The Third Principle has to do with Liturgical Worship.


This Church retaining a Liturgy which shall not be imperative or repressive of freedom of prayer, accepts the Book of Common Prayer, as it was revised, proposed, and recommended for use by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, AD 1785, reserving full liberty to alter, abridge, enlarge, and amend the same, as may seem most conducive to the edification of the people, provided that the substance of the faith be kept entire.


The founding fathers had such a commitment to Liturgical Worship that they wrote into the Canons of the Church:

On occasions of public worship, invariably on the morning of the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, and at other times at the discretion of the Minister, the Prayer Book set forth at any time by the General Council is to be used in the congregations of this Church.16

 

In a sermon preached in Christ Church, Chicago, on February 8, 1880, Bishop Cheney said : "I want to speak today of a neglect of worship, not in the world, but in the Church. I desire to show how it is disregarded not by those who never darken the doors of our places of worship, but by those who do not frequent our sanctuaries. In one word, what I mean, is that our Church-going people have come to ignore and neglect the claims of God's public Worship, as distinct and separate from listening to preaching. I believe that this morning I put my hand on the weak spot of our Protestant Christianity".


Here Bishop Cheney made the distinction between merely attending preaching services and participation in worship. In a sense, this is the problem with the Church today. There is a kind of unspoken fundamental presupposition that the religion of the Old Testament centered in Worship at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple, while in the New Testament , worship is centered in preaching. This kind of thinking creates a major division between the Old and New Covenant. To this, any mindful participant in historical liturgical worship must object. For worship in the New Covenant is a equally centered in worship as the Old Covenant. Listen to Cheney's words from the same sermon:


The caterpillar weaves about itself the gossamer threads of its cocoon or chrysalis. Wonderfully delicate, rarely beautiful- these fine spun filaments serve their purpose in the economy of nature, but when it bursts through its prison walls, and spreads its wings, and soars out into a new life - the old shell with all its woven threads is left to perish as a useless thing. There is a popular idea like that in reference to worship. It is the old chrysalis which the Hebrews wove around his soul with silken threads of splendid rites and gorgeous ceremonies.. But in the summer atmosphere of the New Testament, we have broken its bonds. In the preaching of Christ, we have found wings. Worship is the dead shell that preaching has superseded.


I say, that is a common notion on this subject. But it is a woefully mistaken one. Did Christ teach that there was to be no public worship? Why! Christ gave his disciples a form of prayer. He worshipped with them over their common meals, "lifting up His eyes to heaven and blessing God". He taught the woman at Jacob's well that though worship was not tied to any one locality, or centered in any one temple, yet God sought for true worshippers who should worship Him in Spirit and in Truth....


That His worship was simpler than that which Moses instituted-that old ceremonies-splendid, indeed, but burdensome and costly-were done away, I fully admit. Bur worship was the very end and purpose of His work. He died to save men, that they might worship Him forever.


Protestant Christendom cannot forget what the Church of Rome did with the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ... Is it strange that Protestantism re-acted? Rome drove preaching from the Church. Little wonder if Protestantism has suffered preaching to crowd out worship. Rome made ritual everything. Do you wonder that Protestantism dreads ritual as the burnt child dreads the fire? It is the old story, in which History continually repeats itself, of human nature resusing to use that which it needs because of its abuse.


As you stand looking though the exquisite but broken tracery of the great window of Melrose Abbey, it is hard to forgive the old Scotch Covenanters for the ruin they wrought. They tried to cast out the idols, but in so doing they made the beautiful sanctuary itself a desolation. We have cast out an idolatrous ritualism. Let us stop there. A Church without a worship, spiritual but reverent, is a dismal ruin which no other beauty can redeem.17

His was a call not reject liturgical worship. His was a warning not to be too extreme in moving away from what was and is the worshipping practice of the historic Church. That practice is liturgical.


The Book of Common Prayer which Reformed Episcopalians use traces its lineage back through the liturgy of the Protestant Episcopal Church to the liturgy of the Church of England. The first complete Book of Common Prayer produced by the Reformed Church of England was introduced in AD 1549. In this book archbishop Thomas Cranmer sought to reform the liturgical worship of the historic Church, using Scripture as his guide while he set about examining the ancient liturgical rites. In that Book, he lays down four principles upon which the Book of Common Prayer was constructed. Worship should be Scriptural; Worship should be Edifying; Worship should be Common; Worship should be Sincere. The subsequent revisions (AD 1552, 1559, 1662) utilized those principle to further refine and improve the worship expression in the Church of England.


This Liturgy was faithfully used in the Colonies until the time of the Revolutionary War. Since it was not politically correct to use a Prayer Book which encourage prayers for a King and called for loyal submission to the king, the American Church recognized that it was necessary to create a distinctly American Prayer Book. It was this which motivated the creation of the 1785 Book of Common Prayer. While there was a certain incompleteness to it, it never the less can be clearly identified as belonging to the family of Historic , English , Protestant, Liturgical Worship. Thus it is that Bishop Cummins could say: "One in heart, in spirit, and in faith with our fathers, who at the very beginning of the existence of this nation sought to mold and fashion the ecclesiastical polity which they had inherited from the Reformed Church of England, by a judicious and thorough revision of the Book of Common Prayer, we return to their position and claim to be the old and true Protestant Episcopalians of the days immediately following the American Revolution and through these, our ancestors, we claim an unbroken historical connection through the Church of England, with the Church of Christ from the earliest Christian era". 18


This historic expression of worship is preserved in the Reformed Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. While changes have occurred over the past 120 years, no changes could be made which changed the'substance of the faith'. Future revisions will also be subject to this provision.