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Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer


Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer

The Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer is responsible for the maintenance of the official text of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) used by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

The Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Episcopal Church contains the liturgy used in its worship services and for other religious gatherings. The BCP and its predecessors are descended from the prayer books used by the Church of England. There have been four versions of the United States Prayer Book that have been used. They are known by the year of issuance: 1789, 1892, 1928, and 1979. In 1784, in order to bring about the consecration of America's first bishop, Samuel Seabury of Connecticut, in Scotland, a "concordat was signed by Seabury and the Scottish bishops" who consecrated him pledging use of the Scottish Eucharistic Rite by the Episcopal Church then, thus "following Scottish structure" (with some of its liturgy derived from Eastern Orthodox) and circumventing the Church of England.

The current edition dates from 1979 and is marked by an attempt to return to full lay participation in all services and the recovery of the Eucharist as the principal service of the church. The 1979 version also reduces the emphasis of personal sin. There was enough strife in implementing and adopting the 1979 BCP that a "resolution of apology" was issued at the 2000 General Convention. Authorized supplemental materials have also been released in the last several years.

After approval, the official text is controlled by the custodian. The first custodian was appointed by the 1868 General Convention to keep the plates and a copy of the Standard Book for the General Convention. The 1871 General Convention granted the custodian the responsibility for recording any alterations made by the General Convention in the BCP. The custodian is nominated by the House of Bishops and confirmed by the House of Deputies, and serves until a successor is appointed.

List of Custodians

Source: The Episcopal Church website. + Source: Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, Documents of Witness, A History of the Episcopal Church 1982-1985 (CHC: 1994).

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