Lost in the Forest, Part I

General Synod 2016 & The Liturgy Task Force
Lost in the Forest Part 1

As General Synod 2016 meets in Toronto, human sexuality has once again claimed the headlines. The revision of Canon XXI is something I dearly desire and, while I was on Faith, Worship and Ministry, I served as a member of a small working group that explored how the Canon could be revised to include the marriage of same-sex couples.

However, the focus on sexuality means that other significant work may get ‘lost in the forest’. One babe which may get lost amidst the trees is the work of liturgical revision begun by the Liturgy Task Force six years ago.

In this and two subsequent blog entries I will offer some reflections on the creation of the Task Force, its accomplishments and what remains to be done.


In 1971, nine years after the approval of the Book of Common Prayer 1962, General Synod directed the National Executive Council “to initiate a process of revision . . . which will produce alternatives to the services now offered by the . . . Book of Common Prayer”. This resolution recognized that the Prayer Book of 1962 had arrived at precisely the wrong time in terms of liturgical revision.

The Second Vatican Council had authorized a thorough-going reform of the liturgies of the Roman rite and had introduced to the world a three-year lectionary which would eventually form the basis of the lectionaries of Protestant and Anglican churches throughout the world. Both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church had begun processes that would result in The Alternative Services Book 1980 and The Book of Common Prayer 1979.

The various Lutheran bodies in North America were moving towards mergers that would create the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. One of the tools used to forge these mergers was liturgical reform leading to The Lutheran Book of Worship 1978.

Canadian Anglicans quickly took up the challenge of fulfilling the mandate for liturgical revision given by General Synod 1971. Between 1974 and 1983 the Doctrine and Worship Committee produced numerous trial use rites which were used, reviewed and revised before becoming the core of The Book of Alternative Services 1985.

But even as The Book of Alternative Services made its way into the pews and worshipping lives of Canadian Anglicans, its revisers issued a caution: “The work of liturgical reform is not finished; in fact it is never finished. Liturgical texts cannot be tested in an armchair or at a desk, but only in use. There is bound to be room for refinement and improvement, in language, in symbolism, in theology.”

General Synod 2007

When General Synod met in Winnipeg in 2007, the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee came prepared with a resolution requesting ‘That this General Synod direct the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee to prepare principles and an agenda for common worship texts revision’. An amendment was proposed to replace ‘common worship texts revision’ to ‘the revision of contemporary-language liturgical texts’. The mover, Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones, and I accepted this as a friendly amendment. By doing so we avoided a floor fight over whether this resolution would open the door to the revision of The Book of Common Prayer.

In our explanatory material we noted that, since the publication of The Book of Alternative Services in 1985, there had been a number of significant liturgical developments that warranted our attention. Among these developments we noted the various agreed statements from the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation;the publication of Common Worship series by the Church of England beginning in 2000 and full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in 2001 and the publication in 2006 of Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

These developments and others meant that we needed to continue the work embodied in The Book of Alternative Services.

The resolution as amended passed and, when the new Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee met for the first time, the work began on the principles and agenda.

General Synod 2010

At General Synod the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee fulfilled its mandate and presented ‘Liturgical Principles: Principles to Guide the Revision of Contemporary Language Common Worship Texts of the Anglican Church of Canada’. ‘Liturgical Principles’ found its inspiration and, in places, its language from the work of our Lutheran sisters and brothers in their ‘Renewing Worship’ series, the preparatory work for Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006). We also drew on the recommendations made by the various International Anglican Liturgical Consultations and on policies established by the Doctrine and Worship Committee and its successor body, Faith, Worship and Ministry.

General Synod 2010 received ‘Liturgical Principles’ and authorized the creation of a Task Force with a mandate to create ‘new and revised texts’ and to test such new texts in trial use and evaluation.

The Work Begins

The appointment of members to the Task Force took longer than anticipated and it was not until 2011 that the Task Force was able to meet and to begin its work. The membership of the Task Force was chaired by the Very Rev’d Andrew Asbil (Toronto) and included

The Rev’d James Brown (ELCIC Eastern Synod)
The Rev’d Dr Ellen Clark-King (New Westminster, from 2015)
The Rev’d Travis Enright (Edmonton)
Ms Janet Hope (Toronto)
Dr Ken Hull (Huron)
The Rev’d Jay Koyle (Algoma, from 2015)
The Rev’d Dr Richard Leggett (New Westminster)
The Rev’d Dr Boyd Morgan (Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador)
The Rev’d Louise Peters (Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior)
The Ven. Dr Edward Simonton (Quebec)
The Rt Rev’d David Torraville (Central Newfoundland)
The Very Rev’d Peter Wall (Niagara)
The Rev’d Keirsten Wells (Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, to 2015)

Mr Dayjan Lesmond and the Rev’d Dr Eileen Scully provided staff support.

Our task was to identify what were our priorities and how we would organize the work itself. From these conversations we determined that we would concentrate on (i) Christian initiation, (ii) the Eucharist, (iii) the Propers of the Christian Year, (iv) the Daily Office including the Psalter and (v) the Liturgical Year. Early in our mandate we sought and obtained permission from the Council of General Synod to publish rites for trial use.

Over the course of five years we were able to publish trial use rites for the daily office as well as a three-year series of propers for the Revised Common Lectionary and an inclusive-language emendation of the psalter contained in The Book of Alternative Services. But significant work remained to be done when our mandate ended.

In the next two blog entries I will look at what the Liturgy Task Force accomplished and what we believe remains to be done.

(The Rev’d Dr) Richard Geoffrey Leggett


You might like to look more closely at the ‘Liturgical Principles’ document.  The document’s URL is http://www.anglican.ca/wp-content/uploads/Liturgical-Principles-and-Agenda.pdf.

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