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NZ Anglicanism Reestablishes Male Pronouns for God

When A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (NZPBHKMA) was published in 1989 it was groundbreaking. Certainly in Anglicanism. It eschewed male pronouns for God. But NZ Anglicanism seems to be suffering from a failing institutional memory. The most recent publication with the title A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, however, is replete with well over 50 male pronouns for God added into the text. This new book (which is also the one the text of which is online) has, surprisingly as another sign of selective institutional memory loss, not gone through the normal General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) “twice round” formulary process which is used to change agreed doctrine or practice in our Church.

Internationally and nationally, the 1989 NZPBHKMA was acclaimed for its inclusive and expansive language. In preparation for that 1989 book, male pronouns for God presented some difficulties especially in the Psalms until a canny approach was instigated: at those points, they were turned to prayers addressed to God and used “you” instead of “he”. But now, locally and internationally, there is bewilderment as on Sunday last week (as just a recent example) the Sentence of the Day in the new 2020 book was:

Come, let us return to the Lord, that we may live before HIM.

NZPBHKMA 2020 p684

Compare that with the Sentence suggested for the same Sunday from every previous NZPBHKMA revision:

As the new heavens and the new earth which I am making shall endure in my sight, so shall your race and your name endure; all people shall come to bow down before me, says the Lord.

In the 1989 version, there is not a he/him/his for God in sight!

So: just as the world becomes more sensitive to gendered pronouns, NZ Anglicanism appears to abandon its trailblazing work by inserting he/him/his for God into a book with the same title as the original, gender-inclusive NZPBHKMA. I gave up counting after I had reached finding over 50 of them.

Confused Collects

NZ Anglicans struggle with the Trinity more than most official Anglican rites. In prayer, it is very: spin the bottle and pray to whichever member of the Trinity the neck ends up pointing to! So in NZPBHKMA 2020, this Sunday’s collect is:

Living host,
call us together,
call us to eat and drink with you.
Grant that by your body and your blood
we may be drawn to each other and to you.
We make this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

NZPBHKMA 2020 p691

Well, this is clearly the oddest of prayers! Let’s leave aside the seemingly-tongue-in-cheek use of “Living host” as addressing Christ in the Eucharist (“host” being the more catholic term for “wafer”). This prayer is clearly addressed to Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity. But the real blunder is that the prayer prays TO Jesus THROUGH Jesus: “We make this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour”! [OK, theologians, we don’t, at this juncture, need your tortuous explanation how that might be possible!]

In the actual, formularies NZPBHKMA (last printing 2005), the prayer simply stops at “…may be drawn to each other and to you.” THAT’S our agreed formulary! The addition of praying this prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour” hasn’t gone through any reading in GSTHW. The actual, formularies NZPBHKMA (1989-2005) suggests that we may add this conclusion: “Hear this prayer for your love’s sake. Amen.” (page 549)- which works fine (if you are into replacing a Trinitarian collect with this lovely prayer to Jesus).

The extra problem with all this is that if one is part of a (largish) group organising services (as I am currently in the role of Acting Dean of Christchurch) it complicates service preparation. The actual, formularies NZPBHKMA (1989-2005) provides a perfectly good collect for this Sunday (if you don’t want to use the 2020 “to Jesus – through Jesus” prayer) but – it is nowhere to be seen in the so-called NZPBHKMA of 2020!

Removing Collects

For this coming Sunday, the actual, formularies NZPBHKMA (1989-2005) suggests this collect:

Everloving God,
your Son Jesus Christ
gave himself as living bread
for the life of the world;
give us such a knowledge of his presence
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
to serve you continually; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

NZPBHKMA (1989-2005) pg 619

The problem is: this, as well as many other collects (on which we agreed as part of our formularies) are nowhere to be seen in the 2020 NZPBHKMA!!! There is no explanation why some collects have been removed. It’s not even clear if a particular collect is removed on purpose or accidentally. Did anyone even keep track of which of our agreed collects and prayers have gone where?

I have previously noticed some of our agreed prayers and collects removed in this much larger book with the same name – but I have, by no means, a complete list. Perhaps someone has one, or could work on one.

Defying General Synod

Regular readers here will know that I promote that the collect, being the central prayer of the Ministry of the Word, be addressed to God the First Person of the Trinity, through Christ, in the power of the Spirit – just as the Eucharistic Prayer, the Great Thanksgiving, has that same approach.

In the actual, formularies NZPBHKMA (1989-2005), such a collect is provided for every celebration. In 2012 GSTHW ruled that, in any future revision of NZPBHKMA, a collect with this Trinitarian approach must always be provided for any celebration:

General Synod/te Hīnota Whānui notes plans for a revision to A New Zealand Prayer Book/ He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa which would align printed collects with the Revised Common Lectionary, reducing the current provision of three collects per celebration (Sundays, Holy Days) to one collect per celebration (Sundays, Holy Days),1  has been intended to be a helpful revision which brings our prayer book’s printed pages into line with common usage of the Revised Common Lectionary,2  means that not all celebrations would be provided with a collect following the traditional norm of addressing God, the First Person of the Trinity, through Christ, in the Spirit inherited from the early Church via Cranmer and so shared with the rest of the Anglican Communion; and therefore resolves, that in any revision of A New Zealand Prayer Book/He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa each Sunday and Holy Day be provided, in the text, with at least one collect which follows the taonga/treasure of Trinitarian collects (that is, addressed to God, the First Person of the Trinity, through Christ, in the Spirit); and that, as far as possible, such a collect be provided in Te Reo Maori as well as English.

General Synod/te Hīnota Whānui 2012 Motion 17


Those who are using the 2020 NZPBHKMA will have noticed in your planning for this coming Sunday that the Sentence provided is exactly the same as the one we have just had:

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, let us press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:13b–14


The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

NZPBHKMA 2020 pgs 687, 688, & 690

This is clearly a mistake.

I will explain below how I know this, but the Sentence for this coming Sunday, following the same system as used in other parts of NZPBHKMA 2020, should be:

This is our God for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Isaiah 25.9

I do not know how often such errors occur.

How did we get here?

The 1989 NZPBHKMA was essentially a collection of formularies and had gone through the rigorous, line-by-line “twice round” formulary process. Slight alterations, again following this “twice round” formulary process, were published in 2002, and 2005.

An example: the 2005 Prayer Book has, as an option, a variant order for the Baptism rite. I initiated this at GSTHW. The Baptism rite prior to this is perfectly valid, but I prefer the tradition of creed and commitments prior to baptising rather than as they were in the 1989-2002 NZPBHKMA, after baptising.

NOW THIS IS IMPORTANT: so that the order of the Baptism rite could be rearranged, the Church had to go through the “twice round” formulary process. Only after dioceses and hui amorangi (and GSTHW twice) had had their say did the new order become Option D, page 397 in NZPBHKMA 2005. Simply rearranging the order of material in a formulary or formularies does not a formulary make!

What is presented in NZPBHKMA 2020 is a rearrangement of some of our agreed formularies plus some translations into other languages of our Church (great!) plus texts drawn from A Prayer Book for Australia (without any acknowledgement of that copyright book that I can spot! Please correct me if I am wrong.)

It was in trying to ascertain the version of the scriptures used in the Sentences of NZPBHKMA 2020 that I finally found that these are drawn wholesale without acknowledgement from A Prayer Book for Australia. That is how I could state (above) what this coming Sunday’s sentence should have been, following this pattern.

Moving Forward

Our Church is suffering from selective memory loss. We have forgotten that our Prayer Book was celebrated for not using male pronouns for God and was an important stage on a journey to expansive language. We have forgotten that rearranging formularies and inserting other material does not thereby make a formulary.

Our Church has been wrong before. Year by year, our lectionary booklet used to publish internationally-agreed eucharist readings that were out of step with Roman Catholics in this land and Anglican neighbours oversees. Each time I pointed it out, I was told we were following the rules correctly and all these others were wrong, until we acknowledged that we were using the Calendar year in our calculation, the rest of the churches were (rightly) calculating from the liturgical year which, of course, begins a year-number earlier.

Then, in 2014, the Church finally acknowledged that much of our liturgical life had no authority (by our Act of Parliament) since we began revising in 1966. Whole lists of services were removed from being allowed to be used. Others were rushed through the “twice round” formulary process without further revision.

We need to acknowledge that NZPBHKMA 2020 does not have the same status as the 2005 book of the same name (in which all services are formularies). We need to acknowledge the disappointment that the 2020 book has introduced male pronouns for God. We need to acknowledge that the 2020 book defies GSTHW in not providing collects in the form agreed in 2010.

We need to recover and possibly rework historic collects we have lost in our processes (those in our NZPBHKMA since 1989 and others such as praying to Hear, Read, Mark, Learn, and Inwardly Digest the Scriptures). And we need to have a collect as agreed by GSHTHW 2010 for every celebration. We need to rework the Sentences to remove male pronouns for God, or find alternative Sentences which do not have them. We need to bring such a revised Prayer Book to GSTHW for the full “twice round” formulary process so that Māori and other languages in our Church clearly have equal formulary status to the English ones.

Our worship agreements are clearly confused and confusing, made worse now by a lack of clarity about what we are vowing and signing up to in our Constitution in relation to our Prayer Book. We have long been asking that GSTHW clarify:
1) what is required,
2) what is allowed, and
3) what is forbidden
in our liturgical life.

recently claimed that people would be hard pressed to disagree that currently our Church’s formation, training, and study around worship, liturgical life, and communal spirituality is at its all time weakest. And not a single person has even attempted to counter that suggestion. 

So, finally for this post, I am advocating that we need a reform in our Church’s formation, training, and study that creates a culture of worship and spirituality that draws on the best of our tradition and makes it fit for purpose in our Third Millennium Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesian context. We need a new generation that are part of regenerating thriving, worshipping communities. We need people studying excellence for worship, liturgical theory and history, worship music, and canon law, so that a new generation is alert to what our heritage can offer, avoiding gnat-swallowing rubrical fundamentalism, heads-in-books, poetry-recital dryness whilst dodging our tendency towards being a coalition of chaos where there is no longer any sense of common prayer as a lifelong deepening of our journey into Christ.

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