My dear Lord Bishop
There are credible report on the Internet that you are chairing a group commissioned by our Holy Father to draft a form of the Holy Eucharist which could be used by Catholics and Protestants (and Orthodox and Copts etc. etc. etc., I take it?). Accordingly, I thought you might find it helpful if I shared with you the experience of the Church of England, which I witnessed for more than fifty years. As you will know, that body is an uneasy coalition of every known version of Christianity from the Tridentine to the Zwinglian, and so it has had much experience in the last century of attempting to square this particular circle.
The game started, substantially, in 1927/8. A form of Eucharist was devised which was intended to be acceptable to nearly all tendencies within the Provinces of Canterbury and York. It was turned down by Parliament, but the bishops made it clear that since it had been given the approval of the Church, they would permit its use, and would make to cease all liturgical practices which "went beyond 1928" (they meant the liturgical life of papalist Anglo-Catholics who used the full Roman Rite in either Latin or English). Notwithstanding this episcopal encouragement, "1928" attracted very little use, and after 1945, the situation had dramatically changed. In particular, a Dom Gregory Dix had published an enormously influential book, The Shape of the Liturgy, which transformed our attitudes to Liturgy. If "1928" enjoyed a fitful and spluttering half-life in a few 1930s churches, for, let us say, about 15 years, it was certainly a dead letter after the War.
My dear lord Bishop: we both know that Liturgy is a subject in which fashions, both academic and cultural, do change with some rapidity. Like me, you have only one life on this planet; are you really sure you wish to devote very much of it to confecting a Liturgy which in a couple of decades will be a laughing stock, as "1928" was in the 1940s? Surely there are more useful ways an intelligent man can spend his time ... fly-fishing ... the Times Crossword ...
Since the late 1960s, English Anglicans have resumed the game of composing liturgies. The process has been bedevilled by the unwillingness of Conservative Evangelicals to allow any texts to be authorised which they consider unbiblical. It is not that anybody has ever wished to force them to use any liturgical forms to which they themselves objected; it was a matter of other people having the permission to use various alternatives. Your lordship could peruse the lengthy published debates of the English General Synod. Or perhaps there is a less time-consuming process you could use. Let me ... I hope, helpfully ... explain the background.
Evangelicals used to claim to be the authentic voice of the Church of England as set forth in its official formularies. But during the latter part of the twentieth century, a new fashion arose. Some Evangelicals gave up relying on the Anglican formularies; instead they began to call for something much more radical: "the Completion of the Reformation". In the context of world-wide Anglicanism, this newer policy is particularly associated with the Anglican Metropolitan See of Sidney in Australia.
My suggestion to you would be that, once your committee has created a first working draft, you should not waste time going through it with a fine-toothcomb. Instead, send it immediately to the Archbishop of Sidney and ask for his wise guidance. You will find that Conservative Anglican Evangelicals are immensely knowledgable with regard to which liturgical words and phrases currently lie under the Divine Veto, and every bit as generous about sharing that knowledge.
Your lordship's obt servt and child
PS follows tomorrow.