A New Prayer Book

“We need to improve living conditions and human relations. People who are starving don’t care what Prayer Book you use.” 53

Greater Flexibility and Variety

Another challenge that Bishop Allin and the Church faced during his time as Presiding Bishop was the revision of the 1928 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. This process of revision began in 1964 as an outgrowth of a long period of liturgical revival and the experimental use of trial liturgies approved by the General Convention.  Trial use of the Prayer Book invited all members to participate in the process of revision and was carried out in three phases: “The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper” in 1967, “Services for Trial Use” in 1970, and “Authorized Services, 1973". The feedback from these trial versions of the Book culminated in the 1976 Proposed Book of Common Prayer. The Proposed Book was accepted by the 65th General Convention and was used as a companion to the 1928 Book for the following triennium.

Allin supported the revision of the Prayer Book and often stated his view that the liturgical movement is ongoing and that modernization of the Prayer Book would be continuously necessary throughout the life of the Church as it engages the pressing needs of the world. He appreciated the importance of revision to clergy and some Church members, but he hesitated to embrace it in urgency, as the main focus of a compressed legislative debate. He certainly considered it secondary to mission, which could not be the focus of the Church while it argued about liturgical rites.

“...one of the things we Episcopalians must learn is that there just must be greater flexibility and variety.” 54

Bishop Allin saw revision of the Prayer Book as an internal issue: a matter of discipline and not the grounds for a publicized match of wills or a struggle over the fundamental mission of the Church. He knew that many traditionalist church members were resistant to revision of the Prayer Book. He advised bishops to be gentle with traditionalists and expressed his gratitude for their attention to his “request that we renew our efforts pastorally to reach and reconcile as many as possible of those distressed, estranged, alienated by or in the process of Prayer Book revision.”55 He urged that the transition be done with care and consideration for the 1928 Prayer Book, stating that he wanted the Church to “give birth to a new Book without burying the old one.”56

In August 1979, just before the  66th General Convention in September, results of a Gallup poll reported that eighty percent of clergy polled preferred the use of the Proposed Book while sixty-eight percent of the laity polled preferred the 1928 Book. These poll results seemed to predict an upcoming struggle over the adoption of the Book by General Convention, but by overwhelming votes in both the House of Bishops and Deputies, the 1979 Book was approved. Additionally, in order to appease those who preferred the 1928 Book, another resolution stated that while the 1979 Book would be the “liturgical norm,” it also allowed that  “liturgical texts” from the 1928 Prayer Book be “used in worship, under the authority of the bishop as chief pastor and liturgical officer.”

Leading Through Turmoil
A New Prayer Book