Posted by Chris Kilgour, 18 Sep 2014
Samuel Leuenberger’s article, ‘Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest: The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy’, wants us to see the evangelistic nature of the liturgies that lie at the heart of the Church of England.
He starts with a brief discussion of the sources of these changes, and it seems clear that, while the words and structure are Cranmer’s, some of the inspiration came from reformers like Peter Martyr, Martin Bucer and John Hooper (who studied under Bullinger). All three emphasised the need for ‘conversion and the appropriation of salvation through a personal decision for Jesus’. Cranmer took the existing liturgies and modified them to suit both Reformed theology, but also this need for individual conversion.
The key component Leuenberger draws out (using Morning Prayer and Holy Communion as examples) is that verses of scripture have been added to the liturgies which are used to shape them towards a pattern of evangelism. These sentences are not normally explained, but allowed to interpret each other to bring out an individual’s need for salvation. Both the sentences and the structure of the liturgies call for a recognition of personal sin (and the enormity of it), the need for repentance, and forgiveness for those who do repent: a clear evangelistic shape.
The article has a very brief discussion of how we came to the 1662 book, and that it is still the prayer book of the Church of England. He does raise some concerns about the trajectory of the ASB (1980), some of which would equally apply to Common Worship (2000). Thankfully, his fears have not been realised, although it is a good reminder that the writers of the liturgy need our prayers so that we can use every opportunity to proclaim the Gospel in our services.
The language of The Book of Common Prayer may be over 400 years old, but captured within it is a clear evangelistic structure, based on scripture: a recognition of personal sin, repentance, forgiveness and praise at God’s goodness. We may not use BCP liturgies directly, but let us use the truths of scripture contained within for our own good, the good of our families, our church and our nation, and ultimately for the glory of God.
This article is worth reading not just for its look at the BCP services, but also as a reminder that the structure of our services can be evangelistic, not just our preaching.
Leuenberger, Samuel. Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest : The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy. Churchman 106/1 (1992): 20–33.