There are risks in living in a new age, but disaster looms for those trying to live in a past age.

Late last year the Church of England’s General Synod was presented with a petition asking for the restoration of the King James Bible and of the Book of Common Prayer in the ordinary services of worship in the church. The petition was signed by 600 people who have been described as the “most powerful, distinguished and talented men and women in England.” Their petition, it was said, “hit back at the linguistic and liturgical Philistines who, they believe, have debased the sacred rituals of the Church of England.” The petition came from people concerned that the worship of the church be carried on in the best way possible. But it is interesting that it was supported by atheists and agnostics who had no great interest in the church’s worship. It was welcomed in the daily press by conservatives like the Daily Telegraph and by more liberal organs like the Guardian.

Part of the problem that called forth the petition is the nature of the new forms of service in the Church of England. These are beloved by some, but they have been the target of a good deal of criticism by others. They put the services into idiomatic modern English and take notice of recent advances in our knowledge of liturgical texts and of liturgy generally. But many have found them “soft on sin” and undistinguished.

Professor David Martin, of the London School of Economics, holds that the language of the new services is “Neither ancient nor modern, elevated nor interestingly vulgar. It falls between every possible stool; it is a kind of soft-handed Christianity that doesn’t declare itself.”

All of which ...

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