Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi (Part 4)

By Fr. Robert Solon, Jr.

What arguments have been advanced in support of this contention?  Are they valid?

“Christian worship involves encountering the mystery of God in our Lord Jesus Christ and participating in the life of the Trinity. We delight to meet Christ in word and sacrament. The sacraments of Baptism, whereby we are joined to Christ, and the Eucharist, where we are nourished by his body and blood, bind us together in unity…”

The plethora of authors above have argued over generations that Western Christians and especially Anglicans use lex orandi-lex credendi as an assumption when theologizing.  It can also be shown that the concept itself is deeply embedded in the culture and organization of Anglicanism. Three examples will be shown:  resolutions from the Lambeth Conferences, the canons of the Church of England, and the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

Although the Lambeth Conference was not intended nor does it to this day exercise formal and binding authority, nonetheless the Conference Bishops have not been shy about making their thoughts known.  Since the 1868 Conference, the following resolutions dealing with liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer have been adopted:[1]

Date ID Topic
1868 8 Book of Common Prayer is standard but may be adopted locally.
1878 7 Warns against excessive diversity in worship. Revisions should be done carefully if at all, in order to maintain unity
1888 2 Grape juice should not be permitted.
  10 BCP revision in a Province should not be done alone but others should be considered
  18 Asks the ++ABC to consider retranslating the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds
  19 Subscription to the 39 Articles should not be a requirement to be admitted into the Communion.
1897 45, 46 It is the right of every bishop to make local adaptations or other services as necessary for local need, subject to Provincial or other authority
  47 The ++ABC is asked to consider retranslation of the Athanasian Creed
  48 Baptized children should receive Christian catechesis but baptism should not be delayed
  49 Those who have been baptized without baptismal promises should make them before being confirmed.
  50 Bishops should be consulted about administration of communion to the sick and are in charge of the standards for the rite.
1908 24 The BCP is really important, but as needed, local worship may need to use other language or languages.
  25 Standards for Marriage across all Provinces
  27 Principles for Prayer Book Revision in the Provinces
  28 ++ABC requested to consult on a book of special forms of service.
  29 ++ABC requested to retranslate the Athanasian Creed
  30 The Athanasian Creed should not be required to be recited, but it’s important and should be kept.
  31 Even for reasons of possible disease, no change to the form of administration of Communion is desired.
  32 Real bread and real wine are the normative elements for the Holy Communion.
  35 More prayers for restoration of health requested in the Office for the Sick
  36 Anointing of the sick is not recommended, but should not be prohibited completely either.
  62 Anglicans should feel free to baptize and admit to communion members of the Orthodox churches on a pastoral or emergency basis.
1920 12 In an omnibus Resolution on Christian Unity, expresses that only episcopally ordained clergy should preside at Communion, and that Anglicans should in general only receive Communion from their own clergy.
1948 78 The BCP should only be revised “in accordance with the doctrine and accepted liturgical worship of the Anglican Communion” and that special forms of thanksgiving for war’s end should be prepared.
  104 Baptism presupposes being brought up as a Christian, and parents should be often reminded of this
  105 Baptisms should be public and notice given beforehand.
  117 Communion in both kinds is normative for Anglicans.
  118 The common chalice is normative for Anglicans.
1958 73 Ongoing Prayer Book revision as a means of unity is a good thing.
  74 Principles for unity during Prayer Book revision
  75 Committee report on Prayer Book revision commended
  76 ++ABC requested to create an ordo for the Communion service that all Provinces could consult when revising their rites
  77 The commemoration of saints is normative for Anglicans.
  78 Each Province is in charge of its own Kalendar.
  79 Principles for adding saints to the Kalendar.
  80 Ranks of saints’ days as major, minor, or collect only.
1968 25 Each Province requested to explore the theology of Baptism
  26 Principles for admission to the diaconate – includes women for the first time.
  43 Principles for further publishing/subscription to the 39 Articles
1978 23 Common structure for Eucharist commended; liturgical information should continue to be shared.
  24 A common lectionary for Eucharist and Offices is recommended.
1988 2 In an omnibus Resolution on the authority of the Instruments of Communion, recommends an advisory body on Prayer Books
  47 “Each province should be free, subject to essential universal Anglican norms of worship, and to a valuing of traditional liturgical materials, to seek that

expression of worship which is appropriate to its Christian people in their cultural context.”

1998 III.15 Commends the office of Liturgical Cooordinator in the ACC
  III.16 Inter-Anglican liturgical consultations commended
  III.20 Bishops are encouraged to recite the Office daily.


2008 101 “Christian worship involves encountering the mystery of God in our Lord Jesus Christ and participating in the life of the Trinity. We delight to meet Christ in word and sacrament. The sacraments of Baptism, whereby we are joined to Christ, and the Eucharist, where we are nourished by his body and blood, bind us together in unity. The Anglican approach to worship places a high value on common structure, common prayer and a common lectionary, sharing the scriptures, across the Communion, while at the same time encouraging local freedom, and inculturation. We are committed to praying for one another and we want to deepen that fellowship of prayer and intercession. As Anglicans, we recognise the relationship between liturgy and doctrine – worship shapes belief – and between worship and mission – worship energises mission. We particularly need to be reminded of our evangelistic context and to seek worship that engages with youth cultures and with children.”
Not only is lex orandi-lex cre­dendi nor­ma­tive, it is also, at least in two Provinces, actu­ally incor­po­rated into their canons.

The Lambeth Bishops have clearly seen worship and liturgy as a means of unity across the Communion, while granting early on that local needs require local worship as an axiom of Anglican identity in the manner of Cranmer’s “language understanded of the people.”  Of note in particular is Statement 101[2] from the most recent Conference, printed in full above.  For the first time in Lambeth history the principle of lex orandi-lex credendi is explicitly stated in the body of a formal statement or resolution itself, showing that Prosper’s phrase is indeed widely understood as normative in the Anglican Communion.

Not only is lex orandi-lex credendi normative, it is also, at least in two Provinces, actually incorporated into their canons.

Join Fr. Robort Solon, Jr. next Wednesday for the conclusion of “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.”

[1] Lambeth Conference Resolutions Archive, accessed October 2012:

[2] The 2008 Conference, like the 1878 one, did not produce any Resolutions; the Statements were compiled from the Indaba sessions.