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Freed to experiment

by
27 February 2015

February 26, 1965

A LANDMARK in the relations between Church and State in England has been reached with the safe passing through Parliament of the Prayer Book (Alternative and Other Services) Measure. Its smooth passage in both Lords and Commons is in remarkable contrast to the fury of the Prayer Book debates in 1927 and 1928. The change may be due in part to the sad fact that public interest in religion is less now than then. But it owes much to the welcome improvement in the relations between High and Low Church interests during the past forty years, and much also to the patient diplomacy shown by Church leaders, especially the present Archbishop of Canterbury, in dealing with the State.

The due enactment of this Measure should contribute to the health and welfare of the Church of England. Hopes or fears of sudden, drastic changes in the Church's public worship are likely to be unfounded; too many safeguards have been built into the Measure for that to happen. The most likely immediate result will be the legalisation of many, if not all, of those liturgical practices taken from the 1928 Revised Book which have long been common all over the country, against the strict letter of the law. Then, before long, should come the authorisation of experimental new services proposed by the Liturgical Commission (if they are approved by the Convocations), at first in selected parishes only and then on a wider scale. In addition, the Measure should have the beneficial result of fostering greater respect for lawful authority in the Church, since it will remove any excuse from those who wish to be a law unto themselves in matters liturgical.

Above all, the passing of the Measure is to be welcomed because here, at last, is the official recognition by the State that the Church is entitled to decide the form and practice of its own living worship of the Living God.

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