Leading Worship: what may I do and not do as a licensed pastor in ACANZP?
Peter Carrell, POT June 2014
“In public prayer and administration of the sacraments I will use only the forms of service
which are authorised or allowed by lawful authority.” (Title A Canon 2 Of Pastors, “Declaration”, p.
The general aim of Anglican liturgy from the time of the publication of the Book of Common Prayer
has been to enable Anglicans to pray together with common forms of services which express the
shared Christian belief of the Anglican church.
In our role as liturgists (people preparing services for public worship) we should keep this general
aim in mind and take care to provide liturgies which express our common faith as Anglican Christians
through services which reflect our agreed forms of services as an Anglican church.
Further, as licensed liturgists our integrity as honest pastors of the church requires us to honour the
declarations we have signed, including the declaration signed above.
Welcome and interesting though local suggestions may be, from parish worship committees, from
colleagues who appear to know what they are doing (but in fact do not) and so forth, we have a
commitment to foster common prayer in our church by using ‘only the forms of services which are
authorised or allowed by lawful authority.’
In what follows the intention is to clarify, if not inform those of us currently lacking information what
this promise on our part means.
For reference, for follow up, consult your ‘Blue Books’ (our church’s canons, or
www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Canons) and www.anglican.org.nz/Resources
We can dispose of this fairly quickly. Given that moves have been made at our most recent General
Synod (led by Bishop Victoria) to clarify what authority bishops have to permit uses of experimental
services (see http://www.anglicantaonga.org.nz/Features/Extra/Three-liturgical-bills-passed ), lawful
authority now pertains or almost certainly shortly will pertain to (a) use of the 1928 Prayer Book; (b)
services we request approval for which are based on existing frameworks for liturgical development,
already approved – see below.
(In the meantime, acknowledgement is made that this link
urces%20rules%202012.docx provides an up to date summary of prevailing rules and guidance, also
Thus the vital area we need to address is ‘authorised services’.
There are three kinds of authorised services in our church
A. Prayer book services, according to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) or as found in A New
Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (NZPB).
a. Within this category of authorised services we can note a set of Alternative Great
Thanksgivings authorised by our church for use
B. Template – A Framework for Worship (resolution and articulation of framework here:
C. Two alternative frameworks for worship:
a. Alternative Form for Ordering Eucharist
b. A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word
How to proceed?
I want to suggest that we set aside the Template for now. Although it is helpful around setting out
structure for worship services, it has recently been constrained by General Synod so that effectively
it means that you may be as flexible as NZPB permits and you must be as responsible as NZPB
I also suggest we do not worry here about the Book of Common Prayer. There is a technical issue
about some bits which are no longer authorised for use. The question of maintaining BCP services in
parishes used to celebrating them is an interesting one but will not detain us here.
Thus ‘authorised services’ effectively means the following:
1. Services as printed in NZPB
2. A Eucharistic service based on the flexible model found in NZPB pp. 511-514
3. Eucharistic services based on An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist (attached
4. Word (non-eucharistic) services based on A Form for Ordering A Service of the Word
Now, there are some twists and turns to note here. For each of 1-4 above a comment or two is
1. Services as printed in NZPB: often there is flexibility in these services. ‘may’ in the rubrics
means we do not have to do something. That flexibility permits us to give more time to (say)
singing or a dramatic illustration or giving a testimony.
2. NZPB pp 511-514: the oldest printings of this service have the original rubric at the beginning
which said this was only to be used occasionally. That rubric has been changed so there is no
restriction on use. What has not changed is that this model requires ‘careful preparation’, it
is not permission to do whatever we feel like doing. Further, the Eucharistic prayer here
allows in some places for ‘The Following or any other suitable words are used’ (flexible)but
at the point of the Institutional Narrative and the Epiclesis the instruction is ‘Then follows’,
(i.e. fixed, the words provided must be used).
[ADDED NOTE: after discussion when this paper was presented at POT, June 2014 I realise
that this service-come-model offers such flexibility that a priest deriving a regular parish rite
from it really ought to consult her or his bishop about the resulting rite as room for deviation
far from the general shape and content of ACANZP authorised services is possible when
starting from these pages.]
3. Alternative Eucharistic Form: this is a flexible form, to a degree, but there is not as much
flexibility here as one might think at first sight! In terms of order, the service follows NZPB
services. In terms of overall structure, Gather / Story / God, the Template is represented
Flexibility lies in what the content of the service might be, PROVIDING (a) the doctrine and
authority of ACANZP is observed; (b) the eucharistic prayer is a eucharistic prayer authorised
by our General Synod or the equivalent of any member church of the Anglican Communion.*
A plus here is that we can use great Eucharistic prayers of (say) the C of E or ECUSA. A
warning here is that this is not any kind of licence to use (say) Eucharistic prayers of
Presbyterian, Methodist or Roman Catholic churches (they are not authorised for use), nor is
it permission to deliver some kind of neo-pagan nonsense (that would be inconsistent with
4. Alternative Word Form: Ditto for relevant comments from (3) above.
The plus here is that providing we prepare and lead services which have liturgical greetings
to begin with, penitential prayer, songs, reading(s), sermon, prayers and the Lord’s Prayer,
then we have considerable flexibility. See the Introductory Notes. What we find here covers
pretty much every non-eucharistic service offered by Anglicans these days.
Special Note: there is a question in respect of (3) and (4), but of (3) in particular, whether a diocesan
bishop is satisfied with a regular service we offer according to this Form and thus she/h should be
consulted if a Eucharistic service was being developed which worked solely off this form. (A one off
service should be fine). ‘Should’ in the previous sentence is not a legal ‘should’ but a matter of
courtesy and respect for the role of bishop as overseer of our common life.
Special Note: Baptism services. There is significant inflexibility in this service!
Here, as in Eucharistic prayers, we are giving special expression to our doctrine. We are not at liberty
to chop and change this service (even though tempted, e.g. by reasons of time). Despite some
examples of Anglican priests making unauthorised alterations – we clergy always seem to come
across these when away on holiday - we are not at liberty to follow them.
Encouragement: develop a love for our own prayer book! It has many riches, it offers helpful
flexibility, and it has a range of superb Eucharistic prayers (pp. 420, 436, 466, 485, 512, to say
nothing of the alternatives authorised for use and available via the internet).
From time to time it may be appropriate to use an authorised prayer from another Anglican church
but if we make one of those prayers a regular Eucharistic prayer in our parish it raises questions
about whether we understand that the primary authorisation for usage are the prayers authorised by
*Note that a Eucharistic prayer authorised by an overseas diocesan synod does not meet this
requirement. The specification is a service authorised by the equivalent to our General Synod.
We all fancy ourselves as liturgists!
Four thoughts about developing a local liturgy within the flexible parameters of authorised services
as our church understands them:
1. Regular services should look and feel like an Anglican service.** An Anglican from another
parish shouldn’t leave the service feeling that they had just been on a visit to … Rome … or
Edinburgh! (**One popular exception are Taize services.)
2. Regular services should not leave the parish in tension with its clergy. If the tension is over
the use of NZPB services then the clergy has the backing of the church to continue to lead
them and various strategies (including reminding the parish that it is an Anglican parish) can
be worked on with support from the diocese. If the tension is over an idiosyncratic style of
service offered by the vicar, the vicar should reconsider because the flexibility within our
authorised services is a flexibility towards appropriate common worship, not a licence for
the Rev’d X to do her or his own thing.
3. Regular services should honour the Anglican church and be respectful of its liturgical
heritage. Under no circumstances should there be a hint, let alone an explicit message along
the lines of ‘I’d really prefer not to have a confession but apparently we have to have it
because we are Anglican.’ No one has to be an Anglican minister … most other churches are
crying out for staff!
4. In all Anglican liturgy the intention is to express the gospel of Christ and give glory to God:
there is nothing peculiar about Anglican liturgy – it is simply an expression of Christian
worship developed through the history of the spreading Church of England.
We must do what we have signed up to do, to use only authorised services or those allowed by
The underlying principle is that Anglican liturgy expresses our common faith and practice as
Christians under the authority of General Synod.
There is flexibility provided for within the range of authorised services but it is not unlimited
freedom to do what we like or to source any material that takes our fancy.
We are not limited to p. 404 (that seems to be the most popular of the NZPB services but it is not the
only service we can use) nor do we have to scour the internet to find alternatives to p. 404.
We can stay inside NZPB itself to find an authorised service of considerable flexibility (pp. 511-514).
But whatever we do, we may not misuse authorised ‘flexibility’ to offer anything which is
inconsistent with the authority and doctrine of our church.
The outcome of any flexibility, constrained by the shape and content of our authorised services and
alternative forms of services should, in fact, bear a strong familiar resemblance to the services of
Peter Carrell, firstname.lastname@example.org