Recently, I was listening to From All Points a podcast from Episcopal Cafe, specifically "Episode 8: The Prayer Book".
In this episode, the suggestion was made that we need a "pew edition" of the prayer book that takes out some of the lesser used elements. The service for the Ordination of a Bishop, it was suggested, would best be moved to The Book of Occasional Services since it is, quite literally, a very occasional service.
This did not sit well with me. But I couldn't really articulate why.
Luckily, I didn't have long to ruminate on it, because I've been reading Admirable Simplicity: Principles for Worship Planning in the Anglican Tradition by George Wayne Smith. Smith wrote this book in 1996 when he was an Episcopal priest. He was ordained a Bishop of the Diocese of Missouri in 2002.
As Smith so clearly articulates, the reason that we keep this service in the Book of Common Prayer has to do with the role of the prayer book in our belief as Anglicans (lex orandi lex credendi: "the law of prayer is the law of belief;" or, in the title of another book on Episcopal liturgy, "Praying Shapes Believing").
But for Anglicans the consensus achieved through common prayer does provide a center point not only for practice but for belief. Thus the Book of Common Prayer bears scrutiny for all aspects of Anglican believing. And so BCP 1979 includes, for example, the order for the ordination of a bishop, despite the fact that this service will be used about once every decade or two in a given diocese. It is even then a matter for diocesan worship, not parochial worship. But this infrequently used service tells us what Anglicans believe about bishops in a way no other resource can. The way faithful people worship when gathering as the church to ordain a bishop tells Anglicans what they believe about bishops on all occasions. And so any practical concerns about omitting a little-used service from the book in order to save on printing costs has to give way to the principle of lex orandi lex credendi.
Smith, George Wayne. Admirable Simplicity: Principles for Worship Planning in the Anglican Tradition. Church Hymnal Corporation, 1996, p. 38.
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