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This article is taken from PN Review 13, Volume 6 Number 5, May - June 1980.

The Anglican Manifesto Geoffrey Shepherd
 
THE old jibe that the Church of England was nothing more than the Conservative Party on its knees in prayer (for the Church militant presumably) can be matched by the modern jibe that the Church now is nothing more than an insignificant part of the Labour Party which has fallen flat on its face murmuring the Magnificat (verses 68). Jibes of disaffected partisans often disclose bits of truth. In a sense that exceeds the grasp of mockery and party allegiance, the Book of Common Prayer for centuries has been an index as well as an instrument of English political life.

That is not surprising. The Book of Common Prayer was conceived, born and reborn amid councils, committees, compromises and latenight decisions. Under its smooth and stately surface still work the prejudices and denials, the political passions and commitments of Church and assemblies, Parliaments and people. In any great constitutional change or shift in national sentiment, such as the Restoration or the reaction to the Reform Act, it emerged as a focus of national selfconcern and as an issue in fundamental debate. It surfaced on many other parliamentary occasions, some of which seem trivial to us. When the Feathers' Tavern Association presented its petition to the House of Commons in 1772, seeking to relax the requirement of subscription to the thirtynine articles for certain professional people, Burke's speech indicated how directly the standing of the Prayer Book was involved and how many issues concerning the Prayer Book intimately ...


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