June 02, 2014

Evangelicals and the Book of Common Prayer Alan Jacobs, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Baylor University and former professor of English at Wheaton College, wrote a sweeping (yet not dense), elegant "biography" of the Book of Common Prayer. It is part of Princeton University Press's "Lives of Great Religious Books" series and is one of ny favorite recent reads. In an interview published by Christianity Today, Jacobs explains why the Anglican prayerbook has had such an impact. The whole interview-- not too long to read in a few minutes-- is well worth and read and can be found HERE. Some of my favorite bits are excerpted below: What makes the Book of Common Prayer a distinctively evangelical form of worship? Well, I'm not sure it is, at least in its liturgies. Cranmer strove to maintain as much continuity with traditional forms of worship as he could, given his commitments to the Reformation. So in the liturgies themselves there is little that a medieval Catholic Christian could find fault with—except that they are in English... [The second difference-- of two-- between the Book of Common Prayer and existing Catholic liturgies of its day] and for Cranmer most important, is the strong emphasis on a lectionary that took people through the whole Bible—and, if people went to Morning and Evening Prayer, read through the whole of the books of Psalms each month. Cranmer wanted the literate to read the Bible thoroughly and faithfully, and for the illiterate to hear it read every day...Saturation in Scripture was Cranmer's primary goal for the people of England, and I don't think you can get more evangelical than that! What about some of the problems that evangelicals have had with the BCP over the years? ...[S]ome evangelicals have viewed the prayer book as a kind of rote formalism that quenches revival and...
Reflections on Religious Freedom From A Christian Immigrant Perspective I don’t want to take sides. I don’t want to stir up controversy. I don’t want to weigh in ‘just because…’ But I think it’s worth saying that religious liberties are nothing to sneer at or treat lightly. I get the disdain for culture wars. Decades of trying to achieve religious agendas through contentious public discourse have left a bad taste for any Christian dialogue in the public square. I get it. I believe deeply and try to live out the “Jesus Way”—the quieter, counter-cultural ethic that only makes sense if we believe in a God who raises the dead. I have been shaped by Hauerwas and his imagination of the Church as an alternate society. I think embodying the Gospel is the Church’s mission, not boycotting culture. I don’t even think we need to “take a stand for Jesus.” I get it. I understand where my peers—and dare I say now, the younger generation emerging behind me—are coming from. But…religious freedoms are precious. Can the Gospel thrive without them? Certainly. And it has. But let us not be quick to overlook how much the Gospel has been helped (insert the *) by political conditions that were favourable to its spread—from Constantine’s edict to Luther’s “godly princes”. Do I think this was all a good thing? Certainly not. I am not ignorant of the dangers of a ‘civil religion’, and the confusion that ensues when a Christian identity is confused with a national one. I had my church history classes in seminary where we had to grapple with the good, the bad, and the downright ugly parts of the relationship between church and state in Western Christianity. And yet…we must not dismiss religious freedom as a trivial thing. God does not work in a social or political vacuum. God works...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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