No Prayer Book Revision Planned

Diocesan Press Service. March 6, 1964 [XIX-11]

"Will the General Convention of 1964 adopt a revised Prayer Book?" This question is being asked by many people. The answer is, "No." In the first place a single General Convention cannot authorize a new Prayer Book. Secondly, no responsible group is planning to propose to this 61st General Convention that the formal process of Prayer Book revision be begun.

What is certain to come up for consideration is the ratifying of an amendment of Article X of the Constitution to permit "trial use" of proposed revisions of the whole, or any part, of the Book of Common Prayer, under conditions imposed by the General Convention itself. The following amendment to Article X was introduced in the General Convention of 1961, was passed, and has been communicated to the several diocesan Conventions:

Authorize for trial use throughout this Church, as an alternative at any time or times to the established Book of Common Prayer or to any section thereof, a proposed revision of the whole Book or of any portion thereof, duly undertaken by the General Convention.

"Trial use" is a new concept in Prayer Book revision in the United States. When our Prayer Book was revised in 1892, a major part of four General Conventions had been given over to a discussion of proposed changes; in the revision of 1928, the major portion of five Conventions. When the final actions were taken, much new material was set forth for required use which had had no wide-spread testing by the Church.

Under "trial use", if the constitutional amendment is finally adopted, certain clearly specified formularies can be made available for optional use by any congregation, with provision for collecting and evaluating the reactions of many users as to their suitability. Then, when the time is ripe, the General Convention can proceed with dispatch to set forth a revised Prayer Book, with the full knowledge that its contents have been tested and approved in actual experience, which is the final criterion for any liturgy.

If the "trial use" amendment is adopted, the Standing Liturgical Commission will propose that General Convention authorize, for the ensuing triennium, the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts and for Special Occasions, which has been published by the Commission as its Prayer Book Studies XVI. These "propers", available for optional use by any desiring to use them, will greatly enrich the week-day celebrations of the Eucharist by providing additions to the Prayer Book "propers" for Sundays and major Holy Days, which they do not in any case supplant.

Whether these supplemental commemorations will commend themselves to the Church, and whether they merit inclusion in some future revision of the Book of Common Prayer are questions to which answers can be had only by experience in actual use. When the results of experience are known (and it is the function of the Standing Liturgical Commission, by Canon, to collect, collate and report on such experience) it will be the General Convention itself, by concurrent action of both Houses, in two successive triennial meetings, which will decide the issue.