The Book of Common Prayer has been branded “colonialist” by Church of England bishops hoping to reform Anglican liturgy to focus less on white English culture, His Grace can reveal.
Following the decision to impose a 30% quota for black and minority ethnic (BAME) clergy, the Bishops are deconstructing the Church of England’s book of doctrine and prayers after facing pressure to “decolonise” its liturgy following the Black Lives Matter protests.
His Grace has seen proposals for changes to Common Worship, which some bishops question because of its “complicity in white supremacy”.
They said the Book of Common Prayer which features in worldwide Anglicanism focuses too much on “white English language from the Elizabethan period of slavery”.
Documents reveal that the House of Bishops, which decides on policy before presenting it to General Synod for rubber-stamping, have proposed reforms to address this “white hegemony”, including rethinking the primacy of Anglican liturgy in its churches because the Worldwide Anglican Communion is a “colonialist representational system” which “perpetuates the evils of the British Empire”.
Intoning prayers which have not “shaken off their connection to England’s colonial past” would be a “slap in the face” for some worshippers, documents state, and so the BCP has been earmarked for rebranding to be more inclusive.
The Bishops have also proposed that teaching and preaching based on the the BCP’s coherent theological exposition should no longer be compulsory because ordinand training “structurally centres white English liturgy” which causes “worshippers of colour great distress”.
They also noted that the Book of Common Prayer was written by someone who was “pale, male and stale”.
The Bishops’ checklist devised to tick off BLM demands notes that Pentecostalism and Liberation Theology need to be fed into the Book of BAME Prayer, providing “non-white” worshippers with hope of emancipation from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation. But bishops questioning whether the “structure of our Book of Common Prayer supports white supremacy” have also highlighted the issue of an “almost all-white House of Bishops” giving “privilege to white expressions of Anglicanism”.
As a proposed change, “special collects” for worshippers to choose from would be introduced to permit BAME people to pray whatever words they felt at ease with, even if it wasn’t the collect of the day. And white people will be encouraged to pray:
My face is white…
My hands are white
as is my point of view.
Good Lord forgive me.
My white heart…
It tries so hard to see
all colours, all cultures, all peoples.
But it doesn’t always work right.
Good Lord forgive me
These words will be helpful for pale, male and stale people in lifting their imaginations and opening their hearts to acknowledge the sins of racism and oppression they have exercised through the power and dominance of their skin pigmentation.
Following a Bishops’ “away day”, they state in documentation – seen by His Grace – that “arising from international Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the House of Bishops proposed making changes to enhance the diversity of the Book of Common Prayer”.
However, in internal documents there was dissent from some bishops, with one stating that colleagues focused on words from 1662 “are often implicitly accused of being concerned exclusively with liturgy that is ‘English’ and ‘white'”.
There was also disconnect over the use of the term ‘Anglican liturgy’ being used. It is a term intended to be inclusive, but is “bedevilled by ‘Anglo’ and so white English”.
Lambeth Palace and Church House have been approached for comment.