First time visitors to an Anglican Church, especially a parish of the high church tradition, are often bewildered. Worship abounds in written prayers, vestments, acolytes, a robed choir, candles, hymns accompanied by an organ. People cross themselves, kneel for certain prayers, stand for others. Communion wine is just that, wine served from a common cup. If it happens to be a feast day, there may be incense. To the uninitiated all these elements may feel positively arcane and certainly alien. People from non-liturgical traditions often find it difficult to categorize Anglican worship. The liturgy looks Roman Catholic, but the preaching sounds Reformed. While the early stages of the English Reformation reflected stricter liturgical proscriptions (incense, for example, would not have been used), thereby disassociating the English Church from Roman eucharistic doctrine, an ethos gradually emerged, articulated in Article 34, called the Normative Principle of Worship (NPW). The rites and ceremonies of the Church are to be “normed” or measured by the Scriptures rather than “regulated” by them. The Church is free to retain or establish whatever does not conflict with Scripture so long as it is done decently and in order.

This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with Journal author Matthew M. Kennedy about his online-exclusive Viewpoint article, “The Prayers Rose Like Incense: Anglican Worship and the Normative Principle”. 

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