Committee 12: Liturgy I (Everything but calendar)

“And also with blue” continues an exciting journey through the resolutions of General Convention. In this installment, we’re looking at a bunch of liturgy and music resolutions. This committee, God bless them, has over 60 resolutions to contend with. I’m busting up the pile into two batches. In the next batch, we’ll look at all the resolutions dealing with calendar stuff — Lesser Feasts & Fasts, proposed commemorations, and so on. For now, it’s a mixed bag of this and that, all of it connected to prayer book, liturgy, and music.

Let me begin by saying that I am grateful to the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) for some really solid work this time around. In previous conventions, I sometimes read their Blue Book report with growing dread and despair. Not so this time! They’ve done effective work to reduce chaos and get us helpful material.

Many of the woes of the SCLM have not been their fault. We generally give them too much to do, and we don’t fund the development of liturgical material adequately. Simple yet vitally important things like proofreading require professionals and should not be left to volunteers. Back in the day, we had liturgy staff at the churchwide level, and those folks could coordinate work. Now we have a bunch of volunteers who care deeply about liturgy, and who are well qualified — but we often haven’t given them the time and resources to do good work.

I am pleased that we reduced the scope of what needed to be done this time, and much energy was spent perfecting work that was first brought to the convention in 2018. So what we have now is more mature. I’ll say more as we get to the specific resolutions.

Disclosure: I proposed resolution D062 and endorsed D061. You can find links to both resolutions and related commentary near the end of this (lengthy!) post.

Here we go!

 

A005 Translations of Enriching Our Worship and the Book of Occasional Services into Spanish, French, and Haitian Kreyol. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

This is long overdue. If we want to be an international church, we can’t have official liturgical materials available in English only. This resolution finally provides translations of Enriching Our Worship, the Book of Occasional Services, and Lesser Feasts & Fast into Spanish, French, and Haitian Kreyol. I should note that our official languages are English, Spanish, and French, but it makes sense to translate material into Haitian Kreyol as well.

I hope we’ll do a great job on these translations — and invest the resources in translators, proofreaders, and copy editors; then we should do small-scale pilots to test and refine the translations. The new prayer book translations should help with this; we have better guidelines in place now, and we have built up an infrastructure for high-quality liturgical translations.

 

A006 Authorize the Book of Occasional Services, 2021. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

The book of Occasional Services (BOS) contains important liturgical material that is used less frequently than what’s in the prayer book. There’s optional annual seasonal material, liturgies for rites of passage, rituals for church planting, and so on. If you don’t know the book, go have a look. You can find the SCLM’s report online. For inexplicable reasons, there are no page numbers, but if you search for A006 and go to the second reference, you’ll be on the page before the new material of the proposed BOS 2021.

The BOS was last revised (I mean really revised) in 2003, and much of that material stays in place. There were some revisions in 2018, but it would be best to forget about all that. This work fixes the chaos of 2018.

What’s in the Blue Book report for “2021” is the new and revised material. I won’t go through it all, but trust me when I say I’ve read it all, and it’s good stuff. Would I have personally tweaked a few things? Sure, but what’s here is well thought out and will serve our church well.

The list of what’s new or revised is in the resolution: “A Scriptural Way of the Cross; On Maundy Thursday; When Persons Leave a Congregation; Presentación de un(a) Niño o Niña (Presentation of a Child); Quinceañera (The Celebration of Fifteen Years); The Founding of a Church: Ground Breaking; The Founding of a Church: Laying of a Cornerstone; Commissioning a Church Planter, Missioner, or Mission Team; A Liturgy for the Opening of a New Congregation; Setting Apart Secular Space for Sacred Use; A Litany of God’s Mission for the Church; Consecration of Chrism Apart from Baptism; Reaffirmation of Ordination Vows, Reception as a Priest or Deacon, and Restoration to the Ordained Ministry.”

If readers feel like you want some commentary on all this material, or if you have specific questions or concerns, please leave a comment on this post. Everything that’s been revised is better now, addressing widely agreed-upon shortcomings. For example, the introduction to the Maundy Thursday foot-washing was pretty priest-centric; the revised rite is more focused on the rite in community. There’s a Quinceañera service, and the committee sought without much success other culture-specific rites that might be appropriate for inclusion. I’m sure that will happen in future revisions.

My understanding is that we will finally make the entire BOS available in English, Spanish, and French, rather than having most of it in English and a few bits in other languages.

This is all good, and I can’t wait to put a BOS 2021 on my shelf. (And to download a free copy for my files.)

 

A015 Authorize Holy Eucharist, Rite II, Prayer C (Expansive Language) for Trial Use. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

Back in 2017, I heard people saying we needed immediate prayer book revision for technical fixes to correct sexist language, and I heard people saying we couldn’t have inclusive/expansive language that was orthodox. So I sat down one afternoon and edited Rite II (including prayers A, B, C, and D) to use more inclusive and expansive language. The idea was to reduce the use of male pronouns for God and eliminate them for humanity. Not everyone wants to pray this way, but a number of people were asking for liturgical materials of this nature with some urgency.

Then the talk died down and I sat on my (very quick, low-quality) work. As the 2018 convention drew nearer, I decided that maybe it was worth sharing these liturgies with others for improvement and possible authorization. A number of colleagues used my very rough draft to create much better material, though it was all still done in haste. We presented our work to the convention, and I was actually surprised that our work on prayers A, B, and D was authorized! The committee got bogged down on some issues with prayer C and punted that one. It’s understandable; it’s a lot to take in all at once along with a bazillion other resolutions.

So the 2018 legislative committee punted the expansive prayer C over to the SCLM. They’ve done good work to create a rite that’s worth using for folks who want to use it. I’ll gladly vote to make their perfected version of prayer C available for use in the church.

My concern is that they have created a second version of prayer C. As you will recall, prayer C has a series of verses and responses; it’s more interactive than the other eucharistic prayers. The Canadian Book of Alternative Services (their equivalent to our BCP 1979) has always had a eucharistic prayer that’s quite similar to our prayer C but with a repeated refrain instead of a bunch of different responses. The idea is to make participation a bit more accessible for folks who haven’t memorized all the different responses. So, anyway, the SCLM has proposed a version of the expansive prayer C with a consistent refrain. While I am sympathetic to their aims, I would personally favor a simpler authorization of the prayer C we know and love with expansive language. Then perhaps the other prayer C could be authorized under a different mechanism. It just seems a bit confusing to say it’s “expansive prayer C” when it’s really a whole different animal. But, that said, I don’t object to the content. I’ll vote for this either way, though I’d prefer to separate out their authorization.

 

A057 Continuing Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

In 2018, amidst all the conversations about prayer book revision, the General Convention created (2018-A068) the Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision (TFLPBR). As an aside, there is controversy over how to pronounce the acronym. Some favor tiffle-pibber, while others, including your blogger, prefer tahfel-poober. It sounds German, hence liturgical. But I digress.

The TFLPBR was meant to foster and collect the creation of experimental liturgies, working with folks at the diocesan level. You can read their Blue Book report to see how that went and what they learned. For our purpose today, it is enough to note that they see their task force as having served their purpose. Thus this resolution effectively passes the torch back to the SCLM. Would that all other task forces were so, well, task focused!

I am glad to vote for this, because it commends the ongoing process of liturgical development, and it situates that work where it belongs: in the SCLM.

 

A058 Resolution on Official Liturgical Website for The Episcopal Church. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

This resolution, if passed, will “establish www.episcopalcommonprayer.org, which is already owned by the DFMS, as the official liturgical website of The Episcopal Church?” The resolution goes on to say what should be placed there and clarifies the SCLM as the keeper of the contents.

The website is fantastic, and it’s astounding we didn’t have something like this until it was created in the last few years. It has almost all of the authorized liturgies of the Episcopal church available for free download, along with notes explaining any conditions that might apply to their use. It explains various lectionary and psalter options. And, let me say again, it has easily accessible PDFs of the liturgies you want. (It’s missing the 1928 prayer book, which is still authorized under specific circumstances, but otherwise I think everything’s there!)

I should also add that the website has examples of experimental material available, showcasing some of the work TFLPBR did. In other words, if you want liturgy stuff for the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Common Prayer website offers one-stop shopping.

This website was a gift to the church from TFLPBR and they are handing it over to the SCLM, which is exactly right.

 

A059 Amend Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church (First Reading). Full text. Likely vote: NO, but I am open to persuasion.

In my 2012, 2015, and 2018 tours of the Blue Book, I complained that we have a constitutional problem in the Episcopal Church. Without going all the way into the weeds, our constitution, canons, and prayer book have very carefully laid out parameters for what constitutes authorized liturgy for use in our church. Because clergy are all liable for adherence to the rubrics, it’s important that we know what’s authorized and stick to that material. The issue is that the constitution of the Episcopal Church doesn’t really provide a place to hold important materials such as Lesser Feasts & Fasts and the Book of Occasional Services. So starting in 2018, there were efforts to amend the constitution of the Episcopal Church to encompass the stuff that most people have been assuming is authorized.

Amending the constitution requires two successive General Conventions to ratify the change. In 2018, a first reading was passed (2018-A063) of a change to correct the gap I mentioned above. I believe that what we should do is pass the second reading of this amendment (A145).

This resolution does offer some clarification, but I worry that it will have unintended consequences, something you don’t want in the constitution of your church! The version proposed this year would allow the authorization of “additions” to the Book of Common Prayer, and those additions would still be considered part of the BCP. What’s so bad? The resolution’s explanation makes clear that

…all liturgies that General Convention authorizes following the protocol of Section 2 are part of the Book of Common Prayer. The remainder of the section, setting forth the method of adoption, becomes Section 2. The amendments attempt to shift the Church’s awareness that contemporary and future methods of publication may not be restricted to the form of a book. What General Convention adopts as a prayer book is not a form of publication (a book) but rather the content, i.e., the text of the liturgies.

When it comes to matters of clergy discipline — which rubrics to follow, what is our doctrine, what is our teaching — the contents of the Book of Common Prayer matter a lot. If we move away from a standard book and into a world where some, but not all, liturgies are considered part of the Book of Common Prayer, I worry there will be needless confusion.

It’s quite possible I’m missing something here. While I conceptually support the notion that our “Book” of Common Prayer isn’t a book, I think we need our world to be a bit tidier than this constitutional amendment might make it.

My preference is to pass the second reading of the 2018 proposed amendment, which gets the key job done. The SCLM has given us a new BOS and LFF. They’ll have plenty of time before the next convention to create a constitutional amendment that offers the flexibility — and the clarity — we need. In canons, a small risk is warranted, because it can be fixed later. If we get this wrong and approve it on a second reading in 2024, we wouldn’t be able to fix it until 2030.

 

A060 Endorse Guidelines for Expansive and Inclusive Language. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

This resolution adopts Guidelines for Expansive and Inclusive Language (PDF) that would be used by the SCLM in their work and commended to the whole church. I appreciate the guidelines because they’re concise, clear, and accessible. I might wish they said more about reasons to use “traditional” Trinitarian language at times, but that’s not really the purpose. If I set out to use expansive and inclusive language — as I often do and I hope others will also — these guidelines offer a helpful set of criteria to ponder.

 

A126 A Resolution Supporting a Comprehensive Review of the Book Of Common Prayer, The Hymnal 1982, and other approved liturgical material. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

This resolution instructs the SCLM “to examine all the language of the Book of Common Prayer, The Hymnal 1982 and other approved liturgical material in regard to the colonialist, racist and white supremacist, imperialist and nationalistic language and content as the Commission carries out their revisions.”

We always have to be ready to re-examine our language in light of new understandings. Language evolves, and our understanding of the world evolves. Phrases that seemed fine many people in 1950 would be entirely unacceptable today. It should not surprise us that there will be places in our liturgical materials that will be problematic. So as we carry out our revisions, let’s look at our material.

 

A144 Add Updated Editions of NRSV and New Jerusalem Bible to Canon II.2. Full text. Likely vote: YES

Few know this, but the Episcopal Church has an official list of authorized translations of the Bible for use in worship. You can’t just use any old version of the Bible, though if you want to use one that’s not on The List, you can ask your bishop for permission. Anyway, from time to time we add new versions of the Bible to our list. This resolution adds the latest edition of the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVue) and the Revised New Jerusalem Bible. This is good, because I suspect lots of congregations are already using the NRSVue without knowing it. If you copy & paste your lessons from Bible Gateway, you’ve probably been using NRSVue, because they switched to that version as their default for the NRSV some weeks ago. I will vote for this, because both of these Bible translations will be desirable to some congregations, and they are well regarded by many.

I do want to say three things. First, we need to trim our Bible translation list at some point. Does anyone want to use the Good News Bible (1970) any more? Maybe at a future convention, we could shorten the list a bit. And if someone really does want to drag out those Good News Bibles, your bishop can give you permission.

Second, we only list English language translations. If we want to be an international, multilingual church, we should list official versions of the Bible in at least our other official languages, Spanish and French.

Third, I dislike the NRSVue. There, I said it. If you want to see what’s been changed from the regular NRSV, there’s a sampler PDF available from one of the publishers, Friendship Press. Have a look and decide for yourself what you think. I know many folks will love this, and I don’t want to deprive others of using a translation they find helpful.

Let me just say once more, to end on a positive note, I’ll vote for this resolution. It just adds two new options while keeping all the others, including the RSV and “original” NRSV. (By the way, maybe they should rebrand the 1989 NRSV as NRSV: A New Hope.)

 

A145 Amend Constitution Article X [Book of Common Prayer Supplementary Text–Second Reading]. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

Please see my commentary on A059. I would prefer that we pass this second reading of the 2018 proposal to amend our constitution to make it clear that things like LFF and BOS are authorized liturgies of the church.

 

B009 Liturgy in Response to Mass Shootings. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

The epidemic of mass shootings in the USA is horrifying. Our idolatry of gun worship over our desire to protect the safety of people is a grievous sin for which our nation will one day be held to account.

I think there may well be pastoral occasions when a liturgical response to mass shootings is appropriate or even necessary. Rather than charge the SCLM to create liturgical materials ex nihilo, perhaps we can keep an eye out for effective materials during the next couple of years and then come with a specific liturgical proposal.

It’s also worth pointing out that we have quite a few options at our disposal already in crafting liturgical response to mass shootings and other traumatizing events:

  • The Great Litany with Supplication
  • The Holy Eucharist using the broad provisions for flexible intercessions
  • Propers for various occasions
  • The Holy Eucharist using the provisions under An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist

I’d be interested to hear about needs beyond our current resources. To be clear, I’m not saying that other materials are a bad idea! Just curious. And, again, my preference would be to raise up a locally created liturgy that has been well tested and authorize that at a future convention.

But you know what would be even better? To pass sensible gun regulations and end mass shootings altogether.

 

B011 Amend Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church (First Reading). Full text. Likely vote: NO.

See my commentary on A059 and A145. This is a third attempt to deal with the need for an amendment to the Episcopal Church’s constitution to make clear an authorization for supplemental liturgical forms.

This is the most complicated of the proposed amendments to our consitution. As I wrote above, we do not want to risk creating unintended consequences. So it’s best to keep things simple.

This proposal would create four categories of liturgy:

  1. The Book of Common Prayer
  2. Other Authorized Liturgical Rites, as now established or hereafter amended by the authority of this Church, shall be available for use in all the Dioceses of this Church as specified by canon.
  3. Liturgy “for Experimental Use throughout this Church, as provided by Canon and subject to diocesan Ecclesiastical Authority, alternative and additional liturgies to supplement those provided in the Book of Common Prayer or the Authorized Liturgical Formularies.”
  4. Liturgy “for Supplemental Use throughout this Church, as provided by Canon and subject to diocesan Ecclesiastical Authority, additional liturgies to supplement those provided in the Book of Common Prayer.”

Here we’re going from not enough to too much, I fear. It’s not clear that it will always be obvious what’s experimental and what’s supplemental. Our current practice — and the 2018 proposed amendment — give General Convention the flexibility to set the conditions under which liturgical material may be used. This version vests a lot of power in bishops, who decide if experimental or supplemental materials can be used. I’d rather allow General Convention to have the choice to flat-out authorize something without recourse to a bishop, while preserving the option for them to require a bishop’s permission.

Take the current Enriching Our Worship (EOW) materials. Are they experimental or supplemental? Maybe both? In any case, most (or all) of the EOW material requires a bishop’s permission as set by General Convention. I know dioceses where EOW is entirely forbidden. And I know dioceses where EOW is fully allowed. When I was a parish priest, we were allowed to use EOW maybe six or seven Sundays a year. The point is that under this amendment, every experimental or supplemental liturgy is used or forbidden on the whim of a bishop. I’d rather let future General Conventions decide how, and under what conditions, new material is authorized and used in the church.

Let’s pass A145 or, if needed, A059 instead of this overly complicated solution.

 

C014 On Addressing the Anti-Semitic Impact of Lectionary Readings for Holy Week. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

For centuries, there has been an ugly legacy of anti-Jewish belief and practice among Christians. It is a grievous sin that we must acknowledge and from which we must repent. Perhaps no occasion generated more anti-Jewish violence than Good Friday and its liturgical commemorations. So Christians must always be attentive to that part of our past, but also be aware of damage that we can do today. Anti-Jewish sentiment is not merely a relic of the past.

All that said, I don’t quite think this particular resolution makes sense. It asks the SCLM to “recommend revisions to the Church’s appointed Lectionary readings for Holy Week” but then it talks about the “meaning and intent of the original Greek texts” which suggests we’re talking about Bible translations rather than lectionary choices. There are versions of the Passion narrative from John’s gospel (read every year on Good Friday) that some feel may present less risk of stirring anti-Jewish attitudes. If the intent is to offer some alternatives to the NRSV or other versions of the Bible, then I think we need to say that. If the intent is to offer alternatives to reading John’s version of the Passion, then we need to be clear about that.

This ground has been well trodden, and I won’t rehash various arguments, other than to say that erasing Jews from the narrative is hardly an approach I can commend. And on the other hand, fostering ignorant ideas that somehow Jesus and his disciples (who were Jews) were somehow targeted by Jews is also highly problematic, of course. Clearly we need to educate people on the world of first-century Judea, including the scriptures that emerged then. That education needs to start with clergy who lead worship and preach! But education won’t be the only fix, when people who come to church and sit in a pew may hear readings that cause them to make connections that aren’t in the texts themselves.

All of this is to say, I am sympathetic to the aim here. I just don’t think this resolution, as written, will help us. Let’s remind everyone of the resources we’ve already created and commended, as the resolution’s explanation helpfully offers.

 

C018 Trial use of the “Expanded Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings”. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

In the Episcopal Church, we have two primary cycles of assigned readings. There’s the three-year Sunday lectionary, and for this we primarily use a customized special-for-Episcopalians version of the Revised Common Lectionary. There’s also a two-year daily lectionary used by those who say morning and evening prayer. There are also various daily Eucharistic lectionaries in our corpus of materials.

  • A daily Eucharistic lectionary for Advent & Christmas
  • A daily Eucharistic lectionary for Lent
  • A daily Eucharistic lectionary for Easter
  • A six-week daily Eucharistic lectionary
  • A two-year daily Eucharistic lectionary

The last thing we need is another lectionary, but this resolution proposes exactly that, by authorizing for use something called “Expanded Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings.” The resolution’s explanation notes that several of our full-communion partners are considering this lectionary. Great, if they all adopt it and we want to get on board, let’s do it then. But at the same time, let’s make sure we remove some of the seven (!) lectionaries now printed in our current liturgical materials.

 

C028 All Are Welcome at the Table. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution would repeal the canon which says that “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.” People keep coming back to General Convention with this idea, and it keeps getting rejected. Each time, tempers flare. It’s a fight we don’t need to have.

Let’s review the current situation. Our teaching and our “normative” practice is that baptism is the entry point into the sacramental life of the church. Baptism grafts people into Christ’s body, the Church, and then the body is nourished at the Eucharistic table each week as we celebrate Holy Communion.

Here’s what is also our situation. Every priest I know will place the consecrated bread into any outstretched hands at the altar rail. No one is checking for baptism certificates. I myself have knowingly communicated unbaptized persons, and I would do it again if they approach the rail. No one is going to Title IV (clergy discipline) jail for printing an announcement in their bulletin that all are welcome. Though it flouts the canon, most can see it as a pastoral exception.

In other words, I’m not sure what problem we are solving here. But changing our official teaching on baptism and eucharist would be a radical departure from the consistent witness of the church for twenty centuries. It would ironically remove baptism as a sign of incorporation into the body while we have a prayer book that many people love for its baptismal covenant. How can you have a baptismal covenant if baptism is no longer a sign of membership in the church?

Permit me to make use of an analogy. We have speed limits on our highways, and most everyone agrees that speed limits are good. We also know that you can exceed the speed limit by a little without getting a ticket. No one gets pulled over for going 66 in a 65 zone. And if I’m driving a seriously injured person to the emergency room, it will be understandable that I break a few traffic rules in that circumstance. But no one says let’s get rid of speed limits because of a “hard case” based on the rare need to drive quickly to a hospital.

There are doubtless pastoral “hard cases” where the right thing to do will be to offer the body and blood of Jesus to someone who isn’t baptized. But we need not let that rare exception govern our norm.

Baptism grafts us into Christ’s body. It makes us disciples of Jesus who are committed to following him. As our postcommunion prayers remind us, baptism makes us “living members” of Christ’s body, and we are fed to love and serve God in the world.

When I have visited a synagogue or a mosque, I have always felt welcomed. And in each case, there have been parts of a service that did not apply to me, a person who has not made the commitments to become a Jew or a Muslim. They did not exclude me; I have the option to convert, should I choose to do so. Instead, they welcome me to their heartfelt practice of their faith. It’s an honor to observe and to join where I can. It would make no sense to do things that imply a commitment I have not made.

So too, our current teaching does not exclude anyone. All are welcome to be baptized! Those of us who are baptized gather, among othe reasons, to be renewed in our commitments. Our guests may be less eager to participate in every aspect of our liturgy than we sometimes imagine.

 

C030 Addressing Antisemitic, Anti-Jewish, and/or Supersessionist Interpretations of our Lectionaries. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution is a slightly better version of an attempt to deal with real or perceived anti-Jewish issues in our lectionaries and readings. It encourages us to offer alternative lesson options and to suggest versions of the Bible that may be better from the perspective of those who submitted this resolution. My concern comes from the opening resolve, which charges the SCLM to look at any language that “has been interpreted as antisemitic, anti-Jewish, or supersessionist.” Has been interpreted. By whom?

I have heard people say that when Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he is being anti-Jewish or antisemitic or supersessionist or something because he seems to be implying that others, including Jews, may not have the truth. Well, I’m not sure what to do. Jesus is Jewish. He himself said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He is God, so presumably, he knows what he’s talking about. And so on. But that passage “has been interpreted” has problematic, so does this resolution obligate us to offer alternatives and to avoid its use?

It doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me to have the SCLM look at a few notorious examples in our lectionary and offer some choices or — better yet — some educational resources. But this resolution seems to be overly broad in its mandate.

 

D058 Trial Use of Alternate Liturgy for Good Friday with Revised Passion Gospel. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

I appreciate the good intentions here. As I noted above, the Good Friday liturgy has an infamous history of inciting anti-Jewish violence. No compassionate Christian can turn away from that sinful history. This resolution proposes a trial-use alternative liturgy to that in the prayer book for use on Good Friday.

At the very least, this liturgy needs to be referred to the SCLM for polishing. I won’t go over all of the places that seem rough to me, but I think it’s not quite ready for prime time in terms of being authorized for use throughout the church. It has been used already in Texas, and I would commend its ongoing use and improvement.

The liturgy solves problems we’ve never had (e.g. we’ve never in our prayer book prayed for the “conversion of the Jews”). It adopts “person-first” language, which does not seem connected to the problems this liturgy is trying to solve? So instead of praying “For the sorrowful and bereaved”, we pray “For those who are sorrowful and bereaved.” Is that connected to anti-Jewish action?

Instead of praying “for all who have not received the Gospel”, we pray “for those who have not embraced God’s redemptive love.” But what is the Gospel, if not God’s redemptive love?

And so on. There are some good things here, and perhaps this should be commended to the SCLM for further work.

Lastly, I’ll note that the liturgy comes with a proposed version of the Passion from John’s gospel that is an “emendation” of the NRSV. The explanation does not clarify if the proposers have received copyright permission for this material and for their edits. If not, using this copyrighted Passion (without permission) may literally be illegal. Perhaps it’s all fine and the requisite notice was omitted.

 

D061 Authorize Rite I in Contemporary Language for Trial Use. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

Disclosure: I helped develop this resolution, and I am one of its endorsers.

Those who created the Book of Common Prayer 1979 doubtless believed that Rite I would soon go the way of the dodo. In all sorts of ways, it’s clear that Rite I was included in our prayer book to throw a bone to traditionalists, but that the imagined future was Rite II. And yet, here we are over 40 years later, and Rite I is, if anything, in the ascendancy.

I spend a lot of time traveling across the Episcopal Church, and I have occasion to visit a lot of churches and talk with a lot of lay leaders and clergy. There is, I think, a growing desire to use some parts of Rite I even in churches that have embraced the style and modern idioms of Rite II.

Here are a few things I’ve seen and heard:

  • Churches would like to use the Great Litany from the prayer book, but with yous instead of thees.
  • Some prefer the cadences of the Rite I decalogue over what’s in Rite II.
  • The Rite I Eucharistic prayers themselves have some lovely turns of phrase that are inaccessible to Rite II congregations. If you’re in a Rite II church, you never get to pray “And here we offer and present … our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice…”
  • Rite II churches miss out on comfortable words
  • Some would like to use the Prayer of Humble Access in Rite II

The Rev’d Emily Mellott, proposer of this resolution, drafted a “Rite II version” of a Rite I service of Holy Eucharist using Prayer I. I think it’s lovely. And makes accessible to folks committed to “modern” language some of the theology and poetry of Rite I.

To be sure, there are folks in our church who would like to rip Rite I out of the book and never hear of it again. But there are many who would find this helpful, and I hope General Convention might authorize this service for trial use for those who wish to make use of it.

In this time of liturgical trial and experimentation, I can’t see a downside to offering this choice to those who want it.

 

D062 Affirm Flexibility of Idiom for Authorized Liturgies. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

Disclosure: I am the proposer for this resolution. The Rev’d Emily Mellott also worked on this resolution (see D061).

As I wrote above for D061, I believe there is a growing number of people who would like to make the poetry and theology of Rite I accessible to congregations who prefer modern idioms. In other words, there are congregations who might like to pray the beauty and theology of, say, Prayer I but using you and your instead of thee and thy.

Since 1979, our prayer book has contained a rubric that says, “In any of the Proper Liturgies for Special Days, and in other services contained within this Book celebrated in the context of a Rite One service, the contemporary idiom may be conformed to traditional language.”

This allows you to conform the Palm Sunday liturgy or an ordination — which are only provided in Rite II language — to “Rite I language” with thees and thous if your church uses Rite I. So Rite I parishes are allowed to make a few simple adaptations to harmonize the language for their use. In practical terms, there are some examples floating around, and if your Rite I congregation wants to offer the Easter Vigil, you can find an existing example or make a few simple edits to adapt it for your context.

This resolution would authorize that “any of the liturgies or elements of liturgies published in a Rite One idiom may be conformed to the contemporary idiom for inclusion in the context of a Rite Two service.”

So if I am in a community that prefers “modern” language, I can

  • Use the Great Litany from the prayer book, but with yous instead of thees.
  • Sing the Rite I decalogue but with yous and yours
  • Use Prayer I from Rite I but in contemporary English. My Rite II church would get to pray “And here we offer and present … our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice…”
  • Offer the comfortable words after absolution
  • Use the Prayer of Humble Access

Not everyone will find these options attractive. This is a permissive resolution which expands possibilities for those who want them, using the exact same mechanism we’ve had in place the other way for over 40 years. Until now, you could conform Rite II to Rite I. This resolution just opens the reverse option, allowing the conforming of Rite I to Rite II.

I conducted a completely unscientific twitter poll, to which 314 people responded, because I was curious if others would want to use this option. Clergy said they might use this option at a ratio of about 6-1 in favor. Laity said they would enjoy this option at a ratio of about 5-1. That’s not a representative sample of the church, but it tells me there are lots of people who would enjoy having the option to use Rite I material in contemporary English.

This should be entirely uncontroversial. This resolution simply reverses an option we’ve had since 1979. The church stood through those decades, and I believe it will stand for decades more if the reverse option also exists.

We are in an era of experimentation while we get our bearings for the next round of prayer book revision. Allowing folks to use some existing material is a safe option that will teach us more about what works in today’s church and what does not work.

 

D071 Refer the NET (2019) translation of the Bible to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for Review. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

Like A144, this resolution adds to our list of authorized Bible translations. In this case, if passed, this resolution encourages the SCLM to consider adding the New English Translation (2019) to our list. I know little about this version, but I see no harm in asking the SCLM to give it the once-over to see if it’s something we should include on our list.

Image by Kentaro Toma on Unsplash.

10 Responses

  1. Scott, are you planning to address calendar issues? Lesser Feasts 2018 desperately needs a lot of work.

    • Scott Gunn says:

      That’s next!

    • Cathy Bagot says:

      D062 – gives us the opportunity to have some important conversations. I don’t object to the Prayer of Humble Access; I do question its placement in the liturgy. To say “we are not worthy” after we have made our confession and been absolved of our sins seems totally out of place. Where else might it be included in the liturgy?

      • Scott Gunn says:

        The point of the PoHA is that God is always merciful. It’s a prayer about God’s mercy, and how it is given to us freely, regardless of anything we’ve done or not done. But we can disagree over this prayer and where/whether it should be used!

  2. Ginny Berkey says:

    I agree about Lesser Feasts needing work. I thought your commentary on the issues coming up for vote were very well thought out. Thanks.

  3. Mark says:

    Surprisingly, one of the readings at a wedding this summer will be from the Good News Bible. The bride, a Latin teacher, always brings two translations of the Bible with her to Bible Study: a Latin text and the Good News Bible. I don’t, however, know anyone else who uses that translation anymore.

  4. Hello Scott, I’m very appreciative of your hard work here. This was very helpful to me. I’m looking forward to reading about your thoughts on the church calendar.

  5. Michael Paul says:

    Hi Scott. Our parish priest sent the link to your summation to me because she knows I am a liturgical junky. I appreciate your hard work and look forward to Part 2. Just a couple of notes!

    Regarding “All are Welcome,” I agree with you wholeheartedly. My father was Catholic, and at his memorial service, the Catholic priest allowed me (knowing I was an Episcopalian) to receive communion. I did not expect to partake, but in our meeting prior to the service, he was gracious to grant me permission to accept this sacrament. I am a cradle Episcopalian who was brought up with the phrase, “All Baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion.” Special circumstances understood, and acknowledged, and make sense of course, but removing the sacrament of Baptism as a prerequisite to the sacrament of Communion seems to defy the definitions of our Sacraments themselves.

    Regarding Rite I with Contemporary Language, let me start out with I was confirmed May 20, 1977. This is significant because the current prayer book was in its infancy and priests and choir directors were trying to make Rite II words fit into the traditional Service Music of a very old hymnal. (Yes, I am a choir person.) The Rite I words still worked, but Rite II was a train wreck. Obvious this changed in 1982, but it was touch and go there for a while. I am a Rite I fan. I will “to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen” (BOC, page 339) until the cows come home. Over the past 45 years I have participated in almost every know and unknown service the Episcopal Church ever did or did not authorize, but there is just a meditatively beautiful in the transition from our prayers, confessions, and absolution to the Peace of the Lord when utilizing the comfortable words. I feel this is lost on this generation of Episcopalians. If this is a way to bring some of that beauty back, go for it.

    And finally, I love Eucharistic Prayer C. “… and this fragile earth, our island home.” (BOC page 370) is just beautiful. I have memorized all the Eucharistic Prayers (again choir person) except for C. I would rather follow along in my prayer book; the call and response makes me feel a spiritual part of the one body, one spirit in Christ. If utilizing “Expansive Language” will encourage priests to use it more than once a year at the service only the choir will attend, again, I saw go for it.

  6. Mark says:

    The prayer book itself has a gentle nod toward rendering Rite I language in a contemporary idiom with the rubric at the beginning of Prayers and Thanksgivings: “pronouns and verbs have been put in italics to assist in rendering them into contemporary speech.” The ability to do that fully should be an easy move to make

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