New Zealand Prayer BookIt is not unknown to go to worship in an Anglican Church in NZ and to find that barely a single response is drawn from A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (ANZPBHKMA). And sometimes no responses or words whatsoever are drawn from our Prayer Book. And not only is this allowed – one reading of the recent meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) is that it is to be encouraged.

In this year of the 25th anniversary of the Prayer Book it is worth reflecting on how this came about.

The NZ Prayer Book has “A Form for Ordering the Eucharist” obviously based on The Episcopal Church’s BCP (pages 400-405) An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist. This TEC rite is clear that it “is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist”. And the NZ Prayer Book version, similarly, had the second rubric on page 511 which read

It is intended for particular occasions and not for the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist.

But then in 1996 GSTHW passed that “it is desirable to alter the rubrics which constitute part of the Formulary [agreed doctrine and/or practice] ‘A Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ to enable more regular use of that form of service.” And it did this “by deleting the second rubric”. This change to the formularies was confirmed at GSTHW 1998, and came into effect in 1999.

After this, for the Eucharist (including the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist) you could use lots of different responses, borrow them from other countries or places, even make them up, or not use responses at all. But there was still a minimum of responses and agreed words for the Great Thanksgiving (the Eucharistic Prayer).

But wait, there’s more!

No real reason was given why, in 2004, GSTHW passed Statute 638 (Bill No 7) other than that The Common Life Liturgical Commision “has produced two forms of service” and “it is desirable that the GSTHW should make provision for them.” One of these forms was ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist’. This confused and confusing rite not only now allowed the borrowing and creation of any responses and texts (and the removal of any requirement to use local material) but expanded the previous provision by allowing any Eucharistic Prayer authorised by the equivalent to General Synod in any member church of the Anglican Communion [whether the doctrine embodied in those prayers is binding on us here now is beyond my ability to grasp].

I spoke firmly against this development, and our diocesan synod 2004 not only declined to assent to this Statute but instructed “the Diocesan Manager be asked to convey to the Common Life Liturgical Commission, the Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group and the General Secretary of this church, the reservations expressed by this Synod, including:

that the current formularies already provide sufficient direction and flexibility and that this new measure is unnecessary and confusing

that the schedule detailing the new alternative forms, by omitting details included in the documents from the 5th International Liturgical Consultation Dublin 1995, have failed to indicate the priority to be attributed to each element.

[Of interest, after this year’s 2014 meeting of GSTWH and its acknowledgement that the church has acted inconsistently with the 1928 Act and produced services that lack fundamental authorisation in the first place, is that this 2004 statute misunderstood the Church of England Empowering Act so badly that it said that from the 2004 passing of the statute “The experimental use of these services is permitted in terms of Section 4(A) of the said Act” when, of course, anyone who actually read the Act should have known that this is not the case until “after the proposal has received the assent of the majority of the Diocesan Synods”.]

In any case, this statute was confirmed at GSTHW 2006 and, hence, came into effect in 2007.

No words from the New Zealand Prayer Book need to be used whatsoever in the principal, weekly celebration of the Eucharist, or other services that your community holds.

There is no question that ‘A Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ and ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ are legal, they are formularies of our church. That means that even bishops, who might like to see some common prayer return to their diocese, can no more prevent their use than they might attempt to impose one Eucharistic rite (say “Thanksgiving and Praise” pp476ff) over another (say “Thanksgiving for Creation and Redemption” pp456ff).

Astonishingly, the confused and confusing ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist’ is presented by this year’s meeting of GSTHW as being the norm that they hope a future meeting GSTHW will make central to a future revising of Title G Canon XIV. This current GSTHW is hoping for, it says, that future services will

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

Based on ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ and/or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’.

I cannot imagine there is any other Anglican province in the Anglican Communion which has so readily and so rapidly formally given away its tradition of common prayer.

This is the second post on the Twenty-fifth anniversary of A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa
The first was NZ Prayer Book 25 Years On

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