – a translation of a formulary is not itself a formulary. There is no clarity in the 2020 book to indicate what is a formulary and what is not.

If there is any doubt that what are not themselves formularies are simply translations of formularies, another temporary way forward is for bishops to authorise these services in the 2020 book for use in their own episcopal unit – an authorisation now allowed for bishops by a relatively-recent revision of our Constitution. But, again, this does not resolve the deeper issue of relative status.

There is another problem. Our Church’s Constitution/Te Pouhere (Part B 1) requires adherence to A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa. But there is now absolute confusion about what that actually refers to. Does it refer to a physical book? In that case, the last physical book of formularies would be the one published in 2005. It certainly can NOT refer to the 2020 publication of the same name.

But I also know people at the Church’s “highest” levels who understand the words “A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa” in the Constitution to refer not to a physical book, but to all liturgical formularies from GSTHW. For them, a physical Prayer Book is simply regarded as a choice to print some of those formularies.

Obviously, no other Anglican Church has quite got itself in to the mess of ours. No other Anglican Church has a printed Prayer Book that claims to be “a revised edition of our prayer book” and having the title of the Prayer Book that is binding in its Constitution while at the same time having services that are not authorised for use by all.

But, the issue of what is meant by an authorised Prayer Book has exercised minds in The Episcopal Church (TEC) which just had the meeting of its General Convention (TEC’s equivalent of our GSTHW).

Convention approved the first reading of a constitutional change to define the Book of Common Prayer. Resolution A059 calls for amending Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, which lays out how the Book of Common Prayer can be revised but has never specifically provided for authorized liturgies that are not proposed revisions to the existing book.

If the change passes a second reading at the 81st General Convention in 2024, Article X would, for the first time, define the Book of Common Prayer as “those liturgical forms and other texts authorized by the General Convention.” …

All authorized Episcopal liturgies are compiled at episcopalcommonprayer.org, which was created by the Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision. Resolution A058 designated the site as the official liturgical website of The Episcopal Church.

80th General Convention wrap-up

NZ Anglicanism has been legally confused before. For many, many, many years, essentially between 1966 and 2014, the Church had a complex schedule (SRL3) of what it claimed were temporary “experimental services”. That was totally illicit. When it finally acknowledged this, the Church quickly rushed through experimental services to formulary status and scrapped the schedule.

A decade ago, there were plans to print a revised A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa without following the appropriate procedures. I spearheaded the movement that led to those presses being stopped. But our Church seems to have a very short memory. After a decade, the 2020 book suddenly appeared.

The 2020 book has some wonderfully positive points. As I indicated, it “is, in many ways, maybe the book many might have hoped for in 1989“. But, its status is no more than a draft. And this draft needs improving. It loses even more of the great treasures of Anglicanism (Earlier this week, I already mentioned the loss of Cranmer’s wonderful “…scriptures… written for our instruction, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest…”).

Once upon a time, Anglicanism was united around common prayer. Now, not only have we not been clear what is required, what is allowed, and what is forbidden, but we have become so confused, at the “highest” levels, that even our limited agreements are nonsensical.

GSTHW meets this year. It is incumbent upon its members to untangle the mess. We look forward to that. TEC has shown one way forward for part of the problem. No Church has got itself to our confused and confusing point around the use of some services that it has published – that requires urgent remediation.

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4 thoughts on “Episcopal Church Shows NZ A Way Forward”

  1. As law student and lay member involved in the governance of the Church…. I have always emphasised the need for a complete overhaul in the prayerbook in the sense of reviewing and checking things that GSTHW has passed is actually part of the prayerbook. However, it also begs the question why is it that our Clergy do not understand ecclesiastical law and actually understand how our church governs itself. A prayerbook and the liturgies contained therein should not change all the time like a rolling door hence the extensive process to actually change them .

    1. Thanks F.Fia – so what do you make of the mess our Church has got itself into with a book called ‘A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa’ published in 2020 but with content not even seen by one meeting of GS?!

  2. The whole thing must be scrapped if it is as you say GSTHW has not seen the 2020 Version. However, the issue with our system is that someone within the Church would need to make an application to the Judicial Committee to rule on this question. Even within your post you refer to some within the leadership of our Church saying a prayer book is not a physical book. This question could be settled in the same matter. Others may argue that these questions should be settled by the tribunal of doctrine but accounting for this alternative would be too long of a reply.

    In the case of the Judicial Committee making a ruling, the main argument will be that the ends may justify the means and nobody should care. In any case, the individual who brings such a proceeding would be marked out in an adverse way. However, I fundamentally believe in the law of what is prayed is what is believed – lex orandi lex credendi. I pray for someone who will have the moral fortitude to actually do this work – something I lack.

    1. Thanks.

      It is a sad comment on our Church – and I think you are correct- that “the individual who brings such a proceeding would be marked out in an adverse way”.

      A decade ago I spearheaded the stopping of the presses on an illicit Prayer Book. This 2020 book proceeded in a different way.


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