What’s the difference between the 1979 and 2019 Book of Common Prayer? Which Prayer Book should I buy?


I get a fair number of great questions from our readers via our contact form (which goes straight to my email inbox). I’m going to start sharing some common questions and my answers in these blog posts. I hope they’re helpful. If you have a clear, charitable suggestion for how my answer to a given question might be improved, please let me know in the comments!

A reader asks:

What is the main difference between the 1979 and the 2019 versions of the Book of Common Prayer?

Which should I buy?

Here’s my answer

Hi ___! Great questions.


So, there’s plenty to say here! Let me start by noting that:

  1. This Rookie Anglican Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is keyed to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
  2. I also wrote a Rookie Anglican Guide to the 2019 Book of Common Prayer.

If you read those two posts, you’ll have a decent idea of similarities and differences. If you want an exhaustive comparison/contrast between the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books, see Drew Nathaniel Keane’s here.

You might also be interested in this appreciative review of the 2019 BCP written by an Episcopalian (who uses the 1979 BCP).

You should also know that you can browse the content of each BCP for free online:

As briefly as I can put it, here are some differences between the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 2019 Book of Common Prayer

The 1979 BCP is still the official Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the USA. The 2019 BCP is the official Prayer Book of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which is more theologically conservative than TEC and broke away from TEC for various reasons related to theology, sexuality, etc. (If you’d like an overview of recent Anglican history told from a conservative perspective, check out the “Anglican Reality Check” timeline from GAFCON here.)

Now, in my opinion, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is still a great resource. It’s the first Prayer Book I ever used. My local ACNA church still uses it for Holy Communion services. It’s got both modern (Rite II) and traditional (Rite I) language options, a bunch of useful “Prayers and Thanksgivings,” and its Daily Office Lectionary follows the liturgical seasons (instead of the civil calendar), which I really like.

However, for various reasons associated with the history of the modern “liturgical renewal” movement, the 1979 BCP does represent a bit of a development *away* from the “classic” Prayer Book tradition of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which is still the official Prayer Book in the Church of England, and the BCP from which all other BCPs around the globe descended.

(You can browse the 1662 BCP for free online here. There’s also a fantastic “International Edition” of the 1662 BCP coming out from IVP in early 2021!)

The ACNA’s 2019 Book of Common Prayer is a purposeful attempt to take the 1979 BCP and *return* toward the tradition of the 1662 BCP, while still remaining a modern, comprehensive, and relatively easy-to-use resource. Read the Preface to the 2019 BCP, written by Archbishops Foley Beach and Robert Duncan, for a taste of the ACNA’s understanding of the 2019 BCP’s position within the Prayer Book tradition.

As for which edition of the Book of Common Prayer you should *purchase*, that depends.

As I say in my Rookie Anglican Guide to the BCP, in general, my advice is:

  1. Buy the BCP that your local church uses (if applicable). The Book of *Common* Prayer is, after all, designed to be used in community with others!
  2. Buy the BCP that you will actually *use*.

If you’re just going to be using the Prayer Book on your own, then take a look at the Daily Office sections for Morning and Evening Prayer in both BCPs (including the Daily Office Lectionaries at the back, the assigned daily Scripture reading plans), and go with the one that you see yourself actually using more often.

I hope that helps! Please feel free to follow up with further questions.

~ Josh

Published on

December 22, 2020


Joshua Steele

Josh Steele was the first Managing Editor of Anglican Compass. Learn more about him at joshuapsteele.com.

View more from Joshua Steele


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