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Reformation Anglican Worship by Michael Jensen is the latest volume in The Reformation Anglican Essentials Library. As it’s name suggests it provides a thorough survey of the principles of Anglican worship found in the denomination’s Reformation legacy.

For what is obviously a scholarly work, Reformation Anglican Worship is a surprisingly enjoyable read. Jensen has found just the right balance between depth of information and an accessible style which anyone with in interest in the topic will appreciate.

Reformation Anglican Worship works through six well-chosen chapters,

  1. The Heart of Christian Worship
  2. Worship in the English Reformation
  3. Reading and Preaching the Scriptures
  4. The Gospel Signs: The Sacraments
  5. Prayers of Grace (where Jensen shows us that the prayers of the Reformation liturgies are an expression of the gospel of grace)
  6. Music: The Word in Song

The book’s great strength is that it takes us on an historical journey. As we move through these different topics Jensen retells the story of the Reformation and particularly how it worked itself out in the Church of England with it’s great controversies over the authority of Scripture worked out most of all in the question of the Mass.

We cannot therefore avoid getting to grips with the actual theology of Cranmer and the other 16th century divines who were unashamedly Reformed. At the same time Jensen is not afraid to show us where there was a strong difference of opinion.

There was substantial and noteworthy agreement [on the Lord’s Supper]. The Reformers together rejected the understand of the Mass as a substitutionary sacrifice in any way making a propitiation that belonged solely to the cross of Christ … But they were vociferous in their disagreement about what occurred in the rite itself. Luther alerted that Christ was present bodily at the Lord’s Supper, whereas Zwingli did not.

The Church of England was somewhat of a latecomer to this discussion.

Reformation Anglican Worship. “The Gospel Signs: The Sacraments” pp. 110-111.

Jensen’s book is an important contribution to the current global discussion amongst orthodox Anglicans about what the “genuine” shape of Anglicanism ought to be and what the boundaries of any legitimate Anglican expression are. The reader will be left in no doubt that any Anglicanism that considers itself a genuine descendant of the 16th Century genesis of the Church of England ought to be shaped along Reformed principles, just as the first prayer books and other formularies were. Yet Jensen is not strident in making this argument. Rather it is the natural conclusion of the detailed historical work that he has done, as he marshals the works of other experts in the field alongside his own research to make his case.

Yet, at the same time, there is no insistence upon strict adherence to the original liturgy. Jensen is more interested that we understand and apply the principles laid down in the Anglican Reformation expression. His brief section at the end of chapter 5 is quite excellent, carefully distinguishing between slavish adherence to old and perhaps clunky forms of expression while still encouraging a liturgical approach that is rooted in Cranmer’s methodology.

..the debate about the form in which prayers are said is of comparatively little important. The real urgent need is for a habit of prayer amongst Christians that reminds them of the identity of the God whom they worship and their own identity before him. This is why the rhythm of confession, thanksgiving, praise, and petition, so brilliantly capture in Cranmer’s liturgies, needs to be preserved even as it is translated into new idioms.

Reformation Anglican Worship. “Prayers of Grace” pp. 155-156.

Reformation Anglican Worship reads, in part, as plea to Jensen’s low church Anglican peers, beginning in the Diocese of Sydney, to rediscover the beauty of Anglican worship; a beauty not simply of form but of deep theological substance. It will also be of great encouragement to those who are treading the narrow path of Anglican liturgical expression in the middle of the “3 streams” debate which continues to wash across the ACNA and elsewhere. For others it will be delightful (re)discovery of the principles that make the Book of Common Prayer such a wonderful resource, used not just by Anglicans by others across the globe. I can’t recommend it enough.

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