Citation
Aiding and abetting

Material Information

Title:
Aiding and abetting an argument for reform of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer based on feminist and historic principles
Creator:
Shipman, Michael Joshua
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
viii, 103 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of English, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
English
Committee Chair:
Comstock, Michelle
Committee Members:
Addison, Joanne
Silverman, Gillian

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Book of common prayer (Episcopal Church : 1979) ( fast )
Feminism -- Religious aspects -- Christianity ( lcsh )
Sexism in liturgical language ( lcsh )
Feminism -- Religious aspects -- Christianity ( fast )
Sexism in liturgical language ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 101-103).
General Note:
Department of English
Statement of Responsibility:
by Michael Joshua Shipman.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
655262555 ( OCLC )
ocn655262555
Classification:
LD1193.L54 2010m S44 ( lcc )

Full Text

AIDING AND ABBETTING: AN ARGUMENT FOR REFORM OF THE
EPISCOPAL BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER BASED ON FEMINIST AND
HISTORICAL PRINCIPLES
by
Michael Joshua Shipman
B.A., University of Mississippi, 2004
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
English
2010


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Michael Joshua Shipman
has been approved
by
Michelle Comstock
4/(3/3010
Date


Shipman, Michael Joshua (M.A., English)
Aiding and Abetting: An Argument for Reform of the Episcopal Book of Common
Prayer based on Feminist and Historical Principles
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Michelle Comstock
ABSTRACT
Language is at the heart of the Episcopal liturgy. Every Sunday people gather
to repeat prayers thought to be centuries old. Unfortunately, at the heart of this liturgy
there exists a terrible bias. All of the language referring to God in the Book of
Common Prayer, the authorized service book in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.,
refers to God in masculine terms, irrevocably leaving out one half of the human race
and instituting bigotry in one of the most intimate settings: worship.
This thesis argues for change based on two principles: feminism and history.
The feminist movement, as it pertains to religion, has opened the eyes of many people
to the bigotry found in masculine God-talk. Even the Bible, the Christians central
text, offers different metaphors for the divine and states that humankind, both male
and female are created in Gods image. Feminists proclaim that the Bible, when it
refers to God as He or Lord reflects not the wishes of a divine being, but the
hopeful fantasies of men. Feminism sounds the trumpet call for reform and provides
some valuable theological and historical insights into the problem of masculine God
language.


But a liturgical tradition with strong historical roots also must be reckoned
with. This thesis demonstrates that the Christian liturgy has been shaped over the
course of 2,000 years. It is not monolithic. There were a variety of expressions of the
faith in ancient Christianity and this continues to the present day within the Anglican
tradition, of which the Episcopal Church is part. There is no precedent in history to
keep the liturgy static, or as the case is here, patriarchal.
It is the intent of this thesis, based on feminist principles and historical
precedent, to argue a way forward so that the Episcopal liturgy is one that speaks to
all people.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.


DEDICATION
For Mamaw, a pillar of strength.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I would like to thank my thesis director, Michelle Comstock, for having faith in me as
a writer. In times of stress, she has offered words of comfort that have kept me
moving forward with my academic endeavor represented here. I also give my
heartfelt thanks for Joanne Addison and Gillian Silverman for showing an interest in
my work and helping me formulate my argument.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. THE NEED FOR A RHETORICAL INTERVENTION
General Introduction..................................1
The Problem of the Prayer Book........................4
The Use of Language Referring to God..................8
Muted Group Theory...................................13
The Feminist Challenge...............................15
The Damage Done......................................19
Challenges to Reform.................................21
2. RHETORICAL INTERVENTIONS IN HISTORY
Overview ............................................24
Difficulties in Recovering Christian Liturgical History.25
Patriarchy: A Negative Intervention..................29
Patriarchys Hold on Christianity....................34
The Minority View and Its Untimely Death.............36
Why this Patriarchal Intervention?...................40
Interventions of Shape...............................44
Jewish Roots, Christian Future.......................45
vii


Events Leading to the Reformation.....................54
The Peculiarities of the English Reformation..........56
Thomas Cranmer, Architect of Faith....................59
Pre-Reformation Devotional and Service Books..........62
English Prayer Books..................................64
An American Prayer Book is Bom........................71
The Liturgical Movement...............................73
The Current Book of Common Prayer.....................75
3. A PROPOSED RHETORICAL INTERVENTION
General Overview......................................83
Feminism Meets the Prayer Book (Finally)..............84
The Inclusive Language Supplements....................87
Problems with the Supplements.........................92
A Way Forward.........................................98
The Gift of Feminism in God Language..................99
viii
WORKS CITED
101


CHAPTER 1
THE NEED FOR A RHETORICAL INTERVENTION
General Introduction
Every Sunday across the United States approximately 2.2 million
Episcopalians gather for worship, using a service called the Holy Eucharist, which
comes from the Greek word for Thanksgiving. Of those attending weekly services,
approximately 54% are female. In fact, in all U.S. Christian religious traditions,
women make up the majority of the attendees (U.S. Religious Landscape).
In the pews, the worshippers will see a ubiquitous book with a plain, gold, in-
laid cross on the cover. This Book of Common Prayer, at least from outward
appearances, seems to be more prominent than the Bible. There are at least six or
seven in every pew. I have only been to one church in seven years that had Bibles in
the pews. No one carries a Bible. After all, there are leather bound versions of the
Book of Common Prayer available to carry. Some of these versions contain a Bible
alongside the text of the liturgy, but the more popular combination is a Book of
Common Prayer coupled with a version of the Episcopal hymnal.
The Book of Common Prayer contains the liturgy of the church. It is a worship
guide and it contains rituals that mark all stages of life, from baptism at birth, to the
committal of the body to the ground at death. Scripture readings are read in services,
1


of course, but the majority of the Episcopal Eucharist is drawn from the Book of
Common Prayer. Of course the BCP (as the Book of Common Prayer is abbreviated)
draws heavily from the Bible, but it shapes Biblical texts into language with a
practical use: liturgy. The word liturgy comes from the Greek word leitourgia, which
means public duty (Fortescue). Many modem works on liturgical theology will
translate this as the work of the people. Liturgy is performed theology. It is thought
of, in fact, as primary theology.
Episcopal priest and professor Leonel L. Mitchell, in his book Praying Shapes
Believing, writes:
Theology is God-talk, and primary theology is the language we use when
we talk with God, not simply the words we speak, but the entire liturgical act.
Secondary theology.. .is the body of statements or propositions based upon or
derived from reflection upon our interchange with God. (2)
The language of liturgy is a conversation with God that is based on what can
be known about God. Whole books can and have been written about knowing God.
This thesis makes the assumption that our knowledge of God changes when people
are awakened to new possibilities over the course of time. This is in keeping with the
ethos of the Episcopal Church which is found in many books and on Church websites
across the country. An example from Saint Nicholas Parish in the diocese of
Washington has a concise definition of tradition and reason useful for this thesis.
They define tradition as:
We are not Christians in isolation but are part of a living faith that spans 2000
years. Tradition is the embodiment of our experience as Christians throughout
2


the centuries. The heart of our tradition is expressed through the Bible, the
Creeds (statements of faith, written in first centuries of the church's existence),
the Sacraments (the Lord's supper and Baptism), and the ordained ministry
passed on by Christ to his Church. Our tradition is expressed with many
voices, among which are a variety of worship styles, languages, cultures,
architecture and music. Our tradition encourages this diversity. We seek to
value the life and story each person can bring to the community of faith. As in
a multitextured tapestry, each person's offering is woven into the life of the
whole, making it stronger and more beautiful. (Saint Nicholas Website)
They define reason as:
Each one of us, with God's help, makes a decision about how we use tradition
and Scripture in our lives. A personal relationship with God allows us to
realize and celebrate our lives to the fullest. The gift of reason, as a
complement to Scripture and tradition, leads us to seek answers to our own
questions and to grow spiritually. Being active in a community of faith
strengthens us to carry our faith into the world. Weaving scripture, tradition
and reason together, we strengthen our faith and grow as children of God.
(Scripture, Tradition, & Reason)
Of course, I object to the term Lords supper on feminist grounds (feminism for the
purposes of this paper will be defined shortly) and personally I do not care for such
phrases as personal relationship with God, as it conjures up the evangelical
Protestantism of my youth in Mississippi, but I agree with the spirit of these two
definitions. The Episcopal Church is a traditional church which has inherited the
liturgy (and perhaps theological baggage) of the Christian Church and it is also a
church in which reason plays a large part. There are not many Biblical literalists in
our midst. Now back to my original point.
Our ideas about God have changed throughout the course of human history.
For example, the ancient Israelites were polytheistic, worshipping many Gods of
3


which Yahweh was just one. Over time, the idea developed that Yahweh was the God
of Israel. When Christianity came along, early followers took the idea of the God of
Israel and expanded it to include gentiles, or non-Jewish people. The covenant of
salvation promised in the Bible to the Jewish people was extended to all. Many
conservatives today would call this Biblical revisionism, by the way.
Eventually the patriarchy (Yahweh was a male god of WAR) ingrained in the
Judeo-Christian religious tradition began to be questioned by women who, because of
the abovementioned patriarchy, had been dismissed as a weaker sex for centuries.
The role of women in religion began to change and now the Episcopal Church is led
by the first female Presiding Bishop in the history of the Anglican Communion of
which the Episcopal Church is part. Now, this does not mean that women are
considered equals with men across the board. There are still roadblocks to the
ordination of women in some sectors of the Communion and there is another glaring
problem.
The Problem of the Prayer Book
In the Holy Eucharist, the principal service on Sundays, God is described as
heavenly King, Almighty God and Father, Lord, Father Almighty, Holy and
Gracious Father, Almighty Father, Our Father, and heavenly Father (BCP
357-366). In nine pages of primary theology, God is imaged as a kingly man eight
times. This figure does not count the times that the above titles are repeated, nor does
it take into consideration the thirty-five other services and rites in the prayer book. It
4


is no surprise that there are still people who disagree with the ordination of women
when their primary image of God is of a man (usually with a white beardeven
though there are no references to facial features in the BCP).
The problem is deeper than a gender issue, though. Biased God-talk is not a
womens issue; it is an issue of dominance and oppression. This thesis takes a broad
definition of feminism found in the introduction to Readings in Feminist Rhetorical
Theory, edited by Karen A. Foss et al. The editors write:
For us, feminism is the effort to disrupt the ideology of domination that
pervades our culture and many of our relationships. It is the effort, in other
words, to eliminate relationships of domination, oppression, and elitism and
the creation instead of relationships of self-determination, affirmation,
mutuality, equality, and respect.. .What we and other feminists are trying to do
is to transform relationships and the larger culture so that they reflect more
humane and enriching ways to live. (2-3)
The editors include race, ethnicity, and even sexual orientation (specifically gay men)
in their definition of oppressed groups that feminism seeks to liberate. Naturally, not
all feminists will agree with the editors definition. Feminism, like all movements is
made up of a wide variety of beliefs and strands of thought. I choose this definition
over others first, because I am a man that feels strongly about gender equality and
because as a gay man (one mainline denomination would refer to me as a practicing
homosexual), I have experienced oppression firsthand. My entire childhood comes
to mind, in fact. Oppression is violence. Even if the dominant group does not use
physical force, emotional damage can be inflicted upon oppressed groups.
5


One premise of this thesis is that exclusively masculine God language,
because it often relies on the language of power and authority, sets up an oppressive
system with a male monarch at its head. This monarch has supreme power and His
subjects rely on His mercy. Even if there are a majority of women ordained and even
if a majority of women attend church services, these women can never be seen as
created in the image of the Divine as long as God is painted exclusively as a male.
This thesis examines the rhetorical problem of using exclusively masculine God-talk
later in this chapter. Now, there are a few more definitions I would like to offer to
make some terms and phrases more clear.
Rhetoric, for the purpose of this paper is defined as any kind of human
symbol use that functions in any realmpublic, private, and anything in between
(Foss et al 2). The definition, once again, comes from Readings in Feminist Rhetoric,
and it is appropriate because the language of God is symbolicI have never talked
with anyone who has met God, after all. Everything said about God is analogy.
Another definition that may be helpful is of the phrase rhetorical
intervention. For the purpose of this paper a rhetorical intervention is any shift or
change in the words of the liturgy which reflects a corresponding change
theologically, politically, or liturgically. A basic premise of this thesis is that liturgy,
because it is the work of the people, must change over time or be rendered irrelevant,
or possibly even dangerousin the case of old patriarchal ideas being continuously
perpetuated throughout the centuries.
6


Based on this definition of rhetorical intervention, I will discuss in my second
chapter the way patriarchy became intertwined with Christian liturgy and also how
the liturgy was shaped over time to meet the religious needs of the worshipers. I will
examine various rhetorical interventions throughout the history of the church that
demonstrate how liturgy has been shaped over time to meet the needs of the people.
After all, regarding liturgy Mitchell writes:
.. .we change and the world changes, and we approach God with new
problems and new questions. The language of theology must be able to hear
and respond to these new experiences without changing its age-old witness to
the Eternal and Unchanging God. (3)
The chapter on historical liturgical interventions will examine the constants that
developed while different ideas were being developed about God and the Church.
This will lead into the final chapter which is a proposal for a way forward.
In the final chapter, I will look at some current rhetorical interventions in the
Episcopal Churchs liturgy and discuss their merits and weaknesses. I will give some
examples of texts that break the stranglehold that patriarchal language has on the
liturgy.
Because of my investment in the Episcopal Church (I am an aspirant for the
priesthood), this thesis is an argument for reform of the Episcopal liturgy. I will draw
on examples from the wider Christian community to show how the liturgy has been
shaped over time and to show what some other traditions are doing to break free of
patriarchy, but my primary concern is Episcopalian liturgy, namely The Book of
7


Common Prayer. I do not believe that the Episcopal Church is better than any other
tradition, nor do I intend to denigrate those who have an entirely different faith
tradition that Christianity or no faith tradition at all. I simply know more about the
Episcopal Church and its history and I have a passion for reform in my own tradition.
With that being said, we are ready to begin out journey towards liturgical reform.
The Use of Language in Referring to God
Since this thesis deals with the topic of language, particularly gender-inclusive
God-talk, it may be a good time to discuss the basic assumption this thesis makes
about how language is employed in discussions about God. In his work God-
language and Inclusive Language Liturgy, Ralph N. McMichael writes, We speak
of God with language that is to somehow affirm Gods transcendence or
incomprehensibility...we also claim that the incomprehensible God is revealed to us
(14).
The way that Gods revelation is interpreted basically falls into two different
camps. Those who support the gender-inclusive reform of the liturgy fall in the
analogical tradition, while those who believe that God is revealed as a man and
nothing else fall into the dialectical tradition (McMichael 1 5).
Analogy, in general, means to describe something by likening it to something
else. In the case of God language, we take an unknown (the nature of God) and use
terms that we know to describe it. A proponent of analogical God language, Thomas
Aquinas writes, We have seen already that in this life we do not see the essence of
8


God, we only know him from creatures.. .it is knowledge we have of creatures that
enables us to use words to refer to God, and so these words do not express the divine
essence as it is in itself (qtd in McMichael 'll 7). Understanding analogy does not
break Saint Thomas free of patriarchal pronouns, I should note.
Feminist Elizabeth A. Johnson would also agree with Saint Thomas
assessment about God language. In her article, The Incomprehensibility of God and
the Image of God Male and Female, she writes:
It would be a serious mistake to think that Gods self-revelation through
powerful acts and inspired words in the Jewish tradition and through the
history and destiny of Jesus Christ which give rise to the Christian tradition
removes the ultimate unknowability of God. (441)
The Christian tradition, over time, has created what Johnson calls a dangerous
situation in which God becomes someone who can be inspected and analyzed
through human understanding (441).
The problem with The Book of Common Prayer which was made evident in
the introduction is that it uses a biased analogy to represent God. If God is ultimately
unknowable, then we must use a wide variety of metaphors when speaking of God.
Instead, the BCP uses exclusively masculine terms, reinforcing the idea that God is
literally a man. Additionally, the masculine images that the BCP employs for God
imply kingship, so there is also a power dynamic that comes to play. God is the King
and human beings are His servants. This directly contradicts any passages in
9


Christian scriptures in which Jesus describes a familial relationship between God and
Gods people.
From an analogical standpoint, the present Book of Common Prayer does not
make full use of the metaphors available. If, as Saint Thomas points out, we and all of
creation represent God, then:
Biblically, of course we would say that male and female are created in the
image of God. Therefore, not only may the feminine signify God, but it must
if we are to know more about the nature of God.. .One image from our created
humanity does not do the analogical or metaphorical job for any other image;
each imperfectly signifies the nature of God. (McMichael 111)
Analogy also offers worshippers the gift of theology by negation. If we say that God
is a rock, as in God, you are the Rock of my salvation, we understand that God is
not really a rock (McMichael 112). Unfortunately, the same principle is not in
operation when people refer to God as King. When people refer to God as King, they
usually mean it literally. This brings us to the dialectical use of God language.
The dialectical tradition of God language holds the view that the Bible is the
revealed word of God and in that revealed word of God the creator is revealed as a
male. As McMichael writes, paraphrasing Karl Barth:
We as humanity are so sinful that we cannot speak from our existence and
have such language be congruent in any way with the nature of God. Instead,
we are to solely rely on Gods revelation, ('ll 13)
The word of God revels that God is male, and who are humans to question that, the
student of the dialectical school asks. One theologian within this tradition writes,
God is who he has revealed himself to be-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (qtd. in
10


McMichael f[ 17). Often opponents of inclusive language appeal to the Lords
Prayer and state that because Jesus is recorded as saying pray Our Father, that it is
a fundamental grammatical mandate of Christian liturgy; Bespeak God thus, Father
(McMichael 19).
One such article by Roland Mushat Frye does exactly this. His article, On
Praying Our Father The Challenge of Radical Christian Feminist Language for
God holds that efforts to replace this quintessential prayer have been disastrous
both theologically and liturgically (f 1). He writes that ancient and universal God
language has been rejected by:
.. .relatively small but highly activist radical feminist groups, with support
from other trendy theological camps. In effect, church people are being told
that the founding and sustaining words of the Christian faith have been
weighed in strange new balances, found wanting, and are now marked down
for destruction. This is not done in the name of truth, but in the name of
various political, social, and sexual liberation agendas. Of 2)
One of the first things to note in Fryes essay is his immediate labeling of those who
seek to reform the language of the liturgy as radical feminists. I would daresay that
all who seek reform are not radical and that all who wish to see egalitarian God
language are not associated with the feminist movement. One of the methods that
patriarchs in Christian history have used to refute their opponents is to demonize
them. Frye even gives an example of this in his paper, writing about how Iraneous
accused Gnostics, who believed in both masculine and feminine attributes of God, as
believing in a hermaphrodite God (*f 8). After ridiculing a bisexual God, Frye goes
11


on to label gender inclusive movements as fitting rather neatly with New Age
fashions today (*][ 8). Accusing people of Paganism is another trick from the bag of
patriarchs.
In a rather odd twist, Frye then takes on feminist Mary Daly by refuting her
statement that since God is male, the male is God. Frye writes:
Neither the Bible nor the Christian and Jewish traditions have ever taught that
God is male, and, in terms both explicit and implicit have repeatedly denied
that he is. (f 23)
So, Frye believes that God is to be referred to as Father, but he also believes that
tradition states that God is not male. It seems that there is a bizarre comingling of
metaphorical and literal images for God. I am no more impressed by any other
proponents of masculine God language. I personally distrust anyone who claims to
speak for God with authority. What makes more sense to me is to accept the
incomprehensibility of God revealed in such phrases as:
God said to Moses, I AM who I AM.. .Thus you shall say to the Israelites, I
AM has sent me to you. (Exodus 3:14 NRSV)
or:
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no
longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galations 3:28
NRSV)
of from the first chapter of the Bible:
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NRSV)
12


Of course, the last quotation demonstrates the patriarchal lens through which the
authors of the Bible wrote. Even a radical text that promotes the idea that all of
humankind is created in Gods image is tainted by the male pronoun.
Suffice it to say that of the two ways of doing God language, my method is
analogical. I do not profess to understand God completely, so I think that metaphor is
a sufficient way of speaking of God if the metaphorical language permits God to be
imaged in a variety of ways. Now, I want to turn my attention to the dangers of
exclusively masculine God language. I would like to begin with a secular idea and
then move into a theological rationale for a rhetorical intervention. The language of
the current Book of Common Prayer does not meet the needs of all worshipers and, in
fact, it can alienate and harm them.
Muted Group Theory
There are some practical considerations related to language usage brought up
by insisting on exclusively male God language. Cheris Kramarae, an expert in speech
communication, defines feminism as the practice of disrupting the linguistic and
other structures that create a hostile environment for women (Foss et al 7). Her work
deals with the way language has the ability to limit womens self expression by
forcing them to fit into a patriarchal worldview.
Kramarae writes that womens speech has been described as polite,
emotional, enthusiastic, gossipy, talkative, uncertain, dull, and chatty. This is in
contrast to mens speech which is allegedly looked at as more rational and
13


unemotional (9). Why this difference in the perception, and why does this matter for
liturgical reform? Borrowing from anthropologists, Kramarae would say that this
perceived discrepancy in language usage is explained by muted group theory.
Kramarae writes:
The language of a particular culture does not serve all its speakers equally, for
not all speakers contribute in an equal fashion to its formulation. Women (and
members of other subordinate groups) are not as free or as able as men are to
say what they wish, when they wish, because the words and the norms for
their use have been formulated by the dominant group, men. (19)
Women are perceived as inarticulate or less intelligent because they are speaking a
foreign language. Men, because of their privileged patriarchy over the centuries have
become the gatekeepers of the English language. They have determined what is
masculine or feminine, and they have decided what appropriate forms of
communication look like.
Muted group theory can easily be applied to liturgy. Over the centuries (as
well see in the next chapter) the liturgy was shaped to meet historical circumstances.
Unfortunately, the shaping of the liturgy was done by men. This does not mean that
the shape the liturgy took, eventually culminating in The Book of Common Prayer, is
completely contaminated by patriarchy. After all, the way the prayers are laid out is
pretty innocuous. However, the dominant image of God that was adopted by early
Christianity and perpetuated throughout history is of a man.
If the image of God is a man and the language used to describe God is
masculine, how can women see themselves as created in Gods image? Furthermore,
14


how can any people have a right relationship of equals if the highest image of a
relationship, based on religion, is of a King and his servants?
In her book, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological
Discourse, Elizabeth A. Johnson, a professor and Christian feminist theologian,
discusses the damage caused by always imaging God as an unchanging, everlasting
King. She writes:
Whether consciously or not, sexist God language undermines the human
equality of women made in the divine image and likeness. The result is broken
community, human beings shaped by patterns of dominance and subordination
with attendant violence and suffering. Idolatrous: insofar as male-dominant
language is honored as the only or supremely fitting way of speaking about
God, it absolutizes a single set of metaphors and obscures the height and depth
and length and breadth of divine mystery. Thus it does damage to the very
truth of God that theology is supposed to cherish and promote. (18)
The Feminist Challenge
The challenge to this divine monarchy comes in feminist Christian theology, which
rises out of the ashes of traditional theism. The opposite of theism is not atheism.
Theism, defined by Johnson, is the rise of an understanding of God by medieval and
early modem theology that was closely connected with classical metaphysics. It is a
theology characterized by so-called natural knowledge of God arrived at primarily
through philosophical inference. God is viewed as a Supreme Being who is
unrelated to the world. He is above all things. He is King of Kings, a royal Monarch,
ruling over all (Johnson 19-20). But theism is slowly losing favor. The theistic God
is dead.
15


With the destruction of the classical and neoclassical worldview, comes the
death of theism. Twentieth century atheists rejected theism as a projection of human
needs. Others have rejected a God that allows unbelievable human suffering to occur
in the world. Interactions with other world religions call into question the western
view of the man-God living in outer space. To fill the vacuum left by the death of
God, theologians have offered alternative views to theism, including the liberating
God, the incamational Godthat is, God being related to all humans, the relational
God, the suffering God, the God who is future, and the unknown, hidden God of
mystery (21).
Feminist theology intersects these discussions about God as liberator, as
mystery, and it joins in criticism of the old theistic way of thinking of God as the
ultimate Man (21).
Feminist theology, despite a variety of opinions, is rooted in the margins.
From the margins, feminists seek to reform the whole order which has gone awry.
Johnson writes, From the margins feminist liberation theology sees clearly that
society and the church are pervaded by sexism with its twin faces of patriarchy and
androcentrism (22). She says that this sexism is socially and psychologically harmful
to women and creates a violent and dehumanized world (22).
Johnson then defines patriarchy and androcentrism. Patriarchy, she writes, is
[cjoined from the Greek pater/patros (father) and arche (origin, ruling power, or
authority) (23). In patriarchy the power is always in the hands of men. It has been
16


classically defined as the absolute rule of the freeborn male head of household over
wives, children, male and female slaves, and nonhuman property (23). She writes
that religious patriarchy is one of the strongest expressions of male dominance,
because it is said to be divinely inspired (23).
Androcentrism, she writes, comes from the Greek aner/andros (male human
being) and is the name commonly given to the personal pattern of thinking and
acting that takes the characteristics of ruling men to be normative for all humanity...In
theology androcentrism ensures that ruling men will be the norm for language not
only about human nature but also about God... (23-24). This androcentric view of
God in the church was, in part, shaped by Thomas Aquinas, who despite having
interesting ideas about analogy in God-language, took the Aristotelian notion that
women were defective and put it into the language of theology. Women were
incapable of being good. They needed the help of men because they lacked spiritual
strength and wisdom. Naturally, argued Aquinas, they could not be priests (because
they were defective), nor could they preach (because they lacked wisdom) (24-25).
This subjugation affects women in a variety of ways.
Johnson writes:
Women's sense of themselves as active agents of history comes in for severe
diminishment under sexist dictation. Subordination affects the imagination to
the point where, in a dynamic similar to that suffered by other colonized
groups, women internalize the images and notions declared about them by the
ruling group and come to believe it themselves...This process is strongly aided
and abetted by male-centered language and symbol systems, key reflections of
17


the dominant group's power to define reality in its own terms and a powerful
tool of its rule. (26)
Since we are deconstructing ideas, it might be beneficial to say that the
problem that I am writing about, currently, is not necessarily the word Lord or the
pronoun He. After all, Christianity gives the world a Lord that is subversive.
Remember that in the Gospel story of Jesus riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, he
is riding the foal of a donkey. Rather than riding in on a horse like a warrior king, he
rides in like a servantpossibly with his feet dragging along the ground.
Additionally, many of the faithful of the time were disappointed that he was not a
warrior. After the crucifixion, he was quickly imaged as a servant-king.
Unfortunately, it does not seem that the word lord can be divested of its tyrannical
roots, because it still calls to mind a Zeus figure when thinking of God, and when
applied to Jesus, it conjures up an image of an angry judge. As for masculine
pronouns, Johnson writes: The difficulty does not lie in the fact that male metaphors
are used, for men too are made in the image of God and may suitably serve as finite
beginning points for reference to God. Rather, the problem consists in the fact that
these male terms are used exclusively, literally, and patriarchally (33).
This male language is used in exclusion to other metaphors found within the
Bible itself. God as masculine ruler is used so much, in fact, that using female images
or images taken from nature appear deviant. Again, despite Biblical evidence to the
contrary, masculine metaphors are used for God as if they were literally true. The
18


maleness of God is so pervasive that even when people argue that it is not to be taken
literally, they might say, God is not male; He is Spirit (qtd. 34). Johnson writes that
if the maleness of God were not taken literally, why do so many people balk at female
metaphors for God? (33-34). Men have found their ideal hero in God viewed
patriarchally. Look, for instance, at representations of God and the Trinity, Johnson
says: In the history of Western art the most common depiction of deity is that of an
old white man with a white beard...Imagery of the trinitarian God most often consists
of an older white-bearded man, a younger brown-bearded man, both Caucasian, and a
dove (34). With the liberating message of the Gospels, one would think that
patriarchy would be abolished. Unfortunately, Christologythe theology surrounding
Jesus, rather than liberating women from a patriarchal God, is often used to tie
maleness to divinity intimately. Rather than looking at Jesus as the human side of
God, people are apt to look at Jesus as the image of God who is male (35)
The Damage Done
There are definite sociological and psychological effects of looking at God as
male. Johnson writes, Inauthentic ways of treating other human beings go hand-in-
glove with falsifications of the idea of God (36). The idea of God is not some
abstract, lofty theological concept; it has real world implications. Language about
God as war-like can lead to torture and just wars, but language about God as being
creator, lover, and savior leads to positive behavior. Johnson writes, The symbol
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of God functions, and its content is of the highest importance for personal and
common weal or woe (36).
The concept of God as supreme monarch makes it difficult to envision women
in roles of authority, especially in a religious context, because men are more similar
to the Ruler of the universe. Johnson writes that when God is imaged exclusively as
male, The sacred character of maleness is revealed, while femaleness is relegated to
the unholy darkness without. Such silence is typical of theological discourse shaped
by an androcentric notion of humanity (37). Women, because they are not part of the
image of God, can only participate in God by abstracting themselves from their,
concrete, bodily identity as women (38). Johnson writes:
Psychologically, exclusive, patriarchal imagery for the divine functions as a
tool of symbolic violence against the full self-identity of female persons,
blocking their identity as images of God and curtailing their access to divine
power...Here the ambiguity in the inherited doctrine of God becomes clear
insofar as speech about God in patriarchal metaphors, in a demonic twist,
becomes an architect of injustice, a fountainhead of enslavement. (38)
There are also negative theological effects brought about by patriarchal
language about God. Whenever one idea of God dominates others, shutting doors, in
fact, to all others, idolatry is bom. This closing the door on a variety of ideas about
God has the adverse effect of limiting mystery, of codifying it. Over the years in
Judeo-Christian tradition prophets have risen to shatter idolatrous images of the
divine that people cling to. Johnson writes:
What needs to be shattered according to feminist theological critique is the
stranglehold on religious language of God-He. Normative imaging and
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conceptualization of God on the model of ruling men alone is theologically
the equivalent of the graven image, a finite representation set up and
worshiped as if it were the whole of divine reality. What is violated is both the
creature's limitation and the unknowable mystery of the living God. (39-40)
So, a feminist theology, rather than simply making women equal to men through
balanced God-talk, is an effort to liberate any who are oppressed. Women are
certainly in need of liberation from androcentric, masculine God-talk, but so are all
people. The current religious language in the Book of Common Prayer is not just
tainted by the worship of maleness, it is also tainted by the oppressive power
structures of history that were written into Christian history by those who were
writing the Bible. We no longer live in a world dominated by monarchs, so we need
to find metaphors for God that speak to our particular cultural situation.
Challenges to Reform
So what is holding reform back? If feminists have opened the eyes of liturgists
by demonstrating the negative effects of patriarchal language, why did we not
overthrow the prayer book back in the last General Convention of the Church in
2009? One major argument that I have heard is about the poetry of the Book of
Common Prayer. In her article, The Artistry of Liturgical Words, Madeline
LEngle discusses her fondness for the Episcopal Churchs liturgy. She writes, Our
liturgy is drama, great musical drama, and I hope well never forget that (*][ 4).
While her article deals mainly with the beauty of the music of the church, a
topic not addressed in this thesis, her underlying assumption that the liturgy is art can
21


lead people to a kind of idolatry. About the music she writes, I dont really care very
much whether the language is ancient or modem, but I care passionately that it be
good, and that it be singable (LEngle 1 8). I am sure that LEngle meant well in her
article and she does say outright that she is not a Biblical literalist, but her article has
the potential to undermine liturgical reform. The prayer book, as well see in the next
chapter, was created for a specific audience. It was not meant to be a piece of art. It
was practical.
This theme of practicality is taken up by David Jasper, in his article Between
Literature and Liturgy: A Pragmatics of Worship. He writes:
It is ironic, it seems to me, that modem defenders of the English Prayer Book
should so often take their stand upon the ground of its superior literary
qualities and the poetry of its language. For its survival is probably more
attributable to its serviceable qualities, its tendency, wherever possible, to
prefer the Anglo-Saxon word rather than the Latin derivative, and its practicle
efficiency. (^[ 14)
The prayer book was the answer to a practical problem. There were numerous
liturgical books that had to be carried about for services and the prayer book
condensed them into one. Additionally, the people did not understand the liturgy of
the Mass, so the prayer book restored the liturgy to the common language of the
people.
The language of poetry is meant to inspire people, but the liturgy is busy
with intensely practical business, wants and needs. It is meant to offer the people a
way to confess, to receive forgiveness, to offer prayers for others and to give thanks
22


(Jasper'll 17). Jasper writes about the provisional and changing nature of liturgical
form and expression and refers to idolizing one form of liturgy as longing for lost
gods and their theologies (*][ 18).
This is not to say that liturgy cannot be poetic or inspiring. Most of the liturgy
and most new expressions of liturgy are highly moving. At the end of the day, though,
they are expendable because the needs of the worshipping community are constantly
evolving. Basically, the current Book of Common Prayer is past its sell by date.
Because of the patriarchy written into the current Book of Common Prayer, it
is in need of a rhetorical intervention. Its language has psychologically damaging
effects on women and the language gives an unbalanced relationship as a model of
how to live. I would like to use the next chapter as an opportunity to look at the
history of liturgical rhetorical interventions. I will begin by looking at a negative
rhetorical intervention: the shift from polytheism to patriarchal monotheism and how
the Christian Church came to adopt this patriarchy. Then, I will examine other
rhetorical interventions throughout the history of Christian liturgy that set the
precedent for a current reform.
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CHAPTER 2
RHETORICAL INTERVENTIONS IN HISTORY
Overview
Over the course of Christian history and religious history in general, there
have been a variety of rhetorical interventions on the part of those in power. The
earliest intervention took place in Israelite religion. There was a shift from polytheism
to a strict patriarchal monotheism. When Christianity came along, it adopted this
patriarchy and enshrined it in the liturgy. Some, as we will see, would say that this
was a rhetorical intervention to keep Christianity in sync with the patriarchal family
code of the surrounding culture.
The next interventions examined are liturgical. I will show that over the
course of the history of the Christian Church various rhetorical interventions, or
changes in the language and structure of the liturgy, took place to meet the needs of
the worshipping community. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer is a child of
history. Its formation was shaped by a particular historic circumstance, but it was also
informed by years of Christian liturgical history that came before it. Along with the
structure that the BCP adopted, it also unquestioningly adopted the patriarchy that has
been enshrined in liturgy for thousands of years.
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I will examine these themes of patriarchy and other interventions before
moving to my last chapter, in which I will discuss a liturgical way forward. Before I
do this though, I would like to discuss some of the problems with the methodology
around revisiting the distant Christian past.
Difficulties in Recovering Christian Liturgical History
To understand the problems of recovering the earliest Christian liturgical
traditions, we must understand the methods of understanding liturgy and shifts in
liturgical scholarly study. From the eighteenth until the early twentieth centuries,
many scholars assumed that either Jesus or the apostles had left clear rubrics on how
to perform the liturgy. This method of studying liturgy was affirmed by the discovery
of The Apostolic Constitutions, a fourth century liturgical guidebook. This guidebook,
like many other documents attributed to an apostle's pen, was later discovered to be
attributed to the apostles, rather than actually handed down by them. Scholars in this
camp compared liturgical texts to find similarities that they believed were part of an
original text that was behind all of the later variants (Bradshaw 1-3).
A problem with this method is that liturgical texts were written to be used.
They are practical documents that often aligned more with the current thinking of the
church at the time that they were written than with historic documents passed on from
previous generations. Another problem of liturgical texts is that often rites are
transmitted in liturgical books, even if they have fallen into disuse. Liturgists are
often reluctant to throw out an old text because of the fear that they will be accused of
25


abandoning tradition (Bradshaw 4-5). In The Search for the Origins of Christian
Worship, Paul Bradshaw writes:
Thus, while it is true that liturgical manuscripts were generally copied in order
to be used, Christians of earlier generations were quite as capable as we are of
carrying some excess liturgical baggage along with them, of copying out
primitive and venerable texts into their later collections of material just
because they were primitive and venerable and not because of any real
intention of putting them into practice. The problem is that they knew which
of their texts were to be used and which passed over, while we are left to
guess at it with whatever assistance other sources can give us. (6)
An example of the problem illustrated by Bradshaw is that The Apostolic
Constitutions contain prayers that are very Jewish in character, but it is hard to tell
whether the Jewish liturgy influenced the Christian liturgy, or if Christians simply
copied these prayers into their guidebooks, but did not use them (Bradshaw 6).
Another approach to liturgical studies is informed by Gregory Dix's work The
Shape of the Liturgy. This approach states that the various forms of the Christian
Eucharist did have a common origin, but this was to be sought in the structure or
shape of the rite rather than in the wording of the prayers (Bradshaw 6). Basically,
the argument is that all liturgies no matter what their expression or what their
geographical origin is, can be traced back to Jesus' institution. Two major problems to
this approach are discoveries that ancient Jewish worship from which Christianity
broke away was much more diverse than originally thought, and New Testament
Christianity was itself essentially pluriform in doctrine and practice (Bradshaw 7).
Bradshaw writes that quite the reverse of Dix's approach is probably true. Liturgical
26


practices were quite diverse and uniformity was imposed on those practices from
above (Bradshaw 8).
Anton Baumstark's Liturgie comparee applied scientific principles to the
study of liturgy, comparing the study of liturgical rubrics to geology. If you dig down
far enough, you will understand the historical development of liturgy. Baumstark
believed that liturgy went from diverse to uniform and from simple to more complex
in its evolution over time. A concern with applying natural laws to liturgy is that the
study of historical liturgical texts is not absolute. Some scholars tend to take
Baumstark's laws of liturgy as fact and ignore liturgical history when it contradicts
the law. Bradshaw writes,
Baumstark himself implicitly admitted their limitation as laws when he
acknowledged that the movement towards liturgical uniformity was constantly
being interrupted by a tendency towards local variation and that towards
prolixity by a tendency towards abbreviation, even though he wanted to label
these tendencies as 'secondary' and 'retrograde'. (9-12)
Even when liturgy is uniform, it is not uniform.
Bradshaw suggests that modem liturgical scholars adopt a hermeneutics of
suspicion when studying historic liturgical texts. Historic Christian documents most
likely will not yield a complete picture of ancient liturgical rites. Even early Christian
writers who do describe liturgical rites, may simply be examining the parts that they
felt were relevant and skipping over parts that did not relate to their discussions (15).
We must not fall into traps when thinking or speaking about liturgical history. One
pitfall to avoid is assuming that if a text sounds authoritative, that it is authoritative.
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Many bishops made pronouncements for the whole church about how something
should be done liturgically, but oftentimes those statements were just wishful thinking
on the part of the bishops rather than an actual uniform practice across Christendom
(17). Another pitfall is assuming that liturgical legislation is evidence of actual
practice. Many official pronouncements (as they do today) fell on deaf ears because
local varieties of worship became ingrained in the hearts of worshipers. In fact, there
are instances in which several different church councils had to say the same thing
over and over again (18). Another assumption that must be debunked is that if there
are a variety of explanations for a practice, then one of those explanations must be
true. Bradshaw writes that the very existence of multiple explanations and
interpretations [of liturgical events] is itself a very good indication that no
authoritative tradition with regard to the original purpose and meaning of the custom
had survived... (20).
This is not to say that nothing can be gained from the study of early
Christianity. Most things that are said about early Christian liturgy, however, must be
said with the knowledge that it is difficult to say anything about early Christian
worship with absolute certainty (Bradshaw 20). With all of this being said, we turn
our attention to what we do know about early Christian liturgy and the liturgy as it
developed over time. Also, while we might not know everything there is to know
about worship in the first two centuries of the church, we have an abundance of
information about later periods.
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Patriarchy: A Negative Intervention
Archeological evidence points to a female image of the divine from
Paleolithic to ancient civilizations. Very few male images of the divine can be found,
leading many people to believe that ancient peoples viewed that their very lives
depended upon a mother goddess (Ruether 48). Figures that have been found usually
downplay personal characteristics while they emphasize the breasts, buttocks, and
enlarged abdomen. These images suggest that the goddess is usually a metaphor for
the powers of life for peoples who domesticated neither animals nor plants but were
totally dependent on the spontaneous forces of the earth for gathering food (Ruether
48).
Once agriculture was established the metaphor of the goddess continued in the
imaginations of the people. Feminist scholar and theologian Rosemary Ruether writes
that after the agricultural shift, humans saw themselves as in cooperation with nature:
We can speak of the root human image of the divine as the Primal Matrix, the
great womb within which all things, Gods and humans, sky and earth, human
and non-human beings, are generated. Here the divine is not abstracted into
some other world beyond this earth but is the encompassing source of new life
that surrounds the present world and assures its continuance. (Ruether 48).
She writes that this image of the female Primal Matrix continues in the modem
theological concept of God as the Ground of all Being, an idea found in the writings
of Paul Tillich.
With the new view of cooperation with nature came a different view of the
divine. There are examples of this in the religion of Sumer and Babylonia for the
29


transition from goddess religion to a male-female divinity religion. There are two
central myths that sprang up regarding the god/goddess during the rise of agrarian
cultures (Ruether 48-49).
The first myth is the resurrection of the God-king through the rescue and
marriage to the goddess. Some God/Goddess couples who embody this myth are
Inanna-Dumuzi, Ishtar-Tammuz, Anath-Baal, and Isis-Osiris. Ruether writes, In this
myth and ritual drama the ancient near Eastern world displayed its continuing
attachment to the prehistoric myth of the female as the primary divine power upon
which the male as king or God depends (49).
In this myth the god is conquered by death. In this case, the god represents
vegetation and rain and death represents drought. The god, once he has been defeated,
is rescued by a goddess, usually through marriage to her. In ritual reenactment, the
goddess was usually played by the local priestess, demonstrating that at one point in
history, the priestess welded much power, and dare we say, authority over men
(Ruether 49-50). The second myth is the overthrow of the goddess found in Sumerian
mythology. In this myth the old goddess, Tiamet, and her consorts and followers are
overthrown by the new Gods and Goddesses of the urban-agricultural world,
represented by their warrior champion, Marduk, God of the city-state of Babylonia
(Ruether 50).
Rather than looking at the defeat of the goddess as the defeat of feminism by
patriarchy, however, Ruether writes that the story represents the defeat of the powers
30


of drought and death and the establishment of secure order, prosperity, and fertility
(51). She writes that ancient cultures did not choose between the two myths; rather
they used both of them to express their view of reality. The Marduk story which
might easily have been used as a symbol of female defeat by patriarchy, Ruether
writes, is instead balanced by the Goddess-king story in which the ancient primacy
of the Goddess is carried over and made a positive force in the renewal of life of
urban-agricultural society (51-52). We must not project a false dualism onto the
god/goddess religion of the ancients. The god and goddess were not complimentary
images of the divine; rather they were equal in power (52).
An exclusively male image of God comes from a culture that was nomadic
and did not rely on an agrarian god. Ruether writes that [m]ale monotheism has been
so taken for granted in Judeo-Christian culture that the peculiarity of imaging God
solely through one gender has not been recognized. But such an image indicates a
sharp departure from all previous human consciousness (53). In patriarchal religion
women, rather than being equal to men, are the ruled. Male monotheism breaks the
world into a duality of spirit versus body, with women acting as the image of the
weaker material nature of humans: Gender becomes a primary symbol for the
dualism of transcendence and immanence, spirit and matter (54). It seems that only
bad things have come from imaging God only as a man.
The emergence of male monotheism in Hebrew thought was not simply a
replacement of the previous god/goddess religions; it was a violence committed upon
31


the old way. It imposes itself on this older world, assimilating, transforming, and
reversing its symbol systems (Ruether 54). The simple symbolism of order vs. chaos
becomes a metaphor for the male gods superiority over the people of an agrarian
society. Ruther writes, In the prophet Hosea, the marriage symbol [of the Sacred
Marriage] is taken over judgmentally as a diatribe against the harlotry of Israelites,
who prefer Baal, the vegetation and rain God of the Canaanites, to Yahweh, the
nomadic patriarch (55). Basically, Yahweh is a jealous, abusive husband.
As usual with religious studies, it is difficult to generalize about actual
religious practices. In reality many people never accepted the Yahwist takeover of
god/goddess religion. Asherah, the Canaanite goddess, continued to be worshipped
along with Yahweh in Solomans temple for much of its existence and graves of
Israelites display both god and goddess symbols. Ruether writes, It is not
insignificant that most of the polemics against Canaanite religion in the Old
Testament are against Baal, not Anath or Asherah. Yahweh does not do warfare
primarily against the goddess (56).
Even the religion of Yahweh was not exclusively male. Another strand of
thought that many people miss in exegesis is how Yahwism appropriates female
images to represent the divine. Ruether quotes one example from Isaiah to
demonstrate the Hebrew scriptures mixed metaphors:
The Lord goes forth like a might man,
like a man of war he stirs up his fury,
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
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he shows himself mighty against is foes,
for a long time I have held my peace,
I have kept still and restrained myself,
Now I will cry out like a woman in travail,
I will gasp and pant.. .|
These things will I do and I will not forsake them,
They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in graven things. (Isa. 42:13-14, 16-17; qtd in 56-57)
In the wisdom tradition in scripture, the female aspects of the divine are
emphasized. Wisdom is the female spirit of God, spread across the world:
For she is the breath of the power of God
and pure emanation of his almighty glory;
Therefore nothing defiled can enter into her
for she is the reflection of the everlasting light,
and a spotless mirror of the activity of God
and a likeness of his goodness. (Wis. of Sol. 7:25-26; qtd. in Ruether 57)
Basically, wisdom has taken the place of the goddess. Only wisdom is not
autonomous, she is an expression of one aspect of the divine. Christianity later
replaced the female term Sophia with the masculine term logos to express the
maleness of both Son and Father (57-58). Female expressions of the divine did not
disappear, however. Some early Christian writers, including Clement and Aphraates,
continued to use female imagery for Gods spirit (59). While much female imagery of
the divine was suppressed under orthodox Christianity, it flourished in Gnostic
sects and reappeared in the writings of Christian mystics (Ruether 59-60). We will
also see that in attempts to restore the gender balance to God in current liturgical
supplements, many of these lost metaphors of the divine feminine are reclaimed.
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Suffice it to say that patriarchy is not a product of divine intervention. Rather,
it is the attempt of men to shape religion in their own way. But buried in the layers of
patriarchy that the church has inherited through the Bible, there are metaphors for
God that are not exclusively male. We will look at some of these metaphors in more
depth in the last chapter regarding modem rhetorical interventions.
Patriarchys Hold on Christianity
As I alluded to earlier, the churchs Christology is not above reproach, either.
Our Christology comes from two Near Eastern roots, the idea of the Messianic king,
combined with the idea of divine wisdom which seeks to unite humans with the
divine. Wisdom was depicted in terms of the female, but the equivalent image in
Christianity, logos established an unwarranted idea that maleness is an essential
element of Christianity (116-117).
Another link to maleness comes from the idea of Davidic kingship regarding
the messiah. Earthly kings rarely fulfilled the peoples needs, so an idea developed
that a greater king would come, a conquering warrior who liberates the people from
their enemies and then reigns over a new kingdom. Because of the patriarchal
conditions of the time this warrior can only be imaged as a male (118-119). Ruether
writes that the idea of Jesus as the Davidic messiah is a later interpretation on the part
of Christians (119-121).
Early Christianity was a prophetic movement. This movement did not see
Jesus failure to rescue Israel as a repudiation of his mission from God; rather, the
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Jesus story was reimaged as the story of a suffering servant who was rescued from
God through resurrection and lived on in prophetic utterances of the community of
believers (Ruether 122-123). The Gospels are not a secretarys notes of Jesus
sayings, but are prophetic writings of the early Christians which preserved the
essence of the historical Jesus teachings (123).
The fall of Jerusalem, and perhaps even the Christian Churchs being cut off
from the Mother Church there led the institutional ministry that was forming to cut
off prophetic utterances and insist upon a body of written scriptures, which became
the definitive texts of the sayings of the Lord (Ruether 123-124). All teaching
comes from the authority of the Church through its bishops, whom are necessarily
male, because they represent the male Christ (124).
In the fourth century, Christianity became the imperial religion, uniting itself
with a patriarchal social order. The ruler was male, like Christ was male, and the
leaders of the church, too, were only male. Ruether writes, The possession of male
genitalia becomes the essential prerequisite for representing Christ, who is the
disclosure of the male God (125-126). This patriarchy became well established in
the church, but alternate views, albeit minority ones, existed.
In Gnostic circles, Christ was seen as a new Adam that transcends male and
female. Women are able to take part in the New Creation, the New Christian Order,
by unsexing themselves. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, Lo, I shall
lead her and make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling
35


you males, for every woman who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of
heaven (Logion 114; qtd. in Ruether 128). Unfortunately, in this tradition, the female
is still identified with the lesser nature of humanity (127-128).
In Medieval mysticism, Christ the male is given mothering attributes.
Ruether writes, Like a mother [Jesus] feeds us with his own body. He nurtures us
with milk, like newborn babies (128). Nineteenth-century romanticism pictures
women as the ideal Christ-like human being. Unfortunately, Femininity and Christ-
likeness are both defined into a private realm of altruistic other-worldliness which,
while appropriate for redemption, is inappropriate for the exercise of public power,
even in the Church (Ruether 129).
The Minority View and its Untimely Death
Elaine Pagels, a religion professor with an interest in Gnosticism, would argue
that the early Christian community was closer to the idea of a liberating Christ than
later Christian developments. She believes that we can learn about some early
Christian communities' struggles against orthodox patriarchy from the writings of
Gnostics.
Unlike many of his contemporaries among the deities of the ancient Near
East, the God of Israel shares his power with no female divinity, nor is he the divine
Husband or Lover of any, Elaine Pagels writes in What Became of God the
Mother? Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity. She writes that while
theologians are quick to point out that God is sexless, while referring to him they use
36


masculine terms. In the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, women are told that they
must become men to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Pagels).
But a treasure was unlocked in jars buried nearly 1,600 years agognostic
texts that reflect a more gender neutral view of God.
About these texts, Pagels writes, What distinguishes these 'heterodox' texts
from those that are called 'orthodox' is at least partially clear: they abound in feminine
symbolism that is applied, in particular, to God (Pagels). Different sects imaged God
in different ways. One sect decided that since male and female were made in God's
image, that God must be both male and female. The followers of Valentinus,
following his assertian that God was composed of two elements: the Ineffable (male)
and the Silence (female), celebrated the divine, eternal Grace, She who is before all
things (qtd. in Pagels) during their Eucharists.
Pagels continues:
At other times they pray to her for protection as the Mother, Thou enthroned
with God, eternal, mystical Silence. Marcus, a disciple of Valentinus,
contends that when Moses began his account of creation, he mentioned the
Mother of all things at the very beginning, when he said, 'In the beginning,
God created the heavens and the earth, for the word beginning (in Greek, the
feminine arche) refers to the divine Mother, the source of the cosmic
elements. (Pagels)
Basically, gnostics in this camp have a variety of views of how the
male/female dynamic of God works. Some say that God is both male and female, the
great Mother-Father. Others say that God-talk is metaphor and God is neither male
37


nor female, while a third group stresses maleness and femaleness at different times,
depending on the aspect that they want to stress (Pagels).
Another Gnostic view that is outside the patriarchal mode is the
characterization of the divine Mother as Holy Spirit. The Secret Gospel of John
involves John having a vision of the trinity: Father, Mother, and Son. The author of
the book interprets the action of the Holy Spirit to be the action of the ruah in the Old
Testament. Ruah is Hebrew for spirit and it is a feminine word. Pagels writes that
many other gnostic Gospels look at Spirit as Mother:
The secret Gospel to the Hebrews likewise has Jesus speak of my Mother,
the Spirit. And in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus contrasts his earthly parents,
Mary and Joseph, with his divine Fatherthe Father of Truthand his divine
Mother, the Holy Spirit... Another secret gospel, the Gospel of Phillip,
declares that whoever becomes a Christian gains both a father and a mother.
(Pagels)
Other gnostic groups characterize the divine Mother as Wisdom, using the
Greek word sophia and the Hebrew word hokhmah as a starting point. The Great
Announcement, a piece of mystical writing reworks the Garden of Eden story as the
story of God giving birth to the world. The Garden of Eden is the womb, Eden itself
is the placenta, and the river coming out of Eden is the umbilical cord. The Exodus,
then, is the exiting out of the womb. Because the male and female can be found in the
Divine, it logically flows that all humans are made of up of maleness and femaleness
(Pagels).
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Then, the divine Mother was suffocated, stamped out, squashed, squelched.
Pagels writes:
As these and other writings were sorted and judged by various Christian
communities, every one of these texts which gnostic groups revered and
shared was rejected from the canonical collection as heterodox by those
who called themselves orthodox, (literally, straight-thinking) Christians...as
late as the year A.D. 200, virtually all feminine imagery for God (along with
any suggestion of an androgynous human creation) had disappeared from
orthodox Christian tradition. (Pagels)
Gnostics were left scratching their heads at the rejection of their literature.
Many claimed that, of course, this was the work of the angry God of Israel, who was
actually a derivative of the Mother God, but had forgotten his origins. The reality
probably had less to do with dueling gods and more to do with popularity. Pagels
writes:
Irenaeus, an orthodox bishop, for example, notes with dismay that women in
particular are attracted to heretical groupsespecially to Marcus's circle, in
which prayers are offered to the Mother in her aspects as Silence, Grace, and
Wisdom; women priests serve the eucharist together with men; and women
also speak as prophets, uttering to the whole community what the Spirit
reveals to them. (Pagels)
He claims that Marcus must be a magician who makes special aphrodisiacs
to victimize many foolish women! (Pagels). Tertullian writes, These heretical
womenhow audacious they are! They have no modesty: they are bold enough to
teach, to engage in argument, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and, it may be,
even to baptize! There are even reports of a female prophet who hired a male
secretary to record her sayings (Pagels).
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Eventually, though, the idea that God is masculine and a male dominated
social order took its place within the wings of so-called orthodox Christianity. Pagels
writes that the only exception to this rule seems to be Clement of Alexandria, who
refers to God in feminine terms and discusses the many accomplishments of women
whom he admires. By 200 CE, women priests and the dignity of women were
unheard of in Christianity. Pagels writes:
How are we to account for this irreversible development? The question
deserves investigation which this discussion can only initiate. For example,
one would need to examine how (and for what reasons) the zealously
patriarchal traditions of Israel were adopted by the Roman (and other)
Christian communities. Further research might disclose how social and
cultural forces converged to suppress feminine symbolismand women's
participationfrom western Christian tradition. Given such research, the
history of Christianity never could be told in the same way again. (Pagels)
Fortunately, there is a body of work in feminist studies that seeks to
reconstruct the gender egalitarian origins of Christianity that were later suppressed
under patriarchy.
Why this Patriarchal Intervention?
Feminist theologian, Elizabeth Schiissler Fiorenza, does dare to reconstruct
what occurred in the first centuries of the church that pushed women from the center
to the margins. In In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of
Christian Origins, Fiorenza sheds light on the process of muting women.
Fiorenza writes that at the end of the first century texts began to emerge from
the Christian communities that advocated the adoption of the Greco-Roman
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patriarchal order of the house which urged the subjugation of women. What is
interesting is that these texts emerged out of Asia Minor, a place that was very diverse
theologically. The churches in Asia Minor were places of: Prophetic authority,
apocalyptic expectation, pressure of adapting to dominant society, ascetic withdrawal
from marriage and family, Judaizing tendencies, avowal of docetism, strife and
rivalries among different leaders and groups, persecution by Rome, and harassment
by neighbors. (Fiorenza 245).
They were also churches in which women wielded power and authority. Paul
writes to Apphia, describing her as a co-missionary. The author of Colossians sends
special greetings to Nympha and the church in her house (247). The writer of 2
Timothy greets Prisca and Aquila as missionaries, and also greets someone named
Claudia. The author discusses how his faith is derived from that of his grandmother,
Lois and his mother Eunice. Ignatius greets women in two letters. It is understood in
scholarly circles that the addressee of the second letter of John must be a female head
of a house church. She is described as the elect lady (Fiorenza 247-248).
Because of the egalitarian nature of early Christianity, women and slaves, in
particular were attracted to it. The problem begins with the blurry line between
corporate Christian worship and the private patriarchal household sphere. The author
of Colossians takes the text of Galations 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave
nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, and balances it with a
household code of patriarchal submission (251). The writer inserts the typical
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household code of submission: wife and husband, children and fathers, slaves and
masters. Fiorenza writes:
The formal structure of such a household code, then, consists of address
(wives), exhortation (submit to your husbands), and motivation (as is fitting in
the Lord). The only Christian element in the Colossian code is the addition in
the Lord. (253)
Some scholars believe that the household code is of genuine Christian origin,
but many more see the code as Christianity's adoption of Greco-Roman or Jewish-
Hellenistic code (254). The Greco-Roman household code comes from Aristotle, who
writes:
for the male is by nature better fitted to command than the female...and the
older and fully developed person than the younger and immature. It is true that
in most cases of republican government the ruler and the ruled interchange in
turn...but the male stands in this relationship to the female continuously. The
rule of the father over the children on the other hand is that of a king. (qtd. in
Fiorenza 255)
Aristotle's household code was accepted in Hellenistic Judaism as well. Philo writes:
Organized committees are of two sorts, the greater which we call cities and
the smaller which we call households. Both of these have their governors
[prostasian], the government of the greater is assigned to men, under the name
of statesmanship [politeia], that of the lesser known as household
management to women. A woman then should not be a busy-body, meddling
with matters outside her household concerns, but should seek a life of
seclusion, (qtd. in Fiorenza 257)
He adds:
Any of them whom you attack with inquiries about their ancestral
institutions can answer you rapidly and easily. The husband seems competent
to transmit knowledge of laws to his wife, the father to his children, the master
to his slaves (qtd. in Fiorenza 257).
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Other writers, such as Plutarch discuss marriage as a co-partnership. The woman is
subjected to her husband, but the husband is to treat her with respect and admiration.
The wife should share her husbands friends and gods. There is a connection between
the household code and the state (259).
The book of 1 Peter creeps ever so slowly towards marginalizing women
more. The household code in this book mentions the relationship between slaves and
masters, wives and husbands, but not children and parents. There is an emphasis on
subordination. Apparently the community was undergoing some persecution and
suspicion because of their distinctive lifestyle and their heightened consciousness of
election (260-261). The writer of the epistle urges them to be good, law-abiding
citizens to reduce tensions between them and the surrounding society:
Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles....Maintain good conduct among
the Gentiles so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers [better,
lawbreakers] they may see your good deeds [your law-abiding behavior as
good citizens] and glorify God on the day of visitation, (qtd. in Fiorena 261)
The problem is that according to the law, women were to adopt the gods of their
husbands, yet many women were attracted to Christianity's message of liberation.
Ironically, the solution to decreasing tension between the Christian and pagan
communities was to relinquish the freedom offered in Christian communities to
women (262-263). Fiorenza writes:
The patriarchal pattern of submission, therefore, does not so much seek to put
wives back into their proper patriarchal places, but seeks to lessen the tension
between the Christian community and the pagan patriarchal household.
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Especially the conversion of wives and slaves provoked such political tensions
between the Christian movement and its pagan society. (262)
The letter to the Ephesians also applies the household code to Christianity. In
this case, the household code is in relation to marriage, in which the wife is supposed
to be subject to the husband. Husbands are to love their wives, because their
relationship is modeled after the relationship between Christ and the Church (268-
269). Another bit of irony is that even though women are to be subjected to men, in
actuality in the churches in Asia Minor, men had to rely on the patronage of wealthy
women (270).
From these early Christian writings, the Christian church continued in a
trajectory that continued to marginalize women, making them subject to men, not
only in their households, but also in the churches in which they once held positions of
power and prestige.
Interventions of Shape
As I mentioned in my first chapter, the Episcopal Church prides itself on
scripture, tradition, and reason. Right now, I want to look at another element of
tradition. We have seen how patriarchy swept into the religion of the Israelites and
was adopted by the church. I referred to it as a negative intervention. It is referred to
as a rhetorical intervention, because the system of symbols present in pre-Yahwist
religion and in early Christology were both traded for patriarchal symbolism that
reinforces the dominance of men. Now, I want to look at some other kinds of
interventions in the church. First of all, because patriarchy became the norm of the
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Christian Church, patriarchy is assumed in these interventions. I know and you, the
reader, know that the words of liturgy are patriarchal. I have already shown that this
is problematic and that there is really no justification for it. You will not find
interventions that compare to feminist liturgical interventions, because feminism was
not conceivable during the time that the Eucharistic liturgy took shape and the time
that the Book of Common Prayer took its shape. Patriarchy had won out. However,
there is a tie that the following interventions have with the ones I propose in my last
chapter: they are based on a changing understanding of God.
Jewish Roots, Christian Future
The roots of what will become the Canon of the Mass spring out of Jewish
worship.. K.T. Beckwith, in the volume, The Study of Liturgy writes, From the
outset, the originality of Christianity is seen in its worship, but so is the traditional,
Jewish character of Christianity (Jones et al. 68). One influence Jewish liturgy may
have had on early Christian worship is fluidity. Structures and themes of worship
were fixed, but many prayers were extemporaneous. That is, people were invited to
pray in their own words, but there were some general expectations about things that
were to be mentioned in such prayers (Jones et al 70).
The original context for much Jewish worship was the home, with those
practices being transferred to the synagogue several years after Jesus' time. According
to Beckwith:
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Sabbath meals were particularly joyful family occasions; and, according to the
Mishnah (Berakoth), grace was said several times at meals, over each main
dish, over bread and over wine; and when people were eating together, most
benedictions were said by one person for all, and a responsive grace was
added at the end of the meal. This pattern corresponds to the two graces
recorded at the Last Supper, and the three graces of the agape-cum-Eucharist
in Didache, 9f. (Jones et al. 72)
So, there is evidence, then, that the shape of the early Christian service was likely
influenced by Jewish mealtime practices. This is not saying that prayers from Jewish
meals were translated directly into Christian worship, rather the pattern of mealtime
thanksgiving might have shaped the early Christian communion gatherings. Another
Jewish prayer that was later adapted for Christian use and might have been in use
during the Apostolic age is the 'Amidah, written 200 years before the life of Jesus. I
include here the first three of eighteen benedictions. Parallels can be found between
this prayer and later Eucharistic prayers. It is not a large leap to assume that this
prayer was likely used in at least a few congregations as part of their communion
service:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the great, mighty and
revered God, the Most High God who bestows lovingkindnesses, the creator
of all things, who remembers the good deeds of the patriarchs and in love will
bring a redeemer to their children's children for his name's sake. O king,
helper, savior and shield. Blessed are you, O Lord, the shield of Abraham.
You, O Lord, are mighty forever, you revive the dead, you have the power to
save. [From the end of Sukkot until the eve of Passover, insert: You cause the
wind to blow and the rain to fall.] You sustain the living with lovingkindness,
you revive the dead with great mercy, you support the falling, heal the sick,
set free the bound and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like
you, O doer of mighty acts? Who resembles you, a king who puts to death and
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restores to life, and causes salvation to flourish? And you are certain to revive
the dead. Blessed are you, O Lord, who revives the dead.
[Reader] We will sanctify your name in this world just as it is sanctified in the
highest heavens, as it is written by your prophet: "And they call out to one
another and say:
[Cong.] 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his
glory.'" [Isa. 6:3]
[Reader] Those facing them praise God saying:
[Cong.] "Blessed be the Presence of the LORD in his place." [Ezek. 3:12]
[Reader] And in your Holy Words it is written, saying,
[Cong.] "The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, throughout all
generations. Hallelujah." [Ps. 146:10]
[Reader] Throughout all generations we will declare your greatness, and to all
eternity we will proclaim your holiness. Your praise, O our God, shall never
depart from our mouth, for you are a great and holy God and King. Blessed
are you, O Lord, the holy God. You are holy, and your name is holy, and holy
beings praise you daily. (Selah.) Blessed are you, O Lord, the holy God.
(Bivin)
There are parallels between this prayer and what has become known as the Lord's
Prayer, which is used in Christian liturgies every Sunday. A contemporary of Jesus,
Rabbi Eliezer taught an abbreviated version of the eighteen benedictions: "May your
will be done in heaven above, grant peace of mind to those who fear you [on earth]
below, and do what seems best to you. Blessed are you, O LORD, who answers
prayer" (Bivin).
There are also other parallels between this Jewish blessing and the Christian
liturgy. This brings us to our second major rhetorical intervention in Christian history.
The text of the above prayer was modified to produce the earliest Christian
Eucharistic prayer. During the Patristic period of Christian liturgy, or the period just
past the time of the Apostles, we find two examples of how the above prayer was
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modified for Christian uses. The two examples come from the Didache and the
Apostolic Constitutions. The Didache is an early Church document concerned with
Church order and a pattern of Christian worship. The Apostolic Constitutions, a work
contributed to the Bishop Hippolytus, was originally created for an ordination service,
the Eucharistic Prayer found in The Apostolic Constitutions takes the basic blessing
found in the Amidah and modifies it to fit a Christian theology. Basically, the writers
of each of the above documents amended a tradition that was handed down to them to
meet the views of liturgy of their time. This fluidity in liturgy began in the first
century and will continue through the Middle Ages, up until today. For now, I will
examine the Didache, the Apostlic Tradition, a few additional Eucharistic prayers,
and the evolution of the Liturgy of the Word during the Patristic Period.
The Didache shows the development of the liturgy after the New Testament
Period.. The structure of the text seems to reveal that there was a meal with prayers
before the Eucharist, but then the non-baptized were dismissed and the Eucharist
began (Jones et al 211). The text of the Eucharist Prayer goes:
Now, concerning the Eucharist, Eucharistize as follows: First, concerning the
cup: We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy vine of David your son,
which you made known to us through Jesus your son, glory to you {forever}.
Next, concerning the broken bread: We give thanks to you, our Father, for the
life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your son,
glory to you {forever}. Just as this broken bread was being scattered over the
mountains and being brought together it became one, likewise bring together
your church from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, so that yours is the
glory and the power through Jesus Christ {forever}. But none shall eat or shall
drink from your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the Lord; for also
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concerning this the Lord has said, Do not give what [is] holy to the dogs.
(Brannan)
You might see that there are some elements borrowed from the Amidah mentioned
earlier. Namely, there is the traditional Jewish pattern of thanksgiving and
supplication (Jones et al 211). These two themes will be found in all Eucharistic
prayers to follow. During this early time period, there is no wording within the prayer
itself that would suggest that the elements of bread and wine are a sacrifice, but other
parts of the Didache reflect a view that the congregants are to be pure before
partaking of the Eucharist:
And coming together on the Lord's day of the Lord, break bread and give
thanks, confessing beforehand your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.
And everyone having a quarrel with his fellow member, do not let [them]
gather with you until they have reconciled so that your sacrifice may not be
defiled. For this is what was said by the Lord: In every place and time, offer
me a pure sacrifice because I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name
[is] great among the nations. (Brannan)
It is important to note here that the sacrifice mentioned above is not a sacrifice of the
elements (the bread and the wine), which will later become a re-offering of Christ's
Body to God, but an offering of worship, a spiritual sacrifice. A contemporary of the
author of the Didache, Justin Martyr also discusses the Eucharist as a sacrifice (Jones
et al 211). This sacrificial notion will take on new meanings and importance in the
Middle Ages. Concerning the church order itself, K.W. Noakes in The Study of
Liturgy writes that we can discern a shape of the liturgical gathering from the writings
of Justin:
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(1) Readings and sermon (displaced by baptism in the first account).
The lector reads from the OT and from the Gospels for as long as time permits
and the President delivers a homily.
(2) Common Prayer, which would no doubt have included prayer for the
emperor and secular authorities, is recited standing. The Kiss of Peace,
regarded as a seal of prayer, follows.
(3) Bread and cup are brought to the President. The cup contains wine mixed
with water' in the first account a further cup is mentioned containing water
only, probably a peculiarity of the baptismal Eucharist.
(4) Eucharistic prayer and Amen.
(5) Distribution of the Eucharist by deacons to those present and to those
absent.
(6) Collection (Jones et al. 212)
Of course, this pattern is based on the perspective of one person living in a certain
cultural context. What Justin Martyr experienced in Rome may not (and probably is
not) a representative Christian liturgy. It is difficult to tell whether Justin is
recounting the Roman liturgy of the day or offering the emperor a general outline of
what to expect in Christian liturgical gatherings (Bradshaw 98).
One of the earliest complete Eucharistic prayers extant is the one found in the
Apostolic Tradition, attributed to Hippolytus. The prayer is to take place during the
ordination of a bishop, but it can be assumed that at least Eucharistic prayers similar
to this would have been used at the timeapproximately the middle of the fourth
century. The newly consecrated bishop can use the prayer provided or he can create a
Eucharistic prayer, but his prayer should be orthodox (Jones et al 214). The prayer
follows:
BISHOP: The Lord be with you.
PEOPLE: And with your spirit.
BISHOP: Let us lift up our hearts.
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PEOPLE: We lift them to the Lord.
BISHOP: Let us give thanks to the Lord.
PEOPLE: It is right and proper.
BISHOP: We give thanks to you, O God, through your beloved Child Jesus
Christ whom you have sent us in these last days as Savior, Redeemer and
Messenger of your plan; who is your inseparable Word, through whom you
have created all things; and whom, in your good pleasure, you have sent down
from heaven into the womb of a virgin; and who, having been conceived,
became incarnate and was shown to be your son, bom of the Holy Spirit and
the Virgin; who fulfilling your will and acquiring for you a holy people,
stretched out his hands as he suffered to free from suffering those who trust in
you; who, when he was handed over to voluntary suffering, in order to destroy
death and to break the chains of the devil, to tread down hell beneath his feet,
to bring out the righteous into light, to set the term and to manifest the
resurrection, taking bread, gave thanks to you and said, Take, eat; this is the
Body which is broken for you; likewise the cup, saying, This is my Blood
which is shed for you. When you do this, do it in memory of me. Mindful,
therefore, of his death and resurrection, we offer you this bread and this cup,
giving thanks to you for accounting us worthy to stand before you and to
minister to you as priests. And we ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon the
offering of holy Church. In gathering [them] together grant to all those who
share in your holy [mysteries] [so to partake] that they may be filled with the
Holy Spirit for the strengthening of their faith in truth; in order that we may
praise you and glorify you through your Child Jesus Christ, through whom be
to you glory and honour with the Holy Spirit in holy Church now and
throughout all ages. Amen. (qtd. in Jones et al. 214-214)
In the above Eucharistic prayer we have the traditional Jewish thanksgiving and
petitions, but there are also some new elements that have developed. First, I should
mention that two elements found in later liturgies, the sanctus (Holy, holy, holy,
Lord) and the thanksgiving for creation at absent in this prayer, even though they
were known to Justin and Iraneus, another Church Father of the time (Jones et al
215). What is new is that the institution narrative has been added as an integral part of
the Eucharistic prayer. That is, this Eucharistic prayer recalls the Last Supper and
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frames the Christian liturgical drama as a continuation of the ordinance found in the
Last Supper. Additionally, the notion of sacrifice is made explicit in the prayer in the
offering of the bread and the cup to God. Finally, a petition for the descent of the
Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine is found. All of these changes were
based on a Christian theology that was developing during the time period. Theology
is not created in a vacuum. Early Christians were working out their beliefs about
Jesus and their beliefs about the memorial meal that is attributed to him in early
Christian scriptures.
One thing to note here is that while rites probably differed from church to
church, it is clear that a basic shape began to develop in Christian worship. The
earliest shape took the form of two parts, a service of the word (readings) and a
service of the table (communion). As we have seen over time the main prayer that
was used by the president of the communion service also took a basic shape: the
opening dialogue, the recollection of heroic deeds that God has done on behalf of the
people on earth, an institution narrative, the oblation or offering, the epiclesis, and a
final thanksgiving. Within these parameters local variety existed and still exists in the
global Christian church today.
The next rhetorical interventions are developments related to the shape of the
liturgy. Over time as set pattern of worship came to be developed. We find the
earliest western complete Eucharistic text in the work of St. Ambrose, de
Sacramentis. In this work, the liturgy of the table starts with the Kiss of Peace, in
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which parishioners are supposed to be reconciled to one another before going to the
altar, an idea that originates in Matthew 5:24. Then comes the offertory, which
apparently is not an offering of money, but the bread and wine for communion. We
know this because in some areas other offerings (such as money) are forbidden to be
brought up with the bread and the wine. We can assume that monetary offerings were
made at another time. An association between the gifts being offered and propitiation
for the dead began to be made during this time period (Jones et al 230-231)
Next follows the anaphora or the main Eucharistic prayer. This opens with a
dialogue between the people and the presiding priest or bishop (The Lord be with
you, etc.). Then came the preface which explained why it was good to give thanks to
God and often recounts great saving deeds that God did on the people's behalf. Next
followed the sanctus (Holy, holy, holy Lord...). Then a commendation of the offerings
took place, asking God to accept the sacrifice presented. After the oblation prayer,
prayers for those who were offering the gifts and prayers for the dead were offered.
These offerings refer to the gifts that the people bring, not Jesus' offering on the
cross. Then, comes the epiclesis (or a prayer for the Holy Spirit to sanctify the gifts
being offered) followed by the words of institution (Do this in remembrance of me)
and after this follows a prayer connecting the bloodless sacrifice being offered on
the altar to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross (Jones et al 231-233).
Before communion is distributed a piece of the bread is mixed with the wine
in the chalice and the people recite the Lord's Prayer. The bishop or presiding
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minister then says The Body of Christ to each communicant as he distributes the
bread and the communicant responds Amen. Finally, a blessing is said over the
congregation and a post-communion prayer of thanksgiving is said (Jones et al 233-
234).
One interesting thing to note about Medieval liturgy is that the Church of
Rome, the epicenter of Christianity if you will, sent out a liturgy to other lands
through its mission work. This liturgy was modified to fit the local needs of the
various parts of the Roman empire. Finally, this liturgy returned to Rome embellished
in several ways. Hope writes:
Not very long after the year 1000, Rome had received back its liturgy, but
no longer was it the austere, epigrammatic, and sober liturgy of the old Roman
rite. There had been a radical change following the reshaping and undoubted
enrichment it had received in the Franco-German lands. (Jones et al 278)
Hope notes that the new Roman rite was only one type out of many. He writes,
Except for those parts of the eucharistic liturgy that had been inherited from the
older sacramentaries, variation abounded from country to country, from church to
church, from monastery to monastery, even from MS to MS (Jones et al 278).
Events Leading to the Reformation
By the sixth century, even though there was local variation, the Canon of the
Massthat is the Eucharist prayers over the bread and the winewere essentially
fixed in shape. Over the course of the Middle Ages, however, various accoutrements
had accumulated. The Mass was dressed up to match a higher Eucharistic theology
54


that had developed. What had once been the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving of
the people had become the Lord sacrificed and lying there and the priest bending
over the sacrifice and interceding (qtd. in Jones et al 248). The idea developed that at
each Mass Jesus was sacrificed over again for the sins of the people. Also at play was
the fact that there were many, many converts (perhaps half-converts) to the faith from
paganism. Forced conversions posed a catechetical problem for the church. Bradshaw
writes:
According to John Chrysostom, for example, [the people attending Mass]
pushed and pulled another; young people engaged in various kinds of
mischief; and pickpockets preyed upon the crowd. Thus, the regular liturgies
had to assume more of an instructional and formational role than heretofore. It
was necessary to try to communicate through the style of liturgical celebration
itself something of the appropriate attitude of reverence required before that
divinity. (219)
So, the other major rhetorical intervention in the history of the Church was an
aesthetic one. The liturgy was used to persuade the people that the actions taking
place on the altar were to be looked upon with awe. Unfortunately, the negative result
of this lofty view of the Eucharist was to make people fearful that they were not
worthy to receive communion, so the actual partaking of the sacrament became rare
(Bradshaw 219-220). This high Eucharistic theology of sacrifice, coupled with some
abuses of the sacraments (the selling of indulgences, etc.) and a political and
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philosophical landscape that was ready for change led to the perfect storm: the
Protestant Reformation. But our next rhetorical intervention does not take place in the
midst of the continental reform. It takes place on an island whose leader was a lusty
king.
The Peculiarities of the English Reformation
There were no theses nailed to doors of English cathedrals, nor was there a
single reformer after which a church is named. Actually, there was one reformer, so
to speak: Henry VIII. Brian Moynahan points out in his book, The Faith: A History of
Christianity, Reform began with a failed marriage (399). In 1521, this unlikely
reformer began a war of words with Martin Luther in a tract written to counter the
pest of Martin Luthers heresy (399). His work against Lutheranism earned him the
title Defender of the Faith (398).
Times would change, though. By 1525 his marriage to his brothers widow
(usually against Catholic teaching, except in this rare instance) was not working out.
Catherine of Aragon had been pregnant six times, with only one daughter, Mary,
surviving. Henry argued for an annulment, after all the book of Leviticus said, And
if a man shall take his brothers wife, it is impurity: he hath uncovered his brothers
nakedness they shall be childless (qtd in Moynahan 399). The book of
Deuteronomy, however, stated, If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and
have no son, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her
husbands brother shall go in unto her, and take her to wife... (qtd in Moynahan
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399) . Additionally, Catherines nephew was Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, an
emperor who had sacked Rome and had a bit of influence over the Pope (Moynahan
400) .
Henry was not granted his annulment and his advisors who failed to obtain it
were charged with high treason. They were forgiven only because in 1532 they
agreed not to pass any church doctrine until the king had time to review it. Henry
stopped payment of the English churchs money to the Vatican. Shortly thereafter, he
fell in love with Anne Boleyn, described by a Venetian ambassador as a woman of
middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much
raised, and in fact has nothing but the kings great appetite, and her eyes, which are
black and beautiful... (qtd in Moynahan 401).
Beauty queen or not, Henrys resident theologian, himself married to a
Lutheran, had plans of his own. Thomas Cranmer advised that the leading universities
and church figures examine Henrys current marriage to determine whether it was
null and void or not. They concluded, marriage of the brothers wife was contrary
both to the laws of God and nature (qtd in Moynahan 402). Others, including the
reformer Luther disagreed (Moynahan 402).
In 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn and all spiritual concerns were placed
under his jurisdiction rather than Romes. Cranmer was made Archbishop of
Canterbury. A respectable nine months later Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth. In
November of 1534 the monarch was declared Supreme Head on Earth of the Church
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of England, called Anglican Ecclesia (Moynahan 403). The Church of England, or
Anglican Church was bom. Papal loyalists were imprisoned and executed. Henry
despised Lutherans equally (Moynahan 404).
In 1535 Henry dissolved all of the monasteries in the land, taking their
treasures and money for himself. In 1536 he had Boleyn executed and married Jane
Seymore who bore him the son he always wanted, Edward. She died and he married
Anne of Cleves. His secretary of state, Thomas Cromwell, had arranged the marriage
and had shown Henry a flattering picture of Anne. When she arrived Henry described
her as a Flanders mare. He married her, sent her away, and executed Cromwell. The
marriage was annulled. On the day of Cromwells execution, he married Catherine
Seymore who eventually cheated on him and was beheaded. His last wife outlived
him (Moynahan 404-405).
Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived (qtd. in Moynahan 405).
The Church of England, through all of this drama, remained relatively
unchanged except for an absolute abhorrence for the Bishop of Rome. Moynahan
writes:
An act of 1536 accused the Pope of having seduced and conveyed loving
and obedient subjects with dreams, vanities, and fantasies into superstition
and godlessness; the pope damaged souls, bodies, and goods by his infinite
abomination and the crafty colouring of his deceits... the realm was forced
of necessity for the common weal to exclude him. (405)
All of Roman Catholic doctrine was retained except Papal Supremacy. Moynahan
writes, The only change of theological importance was the provision of English
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Bibles in every parish; even here, it was laid down that the book was not to be read in
high and loud voices or during services (406). The first rhetorical interventions in
the history of the English Church were unabashedly political.
Henry died in 1547. A son and daughter had Protestant leanings, while one
daughter was a devout Catholic (Moynahan 406). Henry had left a mess.
Thomas Cranmer, Architect of Faith
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was waiting in the wings. He,
the architect of the Book of Common Prayer, was a man of Protestant leanings.
However, he was not one, as they say, to throw out the baby with the bath water. I
will now examine the thinking and methods of the man that shaped a tradition that is
the third largest Christian tradition after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
In his essay, Cranmers Relations with Erasmianism and Lutheranism, Basil Hall
writes that understanding Cranmers Protestant influences is not easy because he had
to be very guarded with them in light of Henrys distaste for reformers (Ayris and
Selwyn 6).
Upon completing his early years of school, Cranmer took an Erasmianism
course of study, based on trilingual biblical learning, to promote piety in place of too
many accretions in the practices of the Church (Ayris and Selwyn 6). He studied
Hebrew and Greek, which was no easy task at the time due to the incompetency of
most teachers of the languages. Cranmers own writings demonstrated a great
knowledge of Greek as he used Greek terms to clarify meanings. Additionally, he
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owned many volumes in Greek of the Church fathers and this would be a pointless
pretense if he could not read them (Ayris and Selwyn 7-8). Amongst the writings in
Cranmers library was a large collection of Erasmus writings. Hall writes:
Erasmianism gave Cranmer a thirst for biblical learning and its values in the
practice of piety and a new energy of reappraisal in theology; and through
patristic studies it gave him the stimulus to inquire into the discipline, liturgy,
priesthood and ecclesiology of the Church of the Fathers.
(Ayris and Selwyn 11)
However, Cranmer was not a one-persons-ideas kind of man. This, we will
see, is what led to the uniqueness of the Anglican tradition. Erasmus preferred not to
delve into theological conflict and this led him to what Hall refers to as moral
subjectivism. Cranmer had more in common with Luther here in that he believed in
objective truths related to Gods grace. Another break with Erasmus was over the
break with RomeErasmus did not think it was necessary and did not advocate for it
(Ayris and Selwyn 12). More likely than not, Cranmers disillusionment with Rome
came from his studies of the early Church Fathers and seeing various changes that
had taken place in the doctrine and liturgy of the church since their time (Ayris and
Selwyn 13).
While Cranmer preferred to evaluate reformers ideas in-depth rather than
taking them at face value, it does seem that he bought Erasmus views of relics and
sacramental acts wholesale. Erasmus had written that relics were mere superstition
and that the cult of saints was a replacement (idolatry) for Christ and that pilgrimages
were silly. Cranmer would later come to condemn such things as well. Erasmus, in a
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way, paved the road for Lutheranism which was to influence many English
universities and in doing so, influence Cranmer (Ayris and Selwyn 15).
Cranmer did not share all of Luthers viewsfor instance, he had different
views about justification and salvation, but he did lean in a Lutheran direction
regarding the presence of Christ in the Mass. Some reformers of the time such as
Zwingli held that the Lords supper was merely a meal of remembrance rather than an
experience of Jesus presence in the bread and wine. Cranmer was too much a student
of the early Church fathers, who early on described Christ as really present in the
Eucharist. He did not accept the doctrine of transubstantiation, or the idea that the
bread and wine were literally transformed into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus,
but he also did not look at the bread and wine simply as a memorial meal. He took
what was a Lutheran view. While the bread and wine were not transformed into
different matter, Jesus was fully present nonetheless (Ayris and Selwyn 24-25).
This tempered spirit of reform and knowledge not only of the continental
reformers, but of the liturgies and writings of the early Church Fathers would have a
lasting effect on the liturgy and theology of the Anglican tradition. As I mentioned
earlier, though, there was also a practical side to Cranmers liturgical intervention. He
sought to reduce the number of devotional and Eucharistic and other Sacramental
books into one book.
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Pre-Reformation Devotional and Service Books
The first book under consideration is the missal. The missal brought together a
number of liturgical materials into one book to make it easier for the priest to say
Mass alone. The missal usually began with a church calendar that marked festivals
and saints days. It would contain the prayers for the Mass, including prayers before
the Mass, the Eucharistic liturgy, and prayers for after Mass. It would have prayers
and liturgies for various church seasons. Then, texts for ordinary time or Sundays that
were not part of a seasonal cycle would follow. The missal was a priests book, but
various devotions for the lay people were available, too (Hefling and Shattuck 10-11).
There were several types of devotional books available. Some of them offered
point by point devotions for lay people as the priest was saying Mass at the altar.
Accuracy in translation was not a hallmark of the day. When the priest was saying the
Lords prayer in Latin, the people read Father our, that is in heaven/ Blessed by thy
name to name (qtd. in Hefling and Shattuck 11). Another type of devotion offered
the Mass as an allegory of Jesus life. The Gloria at the beginning of the Mass
announced Jesus birth, the consecration of the elements his crucifixion. Yet another
type of lay devotional book offered the worshipper prayers between the sermon and
offertory (Hefling and Shattuck 11). Of course, all of these books assumed a basic
literacy on the part of lay people. That was quite an assumption during this time
period.
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There were also books available to support people who followed a regiment of
daily prayer. Daily prayer had been a feature of the Christian Church since at least the
third or fourth century. Influenced by the Rule of Saint Benedict, great English
cathedrals offered seven daily offices or prayer services: Lauds and Vespers to open
and close the day, Tercem Sext, and None were in between. These were sandwiched
by Prime and Compline. Eventually, an all-in-one book came to cover all of these
services, called a Portifory or Breviary. For the educated laity, a shorter, condensed
version of the offices became available, called a Primer (Hefling and Shattuck 13-14).
But what about all of the mundane services? When the priest wasnt at the
altar, he was out visiting the sick, marrying people, and burying people. Nevermind
other such services such as blessing water, baptism, and the Easter vigil. There was a
book for all of this, usually called the Manual. These books were usually in Latin
except for a few necessary responses of the people (Hefling and Shattuck 14).
There was a book just for litanies (responsive prayers) to be sung during the
processional before Mass. Then, there were also weightier books such as the
Pontifical, which provided consecrations for altars, ordination services, and
confirmation services. It was the bishops liturgical book. The Pie was a book used to
keep track of what prayers were appropriate for what feast. It was mainly for
sacristans and others involved in behind-the-scenes work (Hefling and Shattuck 15-
17).
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There were books for every step of life for people in a variety of stations and
roles. It was Cranmers job to impose order on all of these books. Weve seen that he
was influenced by various forces: the threat of violence within the realm of England,
and the interesting doctrines being promoted without.
Cranmer took his theology influenced by Erasmus, Luther and the Church
Fathers, and his practical side that called for a reduction in the number of texts
necessary for religious life and combined the two in what would become a major
rhetorical intervention: The first Book of Common Prayer.
English Prayer Books
The 1549 prayer book made great inroads in the simplification of medieval
church services. The seven daily prayer services were shaped into two: Morning and
Evening prayer. The traditional fast days of Wednesday and Friday were provided for
with the reading of the Litany. Sundays were for The Supper of the Lorde and the
Holy Communion, Commonly Called the Masse. Saints days were drastically
reduced. Within the Daily Offices, Canticles and non-Biblical readings were cut to
make room for more extended scripture readings. The New Testament (except for the
Book of Revelation) was to be read every four months, most of the Old Testament
was to be read once a year, and the Book of Psalms was to be read through once
every month (Sykes et al 132).
Cranmers Mass took the following shape: The service opened with the people
singing an introit, while the priest said the Lords Prayer and the Collect for Purity.
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Then, the kyrie or the Gloria was sung. Afterwards, the collect of the Day and a
collect for the King followed. After the Epistle (note there was no Old Testament
reading) and the Gospel followed the Nicene Creed. Then, there was a sermon or
reading from a book of homilies. Following the sermon, an exhortation for those
taking communion followed (Sykes et al 132-133). The offertory followed next,
during which the communicants put money in the poor mans box and bread and
wine which the communicants provided were placed on the altar. The Canon of the
Mass borrowed from the Roman Canon, the Greek Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom,
German and English Reformation liturgies, and the writings of Saint Basil.
The Prayer begins with the sursum corda:
The Lorde be with you.
Aunswere. And with thy spirite.
Priest. Lift up your heartes.
Aunswere. It is mete and right so to do.
Priest. It is very mete, right and our bounden dutie, that we shoulde at all
tymes, and in all places, geve thankes to thee, O Lorde holy father, almightie
everlasting God. (1549 BCP)
This prayer continues with a preface appropriate to the season and the sanctus. Then
follows a petition asking God to receive the peoples prayers and protect the King and
all of the churchs ministers. Prayers continue for all people, living and dead. The
greatest break with Christian liturgical tradition of the Middle Ages is seen in the
Institution Narrative:
O God heavenly father, which of thy tender mercie diddest geve thine only
sonne Jesu Christ to suffer death upon thee crosse for our redempcion, who
made there (by his one oblacion once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient
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sacrifice, oblacion, and satysfaccyon, for the sinnes of the whole worlde, and
did institute, and in his holy Gospell command us to celebrate a perpetuall
memory of that his precious death, untyll his coming again... (1549 BCP)
Cranmer sought to remove any notion of a Eucharistic sacrifice of the bread and wine
that developed in Medieval Catholicism. That is, he did not support the idea that the
Mass was a perpetual re-offering of Jesus body for the sins of the people. He did,
however, keep the epiclesis, asking God to bless and sanctify the bread and wine, so
that they may become the bodye and bloude of thy moste derely beloved sonne Jesus
Christe.
The Canon continues with the recalling of the Last Supper. While any notion
that the priest is offering a sacrifice on the altar is removed, Cranmer does ask God to
accept the people and their prayers as a living sacrifice. Then follows the Lords
Prayer and the Peace. Immediately before Communion people knowledge and
bewaile [their] manyfold synnes and wickedness in a general confession. The priest,
then, offers forgiveness through God and reads some coumfortable words of
forgiveness found in the Bible.
Immediately before the distribution of communion, the people pray what has
become to be known as the Prayer of Humble Access, asking God to take away their
sins through the sacrament of Communion. After Communion, sentences of scripture
are said or sung and then the people say a post-Communion prayer of thanksgiving.
The priest, then, pronounces the blessing and the people say Amen.
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Of course, everyone hated the book. It was too Protestant for the (former)
Catholics and too Catholic for the Protestants. Nevertheless, it was in use for three
years. A new revision was put forth in 1552, much more Protestant than the last. The
Daily Offices now began with a penitential order. The introits and the preparation of
the altar (which was not referred to as an altar anymore) during communion were
dropped (Sykes et al 136). There were a few medieval elements that were added, most
likely to appease conservatives. Some saints days were added and people were
required to kneel at communion rather than sit in their pews (Sykes et al 137).
As to the Canon of the Mass (which was now not called Mass anymore), it
was drastically revised. In fact, the entire service was reworked. It began with a
recitation of the Decalogue (the ten commandments) and the peoples response Lord,
have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law. The Canon began with
the sursum corda and the preface. The sanctus was abbreviated. Immediately
following was the Prayer of Humble Access. Instead of an epiclesis, a prayer for
worthy reception of communion came before the Institution Narrative. The people
knelt and received bread and wine with words that emphasized the memorial nature
of the meal. After communion, the Gloria was sung. It was moved from the
beginning of the service to the end (Sykes et al. 136-138).
In less than a year, Edward VI died and the people were Catholic again.
Cranmer was arrested for treason. He had assisted in trying to change the royal
succession and leave Mary out in the cold. Unfortunately for Cranmer and for anyone
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with Protestant leanings, Mary, a staunch Catholic, became queen. Rather than
charging Cranmer for crimes against her, though, Mary decided to have Cranmer tried
for crimes against God: heresy. At trial his Act of Royal Supremacy was used to
crush him. If the monarch was the Supreme Head of the Church, then what about
Nero, the prosecutor asked (Ayris and Selwyn 268).
Cranmer signed six recantations, but he was marked for death. Despite having
signed recantations, at his execution, Cranmer renounced the Pope as Christs enemy
and antichrist, with all his false doctrine (Ayris and Selwyn 279).
Cranmers legacy is a lasting one. He gave to the church, through his
compilation, a distinctive theology that was not centered in any one reformer. The
Anglicans became a people of the book. From birth to death, The Book of Common
Prayer marked the English peoples lives. The book was and would continue to be a
tool of compromise, influenced by the political and religious landscape. It was a
living liturgy, informed by its context. It was and is subject to reform.
When Mary died in 1558, Elizabeth I inherited a mess. Mary had
unsuccessfully tried to restore Catholicism to the land and left Elizabeth a country
that was not quite Catholic and not quite Protestant. In 1559, a Book of Common
Prayer was established in the land once again. This book was essentially the 1552
book with some additions. An ornaments rubric, which is still a matter of debate,
was placed before Morning Prayer saying:
And here is to be noted, that the minister at the time of the communion,
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and at all other times in his ministration, shall use such ornaments in the
church, as were in use by authority of Parliament in the second year of the
reign of King Edward VI according to the act of Parliament set in the
beginning of this book (Hefling and Shattuck 46).
The debate over this rubric is whether ministers are allowed to wear traditional
Eucharistic vestments or not and whether altars should have candles upon them. The
rubric governing kneeling at communion disappeared. There was still some
dissatisfaction with the popishness of some ritual elements in the book. In practice
many people omitted things that violated their convictions when they led services.
Requests to use alternative liturgies were systematically denied (Hefling and Shattuck
47-48).
When Elizabeth died and James VI of Scotland ascended the throne, puritans
thought that he would bring with him Scottish Presbyterianism. Instead, the 1604
Book of Common Prayer made little provision for major reform. Priests were
instructed to consecrate more bread and wine if they ran out (demonstrating a belief
in the sacramental nature of the elements) and the communion table was to be
covered in a silk cloth and fair linen during administration. Once again, people
continued to alter the services covertly to match their theological leanings. James son
Charles offered even less hope of reform. He strictly enforced the rubrics and
ceremonies found in the book. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time encouraged
placing the communion table in the place the altar had once stood (Hefling and
Shattuck 49-50).
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In 1638 Charles was executed and the commonwealth was established.
Bishops were removed from the Church of England and use of the Book of Common
Prayer was banned, under penalty of fines and imprisonment. Illegal Books of
Common Prayer were used, though, and some ministers composed their own liturgies
in sympathy with the prayer book ones they remembered (Hefling and Shattuck 50-
51).
When Oliver Cromwell died, work began on restoring the monarchy. The new
monarch, Charles II, called for a revision of The Book of Common Prayer. He called
together a conference of bishops and Presbyterian-leaning clergy. Naturally, they
could not agree on liturgical revision. Debate over revision resumed in convocation in
November 1661. A committee of eight bishops worked for twenty two days on
revision. What they produced is a book that would shape all further prayer books in
the future family of Anglican churches. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, in fact, is
still the official prayer book in law, but not in practice, in England (Hefling and
Shattuck 51-54).
So far in this paper a recurring theme has been unity in diversity. That is,
despite all of the changes in the Sunday liturgy throughout the ages, there have also
been some constants. For instance, the Canon of the Mass developed in different
regions of the world over several centuries, and while specific prayers were different,
there were many common themes, uniting the liturgies such as the sursum corda, the
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sanctus, etc. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer established a common pattern that,
today, can be found in prayer books across the world.
An American Prayer Book is Bom
On July 4, 1776 a new challenge was presented to the established Church of
England: what happens when a church based on the English Book of Common Prayer
and swearing an oath to the monarch survives after the country in which it was
planted gains its independence? These were unchartered waters. During the colonial
period the Anglican Church in North America was part of the diocese of London.
After the Revolution, Samuel Seabury was elected to be the first bishop in
North America. When he went to England, he was refused consecration because he
could not swear loyalty to the monarch, an item required of all bishops in the Church
of England. Fortunately, there was another route to consecration, through the Scottish
Episcopal Church, which was not an established state church as the one in England.
On November 14, 1784, Samuel Seabury was made bishop of America. This Scottish
connection will come up later as a distinctly American prayer book is formed
(Wilkinson).
The first U.S. Book of Common Prayer was proposed in 1786. It was not
exactly beloved of all people at the time. In addition to omitting prayers for the King
and Parliament, it omitted the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, and it had changes in
the baptism service, namely the removal of the sign of the cross, which was
unacceptable to many clergymen. (Hefling and Shattuck 176-177).
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During the first General Convention of the U.S. Church in 1789, another
prayer book was accepted. This one restored the Nicene Creed and made some
changes to the communion liturgy. Rather than following the English liturgy of 1662,
it followed the Scottish Episcopal rite. When Seabury was consecrated in Scotland,
the Scottish Communion Service was recommended to him. Its main difference with
the English service was the inclusion of the epiclesis, which had been missing from
English services since 1552. Not that the American Church took the invocation
wholesale. The American rite omitted the phrase asking that the bread and wine may
become the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved son (qtd. in Hefling and
Shattuck 178). Clearly, this was too Catholic-sounding for American clergy.
Other more Protestant-leaning features were also present. The principal
service on Sundays was still Morning Prayer rather than Communion. Readings from
the Apocrypha were omitted, as were canticles that prayer book liturgists felt were
inappropriate. On another note, the marriage ceremony omitted the phrase stating that
the role of the wife in marriage was satisfying mens carnal lusts and appetites, like
brute beasts that have no understanding (qtd. in Hefling and Shattuck 180).
The 1789 prayer book lasted for 100 years. In 1880 it was proposed that a
revision of the prayer book be undertaken so that the liturgy would meet
contemporary worshipers needs. The revision, which was authorized in 1892, only
made a few changes, most of them minor. Some canticles that had been omitted in
previous editions were restored and there were new rubrics designed to allow the
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minister to shorten the service. One new (or actually an old idea restored) addition to
the 1892 prayer book was a liturgy for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a time of
fasting before Easter (Hefling and Shattuck 182-183).
In 1913 the Episcopal Churchs General Convention, once again, began the
process of revision, and once again the changes were relatively minor. The churchs
calendar was altered, a controversial prayer for the dead was added to the Canon of
the Eucharist, and some ceremonial changes were made (Hefling and Shattuck 183-
184). One major thing that occurred in 1913 was that the General Convention set up a
Standing Liturgical Commission to handle future revisions. This liturgical
commission would be influenced by the liturgical movement.
The Liturgical Movement
Most of the rhetorical interventions that occurred in the English prayer book
from 1552 on and most of the revisions of the American prayer book were based on
political shifts. But what led to the 1979 American prayer book can be described as a
rhetorical intervention on behalf of the people. This reform took place in the context
of the liturgical movement which sought to rediscover and reuse ancient texts and to
increase the engagement of all people (not just clergy) in the worship of God.
The liturgical movement may best be described as a striving to reshape the
liturgy in a way that encourages active participation of the people on a level not found
in the church since the first few centuries of the faith. As with many things around
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liturgy, its origins are hard to trace. After all, there have been numerous reform
movements throughout Christianitys history (Hefling and Shattuck 249).
The roots of the twentieth century liturgical movement come from a
nineteenth-century interest in patristic writings and medieval liturgy. There were also
discoveries made during this time of texts such as Apostolic Constitutions that
influenced thinkers of the movement, many of whom were Anglican. In Roman
Catholic circles there began to be an interest in active participation of the people in
the Mass. John F. Baldovin writes:
Like the Anglo-Catholic urban ritualists, Roman Catholic pioneers like
Beauduin [a Benedictine monk interested in liturgical reform] stressed the
intimate relation between liturgy and societythe liturgy presented the world
the way God wishes it to look, and that liturgical world is a profound
critique of a dehumanizing culture. (Hefling and Shattuck 250)
Beauduin also printed a monthly translation of the mass for the faithful and
established an ecumenical monastery (Hefling and Shattuck 251).
Now we return to another man from earlier in the chapter, Anton Baumstark,
who set liturgical reform in a broader historical context and taught that liturgy moved
from variety to uniformity and from austerity to prolixity (Hefling and Shattuck 251),
which I believe our trip through prayer book revision up to this point has proven!
In Anglican circles, the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission was set
up in 1946 to promote the Eucharist as the central Sunday service as opposed to
Morning Prayer. Another old friend from earlier in this thesis, Gregory Dix, now
reappears. Dixs work The Shape of the Liturgy introduced a fourfold shape of liturgy
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offertory, Eucharistic Prayer, fraction, and communion (Hefling and Shattuck 253). A
conscious nod to this pattern of liturgy can be found in most liturgies published after
1960, both Protestant and Catholic. By and large, the liturgical movement was an
ecumenical one and the works of people like Dix and others mentioned here
transcended denominational lines.
One major ecumenical nod towards the work of Dix was the Roman
Catholics post-Vatican II reform of its Canon of the Mass to include multiple
Eucharistic prayers. Baldovin writes, Implicitly such a move acknowledged Dixs
insight that the search for the one correct (or original) Eucharistic prayer was fruitless
and that it was the shape or structure of the liturgy that mattered (Hefling and
Shattuck 257).
Once again, as we have seen in the history of Christian liturgy and Anglican
history, Dixs observations are correct. A pattern of worship developed, but the
specific words and prayers within that pattern have been different. Now, we must
note that in actuality the pattern of worship that developed was rearranged in the
Anglican tradition from the 1552 prayer book through the 1928 prayer book in the
American Episcopal Church. The prayer book of 1979 would be heavily influenced
by Dix, though.
The Current Book of Common Prayer
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer in some ways could be looked at as a
radical departure from previous prayer books. In another sense, it could be looked at
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as a restoration of ancient liturgy, but in the language of a contemporary world. Its
major departure is actually a restoration of primitive practice that no reformers were
able to achieve: weekly communion. Since this service is the principal act of
Christian worship on the Lords day (qtd. in Mitchell 6), I will examine this service
to demonstrate where the current Book of Common Prayer sits within the historical
Christian/Anglican history represented here. But first a word on the theology of the
prayer book.
I mentioned earlier in this thesis a peculiar notion. The Anglican tradition is
one that does not look to a central person such as the Pope or to a teaching body such
as the Roman Catholic magisterium as an authority. The spiritual head, the
Archbishop of Canterbury has no moral or theological authority outside of his
diocese. The Episcopal Churchs General Convention can pass legislation, but it does
not legislate on matters of theology. Our central guide and teacher is a book, The
Book of Common Prayer. To change the prayer book is to change Episcopal theology.
This is probably why it takes a few years for prayer book revision.
In his book, Praying Shapes Believing, Leonel L. Mitchell writes:
In a real sense, then, we Episcopalians are liturgical theologians. We read our
theology out of the Book of Common Prayer and the manner in which we
celebrate its services. Formally, the theology of liturgy is called primary
theology, or theologia prima.. .primary theology is the language we use when
we talk with God. (2)
This is opposed to secondary theology, which is talking about God, the kind of talk
found in this thesis in parts that are not quoting liturgy. I will now examine the 1979
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Book of Common Prayer's Holy Eucharist. Once I have shown how the current prayer
book fits into the long line of Christian history, I will discuss where feminism
intersects liturgical history.
Reflecting the insights of the liturgical movement, the Book of Common
Prayer is a participatory book. When a bishop is present he or she is the chief
celebrant, but everyone has a role to fill. When multiple priests are present, they all
stand at the altar together. Deacons read the Gospel and the prayers of the people.
They also assist in preparing the altar for communion. Lay people read the responses,
read lessons, and give offerings for the church and the community (Mitchell 129).
The service follows the twofold pattern of Liturgy of the Word, followed by
Liturgy of the Table. Both parts of the service combine to make a uniform whole. The
service generally opens with a hymn and then opening sentences from the celebrant,
or the priest leading the service. Then follows the collect for purity, a staple of
Anglican worship since 1549. During most of the Christian Church year, excluding
penitential seasons, the Gloria in excelsis is sung. It was returned to this position in
1979, after Cranmer moved it to the end of the service in 1552. Other songs or hymns
of praise may take its place.
Next, the priest reads the collect of the day, a prayer designed to collect
everyones thoughts into one prayer, usually emphasizing the season of the Church
year. Lesson follow from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and a Gospel
reading (Mitchell 132-136). In the 1979 prayer book the sermon is moved from after
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the Creed to after the Gospel lesson. After the sermon the Nicene Creed follows. The
creed, Mitchell writes, is not intended to be a test of individual orthodoxy, but a
corporate affirmation of faith and allegiance to the Lord and the Church (Mitchell
137).
After the Creed follows the Prayers of the People and the General Confession.
The Prayers of the People are exactly what the title suggests. These are the prayers of
the participants for the Church and its ministers and for the whole world. There are a
number of variable forms that can be used for this part of the service, or the
congregation can follow the set pattern, but write their own. The General Confession
is a form used for a corporate confession of sin before partaking of communion.
Mitchell suggests that this confession may be a hold over from a medieval
preoccupation with sin that found its way into the early prayer books and continues to
this day. Immediately following the confession, the people exchange the Peace
(Mitchell 137-143).
Next, the Canon or the Eucharistic service, proper, begins. The 1979 prayer
book follows Dixs fourfold shape of the Eucharistic liturgy. The Liturgy of the Table
begins with the offertory, where the people bring their gifts of bread, wine, and
money forward to the altar. The book restores the ancient church order of
representatives bringing forth gifts from the congregation, the deacon preparing the
gifts, and the priest offering them. Once the gifts have been placed on the altar, the
celebrant begins the Great Thanksgiving. He or she says, The Lord be with you, to
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which the people respond, And also with you. The celebrant then asks the
congregation to Lift up your hearts, taking them out of the realm of the ordinary
and into the realm of the sacred. Showing allegiance to Dix, rather than the notion of
one correct Eucharistic prayer, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer offers eight
alternative Eucharistic Prayers. The first two are in the traditional Victorian English
of Rite I. The other six are found in the contemporary English of Rite II. Six of these
prayers follow the West-Syrian pattern of worship found in Apostolic Constitutions
(Mitchell 144-152).
The Eucharistic Prayer begins by giving thanks for creation and usually
includes a variable proper (or prayer) of the day, usually reflecting the current Church
season. The climax of the thanksgiving for creation is the singing of the sanctus:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. (BCP 362)
Then follows a thanksgiving for the redemption of the world though the life and death
of Jesus. One thing to note here is the continuation of the Anglican tradition in
making it clear that Jesus death is not repeated, not is it made present in the
sacrament of Bread and Wine:
He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered
himself in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for
the whole world, (qtd. in Mitchell 156)
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Basically, the Great Thanksgiving rehearses for the people of God, Gods
saving deeds throughout history and formulates the peoples gratitude through set
prayers. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, this form of prayer borrows heavily from
Jewish table blessings. Next follows the Institution Narrative:
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ
took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it and gave it to his
disciples, and said, Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do
this for the remembrance of me. (BCP 362)
The Institution Narrative is to remind worshippers of why they gather together and
break bread. It was allegedly instituted by Jesus. The meal recalls, and brings alive
again, the mighty act of redemption proclaimed in the narrative (Mitchell 164).
After the Institution Narrative, comes the anamnesis-oblation. Because of the
mighty acts recalled in the service, the people feel that it is their duty to make an
offering to God. Closely following the oblation, is the epiclesis, or invocation of the
Holy Spirit upon the gifts:
Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood
of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him.
Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve
you in unity, constancy, and peace... (qtd. in Mitchell 167)
Finally, the celebrant concludes the Canon by ending the prayer in the name
of the Holy Trinity and the people say, amen. The bread is broken and distributed,
the people say a post-communion prayer, receive a blessing, and are sent into the
world by the deacon (Mitchell 174-182)
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This concludes the story of the current Book of Common Prayer. It has been a
long, and perhaps strange journey. In the first century a group of Jews met with a
spiritual leader to break bread. After his execution, they continued this tradition. Over
the centuries, a wide variety of prayers around this meal became more uniform, a
pattern developed. During the Reformation this pattern was interpreted in a variety of
ways. A Book of Common Prayer was imposed on the English people, who hated it
and then loved it, who modified it as they saw the need and used it in ways not
necessarily intended, depending on their theological leanings.
Liturgy, then, is bom out of religious necessity. The needs that drive a
congregation or a national church, often shape its liturgy. The preface included in the
front of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, originally from the 1789 BCP says:
It is a most invaluable part of that blessed liberty where with Christ hath
made us free, that in his worship different forms and usages may without
offence be allowed, provided the substance of faith be kept entire.. .The same
church hath not only in her Preface, but likewise in her Articles and Homilies,
declared the necessity and expediency of occasional alterations and
amendments in her Forms of Public Worship. (BCP 9)
There is a necessity for further reform. As mentioned in the first chapter, the
Book of Common Prayer is a thoroughly patriarchal book when it comes to metaphors
used to refer to God. We have seen that this kind of language is diminishing to
women and can set up abusive relationships based on power rather than liberation.
Additionally, we have seen that patriarchy is the invention of men imposed upon their
religion rather than the other way around. Neither the religion of the ancient Israelites
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or of the early Christians began as patriarchal. Patriarchy crept in over time and
became, for worse, the norm. Female metaphors for God were eradicated or
diminished greatly.
While the reformation of the liturgy that took place in England did much to
engage the common worshipper in ways that had been lost since the Middle Ages, the
language used to refer to God was not part of the reform, nor could it have been. It
took the writings of feminist scholars to open the eyes of people to the need for
reform. Unfortunately the bulk of feminist writings on liturgy, at least the ones
studied here, seemed to have come in the nineties, which was a few years too late for
the current prayer book which was shaped in 1979. But now our Book of Common
Prayer is over thirty years old and it is past time for yet another rhetorical
intervention.
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CHAPTER 3
A PROPOSED RHETORICAL INTERVENTION
General Overview
At the end of this thesis, we return to the beginning: feminism. In her essay,
Women, Word, and Worship: Changing the Treasury of Resources, Elizabeth J.
Smith writes:
I am firmly convinced that of all the developments in late twentieth-century
faith and scholarship, feminism in its many incarnations has the greatest
potential to renew the energies in our Church. It has this potential because of
the significance of the questions it asks, because of the sheer numbers of
women and men affected by what the Church does and says about gender and
sexuality, and because of the burgeoning body of feminist critical materials in
Bible and theology now available to use as foundations for the new
constructions that are needed. Cfl 21)
Feminisms message of liberation is desperately needed in the liturgy today. We live
in a world where the strong constantly exploit the weak. This is a world of anti-
immigration laws, of homophobic statements, of violence committed against women
both physically and psychologically. Most of the abovementioned crimes against
humanity are committed by Christians soiled by a patriarchal worldview. The change
proposed in this thesis is small, but it is a giant step towards treating all people with
the dignity that they deserve. A shift in the direction of feminist theology is a move
towards liberation, a move towards compassion and equality.
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This last chapter looks at the Episcopal Churchs attempts at moving in the direction
of a feminist theology. I will examine the strengths and weaknesses of various
liturgical reforms that have happened since the 1980s and I will propose a way
forward.
Feminism Meets the Prayer Book (Finally)
Naturally, I am not the first person to express an interest in feminist liturgy
and the Book of Common Prayer. In fact, the book A Prayer Book for the 21st
Century, has a section called Issues in Prayer Book Revision which contains four
essays, two of which deal with feminist concerns. The first of the two essays takes a
language approach, examining how our finite language, trapped by historical
circumstance, works to describe the infinite. Of particular interest in this essay is
what the author says about the importance of language in the liturgy. In O for a
Thousand Tongues to Sing, Ellen K. Wondra writes:
The shape, forms, and language (words, images, gestures) of liturgy matter
greatly because our praying shapes our believing and our living. Particularly
for members of liturgical traditions such as Anglicanism, corporate worship is
the forming ground for Christian belief. (Meyers 219)
If our prayer book is our theology in the Episcopal Church, then we are
justifying discrimination theologically with our language. And if we are justifying
discrimination in the language of worship, then how can we, as Christians, say
anything about the abuse of women in the realm of the secular? If our discrimination
is centered in God, as the prayer book implicitly implies, then to what higher
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authority can we appeal. However, as Wondra writes, simply because we consider
something to be revealed by God, does not mean that it is uninfluenced by historical
circumstance (Meyers 221). We understand that the Bible was written through a
patriarchal lens, as many of the feminist mentioned in chapter two have said. We can
still accept the Bible as a spiritual guidebook, but we must separate the good from the
patriarchal trappings. We must do the same in liturgy.
We must also reclaim images that are in the Bible but have been omitted in
favor of patriarchal images and terms. Wondra writes:
The pronouns we use to refer to God either confirm or deny the long-standing
theological affirmation that God is beyond body, parts, and passions, that is,
God is beyond gender, race, age, and the other characteristics that mark
human difference and, too often, division. To refer to God only as He
erodes the credibility of this claim, particularly when our verbal language is
seen together with the visual representations that make up such a rich part of
our cultural heritage and continue to surround us. (Meyers 226-227)
The Church, in this instance, must rise above the dominant culture and be counter-
cultural. It must not give into years of patriarchal tradition. As some would say, it is a
matter of justice.
In Expansive Language: A Matter of Justice, William Seth Adams takes just
such a stance. Like me, Adams was converted to the feminist stance at one point in
his career. Adams is a priest, and he had to be awoken to the notion of women in the
priesthood before he could consider anything by way of liturgical change. He was
ministering to a congregation made up almost entirely of women when he realized
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that there was a discrepancy between the empowering narratives of women in the
Bible and the practice of the church (Meyers 231). He writes:
I begin this way [with a narrative of his conversation about women in
ministry] in order to declare that I write as a convert, one persuaded that
exclusivity can inhere in language, liturgical and otherwise, and that this
exclusivity is a sin, particularly in liturgical language. Further, like some
converts, I have lost my capacity to understand, or even tolerate, the
arguments mounted by those who argue against inclusive / emancipator /
expansive language. (Meyers 232)
Adams then goes through some literature very similar to the literature found in my
first chapter. Suffice it to say that Adams comes to the same conclusion that I do. We
must revise our liturgical language to represent a modem understanding of God, and
this revision is not in opposition to our liturgical historyit is a continuation of it. In
the last paragraph of his essay, Adams poses a powerful question:
Are we (that is, the Church, not just liturgical revisers) able or willing to see
the need for a revised liturgical vernacular as a matter of justice for all? Is the
dream of a common language sufficiently alluring to elicit from us all a
commitment to revision for justices sake? If we commit ourselves to justice
and say yes to these questions, we will surely have a wide array of
possibilities available to us and a more vivid, hopeful future. A negative
answer will bring only loss and despair. The choice is up to us. (Meyers 238)
The choice is up to us, and there is nothing holding the Church back. Some would fall
back on history and say that weve always said this or things have always been
this way, but they are on the wrong side of history. History, indeed, proves
otherwise: the churchs liturgy has evolved and changed over time to meet the need of
the worshippers in both the wider Church and the Anglican tradition.
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Now I would like to look at what has been done in the area of inclusive
language in the Episcopal Church through its prayer book supplements, before
making some suggestions of my own for prayer book revision.
The Inclusive Language Supplements
The Standing Liturgical Commission, which was set up around the time the
1928 prayer book was approved, has produced a number of supplemental books to aid
the church in its liturgy. The first of these supplements examined here, Liturgical
Texts for Evaluation was published in 1987, with a trial run between September 20
through October 14. The book includes the Daily Office and the Holy Eucharist,
adapted. In the instructions for the Daily Office, the compilers write:
Jesus addressed God as Father and thereby suggested an intimacy which has
been an abiding characteristic of Christian prayer. At the same time, Scripture
also uses feminine metaphors in speaking of God. Rather than neutralizing the
familiar metaphors, it was believed preferable to restore ones which have been
overlooked. (Evaluation 6)
While including new and fresh metaphors is a worthy endeavor, what the book does
not do is eliminate the use of Lord. While father may have its roots in an attempt
by Jesus to make God more familiar, the term Lord has its roots in a domination
which is unacceptable in Christian living.
One nice example of expansive language comes in the Canticles provided for
Morning and Evening Prayer. Liturgical Texts for Evaluation includes the metaphor
of wisdom for God:
Before I ventured forth,
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even while I was very young,
I sought Wisdom openly in my prayer.
In the forecourts of the temple I asked for her,
and I will seek her to the end (19-20).
Ruether wrote of the lost metaphor of God as Wisdom, so this effort on the part of the
compilers of Liturgical Texts for Evaluation is commendable, but at the end of the
day, at least in the Daily Offices, the Lord reigns. The term Lord is used
approximately 81 times in 27 pages. Granted, many of these are variable texts,
meaning the officiant (worship leader) has different texts that he or she can choose
from, but with this much domination language, how many options can there really
be?
Where Liturgical Texts for Evaluation really does a marvelous job of
reshaping the liturgy is in the revisions of the Holy Eucharist. Masculine God
language is almost completely eradicated. Where this is particularly prominent is in
the sursum corda:
People
Celebrant
People
Celebrant
People
May God be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to our God.
Let us adore and exalt our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise. (67)
This removal of patriarchal language continues through all of the Eucharistic Prayers
offered. In addition to revising the first two Eucharistic Prayers found in the Book of
Common Prayer, this book offers two original creations, prayers based on people
being created in the image of God (96) and the theme of God as nurturer (113).
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Personally, I do not believe that two months is enough time for these resources to
have been evaluated properly.
The second book examined here, Supplemental Liturgical Texts: Prayer Book
Studies 30, was published in 1989. Regarding patriarchal writers, the authors note:
Regarding language used in reference to God, the primary concern has been
that of fidelity to biblical language. The biblical metaphors of Father and
Lord have a fundamental place in Christian prayer and theology and have
been retained, although their use is less frequent than in existing Prayer Book
services. Other Scriptural images of God, including feminine images from the
Wisdom literature, have been introduced. (6)
Indeed, the terms Father and Lord do have a fundamental place in Christianity:
fundamentalism. Perhaps I am going too far, here, as the terms do probably speak to a
number of peopleafter all, not every single person in the world has daddy issues,
but I do not think that Gods operation in this world is limited to miraculous progeny
and kingship. Try praying, Almighty Commander in Chief, and youll soon see the
problems with using even contemporary leadership roles for God.
Again Supplemental Liturgical Texts does offer some fresh metaphors in its
descriptions of God in daily prayer and the Eucharist. One very unfortunate change,
however, is in the sursum corda that was so wonderfully rendered in the first
supplement:
People
Celebrant
People
Celebrant
People
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
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I am not sure what the Standing Liturgical Committee is trying to prove, here, or what
kind of feedback they received from the trial use of the previous book, but it seems
like reverting back to patriarchal language in the sursum corda is completely
unnecessary.
In 1991, the Standing Liturgical Commission produced Supplemental
Liturgical Materials. This book omits the instructions regarding Lord and Father,
simply mentioning how they are found in the Bible amongst other images, including
female images for God. Unfortunately, the kingly term Lord is employed in excess.
The important thing to remember is that if a book is supposed to offer balance as
the authors claim to do in the introduction (6), then it should really offer a number of
alternatives to the language presently found in the Book of Common Prayer. After all
our current prayer book is replete with kingly imagery, so that end of the balancing
scale does not need any more material.
The one thing that does make this book commendable is that the authors offer
a large amount of notes on the liturgy which is very helpful to liturgists planning a
service. Also, there are a variety of metaphors offered for God in the text, so it is not
a complete waste.
One thing that should be mentioned here is that the previously mentioned
supplemental materials have expired. That is, they were authorized by the General
Convention of the Episcopal Church for a period of use, to eventually be replaced
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with a new supplemental text. They were not meant to be used indefinitely. This is a
good and a bad thing. It is good in the sense that we keep our supplemental liturgies
fresh. That is, they dont become fossilized like the prayer book has. The downside is
that an enterprising priest who wanted to use the sursum corda from the first text,
Liturgical Texts for Evaluation, might run afoul of his or her bishop, as this book is
no longer an authorized liturgy. It must have been a sweet two months for the radical
priest out there who used this abovementioned piece of liturgy.
The current supplemental text authorized by the Churchs General Convention
is Enriching Our Worship 1, published in 1998 and reauthorized for continued use at
our last General Convention of 2009. This is the supplement that I use for the
Evening Prayer service I conduct, and it is what converted me to the cause of
gender-inclusive liturgy.
It is a book replete with fresh metaphors for God in its responses and
canticles. In addition to Biblical texts, Enriching Our Worship also draws on poetry
and prose written by faithful Christians throughout history. One example is from
Julian of Norwich:
God chose to be our mother in all things
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure in the Virgins womb...
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death;
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life... (40)
It is not perfect, of course, but the book fulfills what it sets out to do in extending our
imagery for the divine and reducing the language of patriarchy that has so
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unfortunately taken a strangle hold of our scriptures and liturgy. There are some
obvious problems with the supplemental texts that have not been considered yet. I
will consider these now.
Problems with the Supplements
First, supplements are supplemental. That is, they add something to the
authorized worship book, The Book of Common Prayer. They do not redress the
wrong done within the pages of the worship book. They are great in that they offer
fresh images for God and new rites for celebrating the Eucharist, but at the end of the
day, they do not have any weight. While someone who visits an Episcopal Church
will usually see at least one Book of Common Prayer for every person in the pew, he
or she would have to look in the priests office to find Enriching Our Worship. It
sounds odd, but there is something to physically holding a book, especially a book
that guides and orders our lives in the way that the Book of Common Prayer does.
The fact that there are supplements that deal with inclusive language issues, makes it
seem that these issues are not weighty.
Ideally these supplements are supposed to lead to a new Book of Common
Prayer, but there have been no official motions to authorize a new prayer book yet.
The supplements are great resources, but they will always be secondary until they are
written into the body of our book of theology, the prayer book. Reform takes time, I
know, but the longer it takes to redress the violence done to women by biased God-
language, the more guilt the Church has to deal with for its role in alienating women
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