(I misunderstood that Matt Gunter wrote the peace on Reform of the Reform, he was pointing us to the piece. I apologize for the error and to Derek Olson and have corrected this to reflect the fact.)
Matt Gunter, over on Covenant, has pointed us to a thoughtful piece by Derek Olson's piece from his blog at "The Episcopal “Reform of the Reform”. It is worth the read. I particularly point you to what Olson calls, "The Common Voice." His beginning is that the 79 BCP promoted liturgical license rather than common liturgical voice and that it is time for us to "re-assert a hermeneutic of continuity—and not rupture—and embrace the ‘79 BCP within the context of classical Anglican liturgy and theology and within the historic expression of the Christian Faith which we understand to be rooted in the Canon of Scripture, the Creeds, the Apostolic Succession, and the Great Sacraments." For many of us, when the then "new" book came in to use, we were diligent in making use of it precisely as it assumed we ought. License was not about moving beyond the BCP, but making use of the freedoms within it.
For those of us who have been faithful to the use of the BCP, (and I think we are the overwhelming percentage of the people of the Church) liturgical change has not been a matter of license as much as a matter of slow change within the congregation and in the flow of liturgical engagement between priest and people. There are significant numbers of people in our congregation who now respond to the opening salutation "Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit," with "and blessed be God's kingdom, now and forever." Or at the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving respond to "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God," with "It is right to give God thanks and praise." The movement to this was slow and is not complete. The leaflet for the service gives the BCP language. But some people are changing. Slowly.
For some years I have, as celebrant, stated the Invitation to Communion as follows:
"These are the Gifts of God, and You are the People of God, take them...." I made the decision to do so believing that making the statements more clearly a declaration made the invitation all the more urgent. I don't use this all the time, it isn't printed that way in the leaflet, I didn't ask permission for the change. I stand ready to be corrected. But I also believe this may be part of the slow movement toward change in practice. It may or may not make it into the next round, but who knows? I believe it is true the original meaning of the phrase, but less abstractly stated.
As is meet, right and our bounden duty I suppose each liturgical generation in its time proposes adherence to liturgical form that was at some earlier time considered a radically revised liturgy. That is as it should be I suppose. What is interesting about Olson's propositions is that they mostly support the notion that the Book of Common Prayer ought to be prayed and read and used as a whole, giving each part its due, and that the current BCP is indeed the standard for worship in The Episcopal Church. That being the case, Olson suggests we pay attention to what we have.
A great deal of what he recommends is, I suspect, the parish standard, shared by most churches in every Diocese. I particularly appreciate his view that we need to pay attention to the Daily Offices in conjunction with the Eucharist.
The plea that we work within the BCP of 1979 raises the question: Is Gunter in pointing us to this article, and Olson in writing, speaking from a reformed and informed place, or is this simply Episcopalians doing Episcopalian grump? Hegel says, "The Owl of Minerva flies only at dusk." Maybe about the time we say goodbye to the BCP 1979 we finally get around to appreciating it for its contribution to liturgical life. I think Olson is doing more than a grump, although grump is there. He is saying that the final reform of the 79 book is to make it the "real" book where license is limited by rubric and liturgical intention.
I was troubled by one of his major points:
"Reorient towards the faith and practice as witnessed in the early days. I.e., reading and teaching the Scriptures and the Church Fathers. Furthermore, not just echoing their words, but learning from them how to think theologically. They used the best science of their day combined with reason directed by the Spirit and shaped by the virtues."
Had he gone in the direction of a plea to look at the early liturgies of the Church (and particularly the liturgies of the so called East) I would have agreed, for there the "faith and practice as witnessed in the early days" finds its parallel to liturgical life today. I'm all for reading the theologians of the early church. How they thought theologically is indeed important. But the "best science of their day" is just different from the best science of today, as is their understanding of reason and even the virtues. On several occasions we have, for prayer and study purposes, used a variety of pre-reformation liturgies in small group services. The content has been wonderfully constant. I have worshiped often in Romanian Orthodox liturgies and it has felt like a welcome home. But we live in a differently configured world and I am a visitor to the Romanian liturgy, honored, but a visitor. There is no way that I am not heterodox. That would be true even if I was reaching for orthodoxy as an Anglican.
So, there is lots to ponder in this essay. Read the essay HERE.