A number of times the question of the state prayers in American Morning office has been brought up as if this somehow invalidates certain points made criticizing the 1928 litany (see the Litany’s Faldstool— especially the comment section). The 1928 inserted a petition for the US President where the Crown and royal seed formerly stood. The problem with this insertion is it equates the US Presidency to Christian kingship. Christian kingship not only is rooted in the king as ‘first’ member of the local church, but in the English tradition, it possesses a sacramental and ministerial character that the modern Presidency repudiates. For classical high churchmen, there are further considerations regarding the order of the church under the dignity of Supremacy, and if this same dignity ought to be given to an office that constitutionally rejects duties in the local church and rendering it more or less unitarian in nature. Consequently, the 1892 litany was suggested as a correction to the 1928. However, the MP/EP state prayers was not addressed.
When we discuss BCP state prayers under American ‘circumstances’, we should note two things: 1) Though High Churchmen like Seabury wished no revolution in the church, New England Episcopalians acknowledged Republican revolution by simply omitting prayers for King and royal issue. 2) While the American prayer book experienced a number of revisions between 1785-89, the earliest copies show editors paid no scruple to the sequence of state prayers. Parts judged disagreeable were either simply crossed out, or U.S. under-officers were substituted for Crown and council. In my opinion, this is shoddy and insensitive treatment of Anglican polity which argued church and king during the reformation and restoration for over three centuries before the American revolution. Below are excerpts of these changes found in the revolutionary MP and litany revisions:
The BCP daily offices are more complicated. The prayer for the Presidency and all civil authority was original to the 1789 version. Interestingly, the 1785 only gave a prayer for Congress, but it was reserved for congressional sessions not for general use. The 1928 improved the divine Office in so far as the President’s prayer was not part of four fixed collects but moved into general intercession, placing the rubric for the minister’s discretion after the collect for grace. Versions prior to the 1928 (both 1789, 1892) required the President’s prayer as part of Morning/Evening office. I often fuss about what’s wrong with the 1928 BCP, but this was actually its upside. In 1928 BCP, prayers for state legislators and courts also were added. Between these later prayers, the collect for the courts might be construed as the best alternate for a general prayer for civil authority, saying, “bless the courts of justice and all magistrates in this land”.
Getting back to the 1928 Morning Prayer rubrics, three fixed collects are directed– the daily, the peace, and grace– followed by the litany or ‘those general intercessions taken out of this book”. Again, it should be noted these later prayers are left to the discretion of the minister, “as he shall think fit”. This basically solves our problem since the minister may select or arrange other prayers as found pp. 18, 35-46 in the 1928. In fact, the DoW-REC 2011 BCP doesn’t even bother to print the prayers between the fixed collects and the St. Chrysostom Prayer, removing all hint that presidential prayer must be said in MP. Instead, the general intercessions (all conditions, collects of the clergy, and for civil authority) are moved to another chapter after M/EP called ‘Additional Prayers’. I personally believe this is the best option.
However, since prayers for the civil authority are highly commendable regardless of national constitution, suggested below is an order that obeys the rubric(s) yet remains sensitive to the English ecclesiastical ranking as implicated by the litany. For the welfare of the magistrate, I chose the ‘prayer for courts’ followed by the collect for ‘all conditions of men’, placing both after the ‘prayer for clergy’ to avoid the Revolutionary confusion. Other arrangements are possible, but they should be conscious of the dignity of the Crown while duly respecting American circumstances, invoking minimum (if not zero) BCP change. What’s important is to spare an ethos of Supremacy by keeping the Crown vacant while going down the proper chain of authority: the bishops and clergy, with secular under-officers (e.g., judges, congressmen, and president) coming next, and, finally, the people. This preserves the original ranking, maintaining a structure parallel to the 1662, and making MP consistent with the litany. Walter Frere even said the state prayers in Mattins were borrowed from the litany (p. 399, New History), so why not better maintain this common origin? Below is a suggested format, good as an American High Church marker:
The Parson’s Handbook makes a case that prayers after the three collects pertain to occasional use. Dearmer concludes, “It would thus appear that the customary use of seven or eight prayers after the third collect goes beyond what is ordered in the prayer book, and that the occasions on which any of these prayers are used may be left to the minister” (p.263). The American version seems to agree with Dearmer, leaving the minister to choose intercessions “he shall think fit”. Dearmer’s reasoning from the 1662 BCP is interesting and perhaps should be taken as a precedent. The DoW-REC 2011 BCP restores the place of the Anthem, recovering the original intent behind additional prayers beyond the three collects. Dearmer notes the rubrics both at Mattins and Evensong lay special stress on the daily use of the three fixed prayers; but the rubric after the Anthem says nothing about those other Prayers and Thanksgivings. On this subject, Dearmer explains:
“that Mattin only allows the use of the prayers for King, Royal family, and clergy and people when the Litany is not ordered (i.e, Monday, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and Saturdays); that at Evensong gives no order as to the use even of these prayers, but presumably intends them to be used in Quires and places where they sing…As the Litany is appointed to be said on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, this rule restricts the use of the prayers to M, T, Th, and Saturday. It may be noted that the rubric does not allow of the substitution of this prayer for the Litany on a Sunday morning…It is further maintained by some that the five prayers at the end of Mattins and Evensong are not intended to be used except in cathedral and collegiate churches… the five prayers are only to be used when there is an anthem.” (p. 262-263, Parson’s Handbook).
Thus, the prayer for the presidency is not a fixed part of Mattins or Evensong, and the 1928 finally leaves its inclusion or substitution the rector’s option. This gives high churchmen an ability to order the collects properly, according to the 1662 litany or to find older collects which speak generally about the civil authority as to not necessarily exclude the King. An example of the such a generic rendering would be the 1785 BCP which speaks very generally of christian civil rulers. This jives with the 1892 litany as well as the present whole state prayer, “we beseech thee also, so to direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian Rulers”.
Charles Bartlett lives and works in Northern California. He is a member-at-large in the UECNA, worshiping in the DoW-REC by bishopric dispensation. His blog, Anglican Rose, explores the nature of adiaphora in England’s Church with an emphasis on late-Henrician standards.