Blue’s Clues: Miscellaneous liturgical

This is the twenty-ninth post in Blue’s Clues, a series on the resolutions and reports of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention. The index of posts is here, and my index of resolutions and likely votes is here.

Here are the last group of resolutions now listed on the website. These are all related to liturgy. As General Convention comes closer, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Virtual Binder to see what resolutions show up there. Perhaps I’ll do a bit more blogging, though at least as of today I’m all caught up.

Without delay, here are the resolutions.

C003: Way of Light Liturgy. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if amended.

One of the more popular liturgical devotions in Lent is stations of the cross or, as it is often known, the way of the cross. In recent years, people have developed a parallel liturgy for Eastertide, the stations of the resurrection or the way of light. This resolution proposes that we include the way of light in the Book of Occasional Services (which is where you’ll find the way of the cross now). I am completely in favor of this. When I was a parish priest, we used the stations of the resurrection with good effect.

My only concern is that this resolution comes with a completed liturgical form, and I’m not sure where it came from or who wrote it. There are lots of good forms floating around, including some excellent resources in Common Worship of the Church of England, to say nothing of Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, published by Forward Movement (my employer). So instead of saying we’ll use this form, though I think this one is not bad, let’s get the SCLM to have a look at the liturgy. There are changes we need to see, most particularly an increase in the number of alleluias used throughout. So long as we’re telling the SCLM to develop a way of light liturgy, but not telling them exactly what to do, I’m all in.

C007: Commend and Reconcile Baptismal Covenant to Reflect Our Unity With All Creation. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This calls for a new question to be added to the baptismal covenant, “Will you cherish the wondrous works of God, and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?” I will quote here what I blogged in response to A016, which also proposes adding to the baptismal covenant. (I’ve modified my quote a bit, because that resolution called for two options, where this one offers just one additional question.)

This resolution suggests trial use of a change in the Baptismal Covenant… a proposed new question to be added to the five existing baptismal promises, “Will you cherish the wondrous works of God, and protect…the beauty and integrity of all creation?”…

We already promise to repent of our sins. Surely environmental sins are covered there. We already promise to respect the dignity of every human being. I cannot respect someone’s dignity while I am polluting their air, water, or land. So environmental sins are already covered. Imagine if we start listing every kind and category of sin in the baptismal promises. Soon we’ll have a Great Litany-length set of questions. The beauty of our current eight questions (three forming the Apostles’ Creed, and five “rule of life” questions) is precisely that they are brief and memorable. Less is more.

I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t think it makes practical or theological sense to expand to covenant at this time.

C012: Add Origen of Alexandria to the Church Calendar. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

As I said before, in my response to the proposed Lesser Feasts & Fasts, I’d like to see us hold off on tinkering with our sanctoral calendar for a while, at least until we spend a little time trying to articulate a common theology of sainthood. So on that ground alone, I would vote against this.

The question of whether Origen was unfairly condemned as a heretic is a real question. But the simple fact remains that the declarations of him as a heretic have not yet been revoked. So adding him to our calendar would pose a challenge in ecumenical relations. Meanwhile, those who wish to read and study Origen can do so. Those who wish to keep his commemoration can do so. But of all the people we might consider adding to our calendar, he would be far down on my list. Your mileage may vary.

C024: Translations of Book of Common Prayer. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

This resolution asks the SCLM and the custodian of the BCP “to begin work forthwith on translations of essential selections of the Book of Common Prayer, as well as other authorized liturgical resources, including ‘Enriching Our Worship’, into Spanish, [Haitian] Creole, and French.”

The SCLM has written A070, which calls for new translations of the BCP into Spanish and French (which as both badly needed), as well as translation into Haitian Creole. We need to do that (see my blog for more). But that doesn’t cover the Enriching Our Worship series, which we also need to translate. It’s shocking that this hasn’t been done already. So I will gladly vote yes on this resolution.

C027: The Celebration of the life and work of Dorothy Day, Christian Activist. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

Dorothy Day is awesome. I will be glad when she is added to our calendar one day, as she almost certainly will be. But now is not the time, in my view. Firstly, as I’ve consistently said, I think we should stop tinkering with our calendar until we decide what a saint is. Secondly, Dorothy Day does not fit the criteria we have established for inclusion of people in our calendar. In this case, she died in 1980, and we generally want to see 50 years from death date until commemoration. If we were going to proceed, the correct way to do it would be to refer this resolution to the SCLM for them to consider adding her to the calendar.

C028: Amend Canon II.4. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

This adds a provision to the canons: “With the permission of the Bishop Diocesan, any book of prayer/worship authorized for use by a Church or Province of the Anglican Communion may be used in congregations or ministries within that diocese.”

We’ve been creating a lot of new liturgical material lately, and because we tend not to fund our liturgical work very well, quality has suffered as quantity has increased. This resolution would allow us to make use of excellent materials from around the communion. It will also, for example, allow some Episcopalians whose first language is not English the possibility of using liturgical materials in their own first language.

I think this is a good idea, though it will require careful attention from bishops. The concern is that within the umbrella of Anglican theology, there is considerable variety, especially in Eucharistic theology. Cultural context also varies widely, so, for example, using material created for one context can become a kind of colonialism or cultural appropriation when used elsewhere. That said, if our bishops are careful in their permission-giving, this should allow us to build the bonds of affection in our Anglican Communion and provide new, excellent resources for us to use.

Take note, congregations: if this passes, you’ll need the bishop’s permission and you’ll need to sort out copyright permissions. Other communions have different approaches to copyright than we do, and you can’t simply cut & paste material and use it without permission and possibly royalty payments.

C030: Proposed Baptismal Covenant Language. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This is quite similar to C007, which I covered above.

C031: Minimize Gendered Language in the BCP. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution asks the SCLM, in their work on revising the prayer book, “to amend, as far as is practicable, all gendered references to God, replacing them with gender expansive language.”

There are three reasons why I’ll vote no on this. Firstly, we haven’t even decided if we’re going to revise the prayer book yet. Let’s let the committee get started (someday) before we tell them how to do their work. Second, maybe it’s worth leaving a few personal pronouns for God in place? I personally don’t mind she (or he or they), but I worry this resolution seems to suggest we shouldn’t be using pronouns? And the Incarnate Word was a male. Now, I’m OK with minimizing our use of masculine language, but it would seem silly to think we can never speak of Jesus Christ using a male pronoun (or speak of the First Person or the Third Person of the Trinity using female (or male) pronouns). Thirdly, if this passed, we would be precluded from ever saying “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and that’s going to get a hard no from me.


Stay tuned for more Blue’s Clues as blue sees more places to sniff out on the Virtual Binder.

Image from Public Domain Pictures.

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4 Responses

  1. Will J Abbott says:

    Only comment I have is regarding C024, though it’s fairly extensive:

    1) are there any other languages we should be considering? The European convocation covers a few.
    2) Having come over from Rome, I was around for the translation debacle resulting from Liturgical Authenticam. While it is important to have liturgical texts in one’s native language, the principles used in translation are also important. What guidelines are we giving for translation? What principles are we suggesting?

  2. Ron Pogue says:

    I’m looking forward to renewed debate on why it is important to bar the unBapized from access to the Table of the One who was accused of eating with the ceremonially unclean and who shared that Last Supper with Judas, whom he already knew was plotting his betrayal. 🙂

  3. sandywarren13 says:

    Thank you for all your very interesting summaries of the resolutions. I especially appreciate your clarity in distinguishing which resolutions promote meaningful action to be taken by the Episcopal church, as opposed to proclaiming opinions about what other people should be doing.

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