ACNA, TEC and Those Social Justice Prayers

It’s worth noting that the following appears in the (relatively) new 2019 ACNA Book of Common Prayer:

For those of you who think this has its origins in that dreadful 1979 BCP, this also appears in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

Other than the modernisation of the language and the expanded doxology at the end (one reason why the 2019 BCP is so much longer) the two prayers are the same in content.  (This prayer was not in the 1892 BCP, FWIW.)  What this means is that the impulse towards social justice goes back a long way in American Anglicanism and is even perpetuated in the group that split off from the Episcopal Church.  I think some comments are in order because, the way the ACNA is going these days, there are elements in same that want to take it in the same direction as TEC went, which is silly because a) TEC is still there for those who want to go that way and b) it begs the question as to why the ACNA was started in the first place.

The first comment is that the existence of meaningful social justice movements depends upon the people’s freedom to express their opinion either individually or collectively in a meaningful way.  This is something that gets lost between those who see social justice as a Christian imperative and those who think it is profoundly unBiblical.  The New Testament was written in the Roman Imperial period, where there was really no way to petition the government to act on things like slavery, infanticide and the like.  (The Republic supposedly had mechanisms like that but, as the Gracchi found out the hard way, they didn’t deliver as one would like.)  Both of the prayers recognise that fact.

The second comment is that the quest for social justice is no substitute for personal regeneration in Jesus Christ.  Since we are not Southern Baptists, that regeneration doesn’t end at salvation; it continues, as I note in this comment re the comfortable words.  Liturgical churches’ greatest occupational hazard is in thinking that, just because we go through the liturgy and experience the sacraments, we’re okay with God and can move on to other things.

That leads to the third point: the social position of North Americans in the Anglican-Episcopal world is a two-edged sword.  It makes their quest for social justice potentially more effective but at the same time makes them part of the problem.  Evangelicals constantly prattle about being “influencers,” but Episcopalians (and now non-Episcopal Anglicans) are disproportionately that from the get-go.  Some reflection on that before you go off and try to “change the world” is certainly in order, especially since life has probably rendered you unable to grasp the lot of those you’re trying to help.

Finally, you need to understand that you don’t need to simply ape non-Christian social justice movements just because they’re trendy amongst your peers.  That’s especially important now since our moneyed interests are “woke,” and that many so-called social justice movements simply shill for those moneyed interests.  Put another way, it’s hard to speak “truth to power” when you’re really just part of power.

Social justice is a noble goal; the road to it, however, has many potholes.  Or, to put it in a more mathematical way, the arc of history may bend towards justice, but it may not be smooth, differentiable or even continuous.

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