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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

Editorial
IT IS difficult to tell, at this early stage, what the lasting effect of PNR 13 (Crisis for Cranmer and King James) will be. We have evidence, some of it printed in the Letters pages, that many clergymen and laypeople have taken heart from the broad support in the Press and elsewhere for the stand we have taken. Certainly 'activists' on PCCs will have more information and perhaps more arguments to deploy than they have had hitherto. The support has come from all areas, irrespective of ideological affiliation and age-range. PNR13 helped to alert laypeople to the extent of reforms and the quality and character of the 'alternatives'; it also told them something of the mechanics by which the Church has implemented them and revealed how the spiritual area of our national life is suffering from the worst excesses of the 1960s even as the rest of the country enters the 1980s. It is an issue PNR will pursue.

Synod's immediate response (with a few courageous exceptions in the Houses of Clergy and Laity and among the Bishops) was outrage: had they not spent years quietly demolishing this ancient edifice? And here was a row of solid arches still standing, insistently, against their rude machines! We were called 'scurrilous' and 'intemperate'. The most distasteful aspect of the outcry raised against those who modestly asked that the Authorised Version and the Book of Common Prayer remain visible and audible in churches throughout the land, and in schools (not to the exclusion of the 'alternatives', but along with them) is the candid Philistinism of it. Some of the letters and polemical articles that appeared in the Press and one of the speeches at Synod itself smacked of the language of Lord George Gordon-only Synodical fury was being whipped up not against Roman Catholics but against writers, musicians (many of them church musicians), intellectuals, teachers, artists, actors, doctors, the judiciary, servicemen, etc.-forces which had allegedly 'held the Church back' for generations. One especially outraged piece referred to the Petitioners as 'Intellectuals and Atheists'-an untruth (not to call it a lie) in view of the fact that perhaps three quarters, perhaps more, of the Petitioners are regular members of Anglican or affiliated communions. Does the Church believe that no writer, musician, teacher, doctor, etc.-in short, no citizen of intelligence and imagination-will feel comfortable in a modern pew? The Church, I am sure, does not believe this, but the majority of Synod, that obscure bureaucracy, appears to do. It is little wonder that Synodical debates are so remarkably odd ('disgraceful', as one Bishop said at the end of the Sex debate). It is little wonder that, while the strategy for selling faith to the lowest bidder is tried out, church attendance declines. Worship just isn't entertainment. The traditional liturgy, like the King James Bible, is an integral part of Anglican faith. The compromised committee-language of the new texts is part of church politics. It is odd how, even as some contemporary Anglican theologians deprecate the Erastian elements in historical Anglicanism, they adopt the language of day-to-day politics in the new liturgies, in their own debates and extempore prayers. They adopt the forms of organization common to political bodies, and they comport themselves as politicians who must have a temporal opinion on every subject. They bind themselves, and they seek to bind their faith, to the age. Only, since they are not politicians, much of their activity seems to be shadow-play, charade. And they attempt to market salvation in terms familiar from consumerism. Simplification is, alas, not clarification, and no amount of linguistic dilution or condescension will render more clear the profound and timeless truths of faith.

Some of our opponents argue that a concern for liturgy is a waste of time when the Church is confronted with so many other problems. A charming argument: if this is the case, then it has been an unfortunate waste of two decades' and more of pastoral energy and collection money to devise an admittedly irrelevant new liturgy.

There is also among our critics a tendency to sneer at the word 'beauty' as applied to the old texts' language. That word did not occur very frequently in PNR 13 (though it might have done). C. H. Sisson pointed out in a letter to The Church Times that 'beauty' is not a quality super-added to language, sugar on a prayer-pill.

It means that the language has emerged under pressure and is full of felt and lived meaning, meaning present now not only in the words themselves but in their generations of use as well. It is the quality language can have when individual men and women use it, a quality notably absent from the language of committee resolutions and from those liturgical compromises which land us at a point somewhere between Rome, Canterbury and New York. In this case, the familiarity of the unique and tried language breeds faith rather than contempt among churchgoers and readers who have an ear for their native dialect, and even (as many evangelical churches in the community attest) among those for whom British English is a more recent acquistition.

Six of our subscribers were surprised-even dismayed-that we should devote a whole issue to this theme. We print two of their letters. The majority (about three hundred wrote to us, as well as several hundred non-subscribers) were strongly in favour of our modest stand. A journal concerned with English and with England might be expected to act as we have done. PNR 13 has put on record the near unanimity of positive faith in the unique liturgy and Bible we are historically privileged to possess. They are at the root of our literary culture quite as much as Chaucer and Shakespeare are. Therefore they are at the root of our language which binds us not only to the past but to one another in the present. The Church has-reluctant though it is (in Synod) to admit it-cultural as well as spiritual responsibilities. So long as it remains an Established Church it must look over its lectern at all Englishmen: its primary responsibility is to its own communion, but it cannot neglect its responsibility to the community and culture at large.

* * *

We owe our subscribers an apology for the break in sequence and the tardiness of PNR 11 and 12. We have not had the sort of problem that confuses life at Printing House Square, but the change to bi-monthly publication and the work involved in preparing PNR 13 meant that we failed to meet our printers' deadlines. In future we hope to deliver issues with exemplary regularity.

We have added one or two new features. 'News and Notes' will be a regular item to which readers are invited to contribute. There will continue to be occasional supplements. A series of 'advocacies' by contemporary poets of neglected work from the past will be published. We intend to continue with our re-assessments of figures neglected for other than literary reasons and to introduce further work in and on translation. We also intend to continue with improvements to the format. With PNR 15 (Volume 7, Number 1) the magazine enters its seventh year of publication.
Michael Schmidt, General Editor

This item is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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