Committee 10 (Part II): Sundry resolutions for Prayer book, liturgy, and music

book of common prayer

Yesterday I blogged about the 20 (!) resolutions that deal with the calendar of commemorations in the Episcopal Church. Today we look at the bazillion resolutions about all other liturgies and liturgical sundries headed to the committee on prayer book, liturgy, and music.

Please read the opening of yesterday’s post, wherein I rant (again) about how we have fostered liturgical chaos in the Episcopal Church for well over a decade. It’s not just the calendar. We’ve produced all sorts of sloppy and error-filled liturgy over the last few years. As I said, I don’t lay all the blame at the feet of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. They are all volunteers, and I believe they are all doing their best. The issue is that we don’t fund our liturgical work adequately, so we fail to pay for the liturgists, scholars, poets, editors, proofreaders, layout and typography experts, and production managers who would be required to do excellent work. Relying on well-intentioned but overworked volunteers, we should not be surprised at the quality of results we see.

There are two solutions to fix this, and we need to do both. First, we need to reduce the scope and scale of our liturgical work. Our existing, already-authorized, liturgies provide an enormous amount of flexibility. Speaking of this, by my count, we have 12 authorized Eucharistic prayers plus four build-your-own prayer outlines. The second thing we need to do is fund our work at a proper level.

Let’s talk about prayer book revision for a second. This is a hotly contested area. I’ll go on record right now and say that I think it’s time to begin the process which will lead to our next Book of Common Prayer. And yes, I think it needs to be a book. How will we do this? It must not begin with a bunch of folks sitting down in front of blank screens in Microsoft Word to generate liturgies to fix their pet peeves. Nope. Let’s do the next BCP just like we did the 1979 book.

We should begin with 20-25 years of scholarly work on liturgy, theological anthropology, and liturgical theology in a post-pandemic, post-Christendom, pluralistic world. Before we start writing baptismal rites, we need to have a sustained conversation on the meaning, function, and purpose of baptism — to name but one example. Then as that period of scholarly reflection concludes, we can start to produce high-quality liturgical material. Based on a rigorous testing and feedback process, we can start to shape what will become our next BCP. During this entire period, we probably need two or three (or more) full-time liturgical folks on staff at the churchwide level. We need qualified professionals who are paid for their time to oversee and coordinate this work.

I thought about writing a resolution to this effect, but I knew we’d already be overwhelmed with too many resolutions on liturgy, so I held off. On that note, let’s look at the non-calendar resolutions.

 

A077 Additional Guidance for Inclusive and Metaphorical Language. Full text. Likely vote: NO, unless amended.

Ironically for a resolution seeking inclusion, the explanation includes links to documents for which no Spanish translation has been provided.

If passed, this resolution would ask the SCLM to place additional material in the Guidelines for Expansive and Inclusive Language approved at General Convention 2022 (fortunately, these guidelines are included as documents both in Spanish and English). I support the general aim here, which is to ensure that people who are crafting liturgies are mindful of the impact of language — taking special care to avoid, for example, ableist language.

I would like to see the mandate for these guidelines amended to take  care to see costs of using or not using particular language. For example, the explanation suggests that to speak about our “walk with Jesus” is ableist, so we should say “go with Jesus.” I see the point, but it’s worth noting that even “go” could be problematic for some folks who may suffer from phobias of various kinds. My point is that there is no way to include everyone. It just can’t be done. I would also suggest that there may not be a consensus on what constitutes ableist language. So we have to measure the impact — good and bad — of our language. This is the proper subject of a book, so please pardon me for not dwelling on this point here.

Also, the mandate is overly broad in the final resolve, which directs that “these guidelines be referred to Dioceses, Interim Bodies of General Convention, Executive Council and related bodies, Provinces, Church Publishing, and other organizations of the church for serious reflection and consideration when writing, speaking, or educating on behalf of the church.” This would suggest that someone teaching a class in a tiny church should ensure they are complying with the guidelines. While I fully agree that we all need to be careful in our speech and writing — it is part of loving our neighbors — we also want to take care in creating an environment in which many people are reticent for fear of running afoul of guidelines that may or may not always be relevant to a particular context.

I could support this if the mandate and intent are made clear, and if the guidelines also examine the impact of language with the sense that some language may be helpful to one group and unhelpful to another, for example.

 

A090 Authorization of 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

I completely agree with the proposers of this resolution that we want to enshrine the place of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as licit in all dioceses for all services of the church. But that is already the case, by our constitution, canons, and rubrics. We don’t need to say what is already true. Now, if there are bishops telling clergy they can’t use the BCP, then those bishops need to be subject to a Title IV proceeding for violating the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church. We live in a time of liturgical chaos, and I think we do best if we can fix problems at the source. If the problem is that bishops are not permitting the BCP to be used, then let’s deal with those bishops accordingly.

On a related note, as we get to the resolutions on Article X of the constitution and Title II of the canons, I will have some words about why I think it’s unhelpful if we try to say that “the Book of Common Prayer” somehow includes things that are not in, you know, the actual book.

 

A109 Commend and Expand Liturgical Resources in Recognition of the End of Slavery. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

In response to a resolution (2022-C004) from the last convention, the SCLM proposes that it should “continue to develop liturgical materials in consultation with church leaders in nations, commonwealths, or convocations of churches where The Episcopal Church has dioceses or convocations and where slavery is a part of the national history.” This seems like a good idea. Essentially, it takes the US-focused Juneteenth liturgical work and expands that to similar commemorations in other nations of the Episcopal Church. The resolution also specifies that the materials created might be headed for the Book of Occasional Services or another “appropriate location)” which also makes sense. I implore the people making these liturgies to do so in at least English and Spanish, and probably other languages, too.

 

A111 Develop resources and models for online/in person hybrid worship. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution asks the SCLM to “to develop resources and models for online/in person hybrid worship that reflect best practices, the variety of settings in which Episcopal churches are located and the technology, budgets and bandwidth available to them.” Right now, with no General Convention action whatsoever, any congregation that wants to learn how to stream its services better can contact another congregation and start learning. Also, Google exists even though we have not legislated it into existence. So I don’t think the cause of any lousy streaming is the lack of resources and models. For some churches, it’s their choice not to invest in the people and equipment to do this well. For others, especially smaller ones, it’s a training/teaching issue. That problem is best solved at the diocesan level, as most dioceses have communications staff who could help those folks out. So this seems like General Convention trying to do a thing that does not need to be done.

I would also add that we need to have a larger conversation — without General Convention involvement — about when streaming worship does or does not make sense. I know several clergy who have stopped streaming because they felt that it was counterproductive in disciple-making, as it enables people to halfway pay attention to church from their couch instead of being involved in an actual community. When I asked one priest about their shut-ins who might only have computer access, she immediately responded, we send them eucharistic visitors as often as they’d like to receive Holy Communion. No, I’m not saying we should all stop streaming. But I am saying we should talk about why we are doing this and for whom. That will also guide resource allocation.

 

A112 Authorize use of the “Expanded Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings”. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

There are currently at least seven different lectionaries available to us in the Episcopal Church: the Book of Common Prayer 1979 eucharistic lectionary, the eucharistic Revised Common Lectionary, the daily office lectionary, a daily Advent lectionary, a daily Lenten lectionary, a daily Eastertide lectionary, a six-week eucharistic lectionary, and a two-year weekday eucharistic lectionary. We absolutely. Do. Not. Need. Another. Lectionary.

People who pray the daily office have a perfectly good lectionary for that. People who want daily mass have a veritable buffet of lectionaries available.

We already have confusion. I know this, because my employer — Forward Movement — publishes daily resources for prayer and devotion. It is pretty common for us to get calls about why we have this reading instead of that reading. On rare occasions, it’s because we got it wrong. We’re human, after all. But almost always, it’s because the caller was confused about which lectionary applied.

Less chaos, more formation.

We. Do. Not. Need. Another. Lectionary.

 

A113 Affirm Flexibility of Idiom for Authorized Liturgies. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but I would like to see an amendment.

On page 14 of the BCP, you can find this rubric: “In any of the Proper Liturgies for Special Days, and in other services contained in this Book celebrated in the context of a Rite One service, the contemporary idiom may be conformed to traditional language.” So we are allowed to take Rite Two material and conform it to Rite One language when we want to worship in the thee/thou idiom. This resolution would permit the opposite. The entire text is “That Bishops be encouraged to permit Rite I liturgies to be adapted to the contemporary idiom.” This would allow someone, for example, to use one of the Rite One eucharistic prayers in a congregation that does not love thee/thou language.

I hope we offer this option, because I know there are quite a few folks who would like to make the theological richness of Rite One available in communities that prefer contemporary language.

If I could, I would propose one change though. Rather than drag bishops into this, because they already have plenty to do, let’s just allow the opposite of what has been permitted for almost 50 years. Let’s have General Convention say, “In services contained in this Book celebrated in the context of a Rite Two service, the Rite One liturgies may be conformed to traditional language.” As far as I’m aware, 50 years of permitting Rite Two to be conformed to Rite One has resulted in no heresy convictions. Let’s just streamline the opposite. But if our bishops feel like they need to manage this, I’m up for trying this as is.

I see little downside and plenty of upside to allowing more Episcopalians to experience the riches of Cranmer’s work in new ways.

DISCLOSURE: I proposed resolution 2022-D062, which would have done exactly this. But that was a curtailed General Convention, and the legislative committee preferred to punt this matter to the 2024 General Convention for completely understandable reasons. We had a lot to do and little time. So this was rightly deferred. Let’s approve it now, please!

 

A114 Authorize for use Expansive Language Versions of Eucharistic Prayer C. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if referred to the SCLM.

In 2018, General Convention authorized “Expansive Language” versions of Prayers A, B, and D for use within our church. The legislative committee at the time could not agree on how to deal with several issues in Prayer C. These expansive versions minimize masculine pronouns to refer to God, and a number of congregations have found them helpful. This is not totally my cup of tea, but I’m perfectly happy to support a breadth of liturgical worship in our church. I don’t have to like everything that every Episcopalian does!

This resolution adds an authorization for an expansive version of Prayer C. There’s lots of good stuff here, but I also noticed a few typos and errors. See the introduction for why I don’t blame the SCLM for this. I’d like to see us spend a few thousand dollars to get these rites perfected before we authorize them. There’s probably an opportunity to publish an improved iteration of A, B, and D, too. And we can do this in at least English and Spanish while we’re at it.

The committee has also created a version of Prayer C that uses a repeated antiphon instead of a varied set of verses/responses now found in Prayer C. The Anglican Church have Canada has long had this option, believing that the prayer may be more accessible if the assembly can instantly memorize their lines. But this is new material for our prayer book, not a “translation” into expansive language. So I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m favorable toward offering options for celebration — when it is unlikely to lead to chaos. On the other hand, I’m not totally persuaded we’re solving an actual problem here, and this was a bit outside the mandate we gave the SCLM to do expansive language work. If everyone else is super excited about this, I could support it.

But the bottom line is that the proposed Prayer C is not ready for prime time.

P.S. One of the liberties they took is using “(May) God be with you” instead of “God be with you”. God be with you — or The Lord be with you — is a declaration, not a wish. Adding May undercuts what is meant to happen. That’s just one example of a theological innovation in these materials that requires careful scrutiny, plus there are typos.

 

A115 Authorized use of alternative texts for the Good Friday liturgy. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

Christians have had a long history of anti-Jewish thought and action. Good Friday has been particularly problematic, in some places and times leading to the beatings and deaths of countless Jews at the hands of Christians. Of this evil, our church must repent.

Some people believe that the Good Friday service in our current prayer book contains anti-Jewish elements. I’m not sure I agree, but I completely agree that perception matters here and that we must err on the side of loving our Jewish neighbors. So I’m all for trying out some adjustments to the Good Friday liturgy as proposed here to ease the concerns from some quarters that our liturgy is anti-Jewish. The attached liturgical material, which is thankfully provided in both Spanish and English, has a few very minor tweaks to the current rite, including a new Solemn Collect for our Jewish neighbors. It also offers some new options with the proper lectionary of the day. Finally, the resolution calls for translations of this material — which is all to be provided free of charge electronically — into the key languages of the Episcopal Church.

I’m not sure I love every line in the new material, and there are a couple of places that absolutely rub me the wrong way. But I see no reason not to give this a try and to collect feedback. Then we can offer perfected materials to the church in due course.

 

A116 Marriage Rites for Inclusion in the Book of Common Prayer (First Reading). Full text. Likely vote: NO, unless amended.

Our current prayer book marriage liturgies were written with male/female pronouns at a time before we contemplated offering marriage to couples of the same sex. Since 2015, the Episcopal Church has offered liturgies to solemnize the marriages of couples of the same sex. These started as experimental trial liturgies, and they have matured in subsequent triennia. We have a complicated situation in that if we remove the current liturgies from the BCP, some folks may feel they no longer have a home in this church. Meanwhile, other folks may feel they are not yet fully welcome in the church if our BCP marriage liturgies do not include provision for same-sex couples. (I’m simplifying here; please pardon my brevity.)

It’s not clear to me if the intent here is to replace the current prayer book marriage liturgies with the attached material, which would encompass same-sex couples — and which would could also be used by opposite-sex couples. Or is the intent here to add this liturgical material to what is already in the BCP? Either way, it will mean printing new books. That would lead to some confusion on the ground. “We will now recite Psalm 67, which you can find on either page 675 or page 705, depending on which version of the BCP is in your pew.”

We are left balancing competing demands of all sorts. For some, changing the current BCP is a bridge too far. For others, not changing it is unacceptable. Printing new books is expensive. Not printing new books means that liturgies are not really in the book. I have some thoughts on this, but I am a married straight guy who favors LGBTQ inclusion. Others will have vastly different thoughts.

In any case, the liturgical material is not yet at the state that it’s ready to be printed in books. The bidding removed theological language that seems essential to setting forth the divine foundations and purpose of marriage, and I think we’d want to add the original language back or craft new language. I’m not sure I understand all the changes to the proper lectionary. Finally, if we are going to create new, fresh inclusive liturgies for marriage, we might want to make room for people who use they/them pronouns.

The draft liturgy is beautiful, and it is quite close to having been perfected. We just need a bit more time, and we need to invest in the necessary resources to make this ready. Perhaps in a triennium, we’d be ready to add this to books, having thought through all the logistics of creating new books. Meanwhile, couples of the same sex have access to these liturgies right now. Thanks be to God.

 

A130 Developing alternative hymn texts. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution seeks to create a hymnbook of alternate versions of the hymns we currently sing due to “problematic language.” I fully agree that some texts have not aged well, occasionally containing language that may seem racist, for example. Some others will be looking for hymns that avoid calling God either Lord or Father. If passed, the SCLM would spend $200,000 creating a collection of altered hymn texts. It would be made available, according to the SCLM’s Blue Book report, via RiteSong a software service offered by Church Publishing. I do not know if RiteSong is available outside the USA, but I do know it is not affordable for smaller congregations. So this resolution would create a resource that is only available to wealthier congregations by digital download.

Right now, congregations who want to use music from outside the Hymnal 1982 can do so. If there are concerns about the rubrical restriction of page 14 of the BCP (“Hymns referred to in the rubrics of this Book are to be understood as those authorized by this Church.”), I would point out that I don’t think the General Convention ever authorized Lift Every Voice and Sing II; Wonder, Love, and Praise; or Voices Found. So we’re already using all manner of material not explicitly authorized. No one is going to Title IV jail for using an updated version of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the king of creation.”

So I agree that some hymns could benefit from an update, though I suspect lots of us would have different criteria on this. But I don’t see a need to spend $200,000 on a resource that will not be available to all Episcopalians — especially when any congregation is more-or-less free to use new versions of texts right now, without General Convention action.

 

A131 Creation of a Supplement to The Hymnal 1982. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

If passed, this resolution would seek $750,000 to create a supplement to the Hymnal 1982. The argument put forth is that lots of great new material has been created in the years since our last supplement about 20 years ago. Perhaps. But I have not yet heard of people asking for a new hymnal. As I wrote in the previous resolution’s commentary, congregations can already find and use other material.

I’d want to see some data before agreeing to spend $750,000 on this project. Last time there was talk of a new hymnal (about 10 years ago), CPG did a survey and it turned out most people did not want a new hymnal. Who wants this supplement? Who would buy it? If there is demand, could the $750,000 be raised by advance sales? In other words, let’s try a Kickstarter model and let proponents pay for the thing they want. If it turns out lots of people want this, great! And if few people line up to put down money, maybe this is a thing only a few people want.

Before I was ordained, I was a church musician. I’m proud to have used LEVASII and WLP regularly, along with the Hymnal 1982. I have no beef with supplements. But I suspect that many congregations are producing service leaflets with the music they want already, and it wouldn’t accomplish much to spend lots of money on a hymnal supplement in today’s church. If data say I’m wrong, I’ll change my mind.

 

A160 Revise Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer. Full text. Likely vote: YES, if amended.

This resolution, if passed, changes the catechism where it teaches about Holy Matrimony. Instead of saying “the man and the woman” it would say “two people.” This makes sense to me, as it is our current teaching as a church. What I’d like to clarify is whether we are creating an updated catechism as a kind of supplement, perhaps a PDF? Or are we proposing to amend the BCP itself, which would require two readings and new printing? If the latter, I’d want to ensure that this change does not alter the pagination of the book in order to avoid confusion in local churches.

My employer publishes resources, and if this is intended to create an updated catechism without modifying the BCP itself, I can say that we would gladly print the updated catechism for use and distribution in the church, and I’m sure the same is true for my friends at Episcopal publishing houses.

 

B001 Experimental Creation Care Language for the Baptismal Covenant. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution would add two questions as ninth and tenth questions in the baptismal covenant: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all, and respect the dignity of the Earth and of every human being?” and “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?”

I can’t support this for two reasons. First, we already promise to safeguard the earth when we promise to love our neighbors. It is not loving toward my neighbors to trash their air and water. We don’t need to name every sin and every virtue in the baptismal promises. The folks did a pretty great job of a holistic view of virtue, sin, and repentance when they created the baptismal covenant for our 1979 book.

Second, this is another case of liturgical material not being ready for prime time. The first question has a period instead of a question mark. If we added these questions as contemplated, a person would answer the following questions as their eighth and ninth response: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” and then “Will you strive for justice and peace among all, and respect the dignity of the Earth and of every human being?” That’s…mostly repetitive.

So we don’t need to add these questions. And if we are going to do it, we need to make sure we’re offering really solid material.

Climate change is the biggest threat to human well-being right now. We should reflect that in our life as a church. I just don’t think this is it.

 

B003 The Tree of Life: an Armenian Rite for Holy Cross Day. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution asks for authorization of liturgical material provided in English only.

If passed, this resolution would “make available” liturgical material to be used after Eucharistic celebrations on Holy Cross Day. Everyone, please raise your hands if your congregation even has a celebration of Holy Eucharist on Holy Cross Day. The liturgical material is lovely, though it is clearly from a Christian realm outside Anglicanism. It’s a lovely realm! But there’s a fine line between appreciation and appropriation. Is it weird for an Episcopal congregation to dabble in Armenian Orthodox liturgy? Maybe? Or maybe not. But either way, I’m not sure there’s demand for this.

Since the proposal is for this to happen after a public service of the church, there’s not much to stop a congregation from using this material now, with no need for authorization by General Convention.

If we are going to use this material, I would need to know that some Episcopal person or group has been in touch with the Catholicos of All Armenians to make sure they’re comfortable with us using the material. And I’d want to learn more about the rite, its history, and its origin.

I think we have bigger fish to fry as a church than a liturgy which could possibly be used by the tiniest fraction of congregations.

 

C018 Amend Title II, Canon 3 to Retain a Printed Form of the Book of Common Prayer. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

As I have said again and again, we have loads of liturgical chaos in our church. Can you imagine the chaos that will be introduced if we say that Book of Common Prayer is not the book you are holding in your hands but a collection of materials that includes that book and other things which are not readily viewable in one handy place? Imagine this conversation. “Hey, that’s a cool prayer, where’d you get it?” “The BCP.” “Wait, from the Book or from the…other stuff?”

I think we would do well to keep the Book of Common Prayer and then have a second book, perhaps the Book of Common Prayer Supplement” or the “Book of Additional Services” or some similar name. The advantage of a book is that it can be regulated. There is never any doubt about what is licit and what isn’t. We can have a Custodian who reviews publications and ensures that official books are reliable sources of liturgy. None of this precludes us from also having electronically available liturgy.

As written, this amendment would require the Custodian of the BCP to review a PDF you decide to upload it to your church website. It would be a crushing burden and create needless red tape. If we focus our energy on maintaining the integrity of printed books, we are agreeing on a uniform, readily available source of liturgical material that can be regulated and monitored. Under current rules, a publisher such as Forward Movement contacts the Custodian for a certificate if we are printing a new prayer book, but you do not need to contact the Custodian for a certificate to make a service leaflet or to put material on your website. That’s because everyone understands that our book is an official record of liturgy, and we know that your service leaflet may not always be in complete conformity.

There is another reason not to pass this amendment. Clergy are liable to follow the teaching and rites of the BCP subject to discipline. Right now, I can point to exactly what I am pledging to follow. In the world contemplated by this resolution, I would not always know what standard is being used to measure my adherence to doctrine, discipline, and worship.

So, sure, we might need more material these days than can fit in one book. But let’s just agree on one or more books, which can be made available freely online. People point at the Church of England and decry it: see they have a BCP and a whole library of things in Common Worship. What a mess! You know what’s more of a mess than a shelf full of books? An always-evolving warren of PDFs that no one quite comprehends.

As we struggle with a post-book world, let’s not create unknown chaos by amending our constitution and canons to redefine what a book is. Let’s instead focus on developing the highest-quality liturgies available and then having a conversation about how to organize them.

Meanwhile, the SCLM has done us all a big favor with episcopalcommonprayer.org, which has most authorized texts in one handy place with helpful notes.

 

C032 A Prayer to Remember the Innocents. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but for referral to the SCLM.

The first resolve says that our church “expresses remorse for the role The Episcopal Church played in the irreparable harm suffered by Indigenous children who attended Indigenous boarding and residential schools in the 1800s and 1900s and acknowledges that the effect of that harm carries on in boarding school survivors and their descendants.” Yes, of course, we express remorse for the horrific sins committed in Christ’s name by the church.

The resolution then offers a lovely prayer for use by the church, as well as some suggestions for remembrance and repentance. I’m all for that. The material included just needs a bit of work to be ready for use. So let’s refer this to the SCLM for them to perfect what’s here. Meanwhile, we can work and pray for a just world. And those who benefitted from the terrible treatment of indigenous people can be urged to repent.

 

D002 Review canonical requirement for Holy Communion. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

I don’t know how many General Conventions in a row various folks have been seeking to change our church’s teaching on Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. This resolution seeks to have the SCLM study whether we should change our practice of invitation to Holy Communion. I’ve written about this a fair amount on this blog, so I will just note three things here today.

First, I myself have communicated unbaptized people, and every priest I know agrees that we offer Holy Communion to those to come to the rail and put their hands out for Christ’s Body. We might also want to have pastoral conversation with the person. But I have never once heard of someone being summarily removed by the ushers for daring to approach the rail as an unbaptized person. You’d think this happens all the time to hear some people talk.

Second, when I was the rector of a growing church, my experience was that most of the time unbaptized people did not, in fact, want communion. They were looking for an encounter with the divine and participation in the church, and they typically wanted to talk about baptism. What problem are we solving by communicating the unbaptized?

Third, Holy Baptism has been seen as the primary entry point for new Christians by the universal church for its entire history. I’m sure one can find an outlier here and there, but the consistency of witness is remarkable. We shouldn’t change that on our own. We lack the authority to change the teachings of the church catholic.

We can offer warm invitations to the altar rail to all people, for communion or a blessing. We can offer Holy Baptism as the sacrament of inclusion instituted by Christ himself. We can be gracious in all things. There is no need to change our teaching.

It is ironic to me that plenty of folks seem to talk about the Baptismal Covenant and so-called “open table” at the same time. Do you see the irony? Our first and highest aim should be to encourage people to be adopted in God’s family, the church, through baptism. And, of course, we should love our neighbors who choose not to be baptized. We have made a thing out of a thing that does not need to be a thing.

Let’s get back to disciple-making, please! And probably instead of talking about new communion invitations, we should be doing some basic catechesis about the meaning and purpose of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

 

D035 Authorize The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage. Full text. Likely vote: YES, if amended.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll note that there are, broadly, two sets of liturgical material intended to solemnize the marraige of same-sex couples. One of them is the form that very closesly parallels what’s in the 1979 prayer book. The other is more innovative, offering a completely new shape for the marriage rite. My sense is that the later rite is polarizing. Some people really hate it, and others feel it is vastly superior to what’s in the prayer book. In any case, this resolution authorizes this alternative marriage rite for continued use. I’m fine with that, but I don’t think we need to draft Article X into it, as the resolution now says. We can simply say “The General Convention authorizes for use within the Episcopal Church…” I do think that one day this rite may be ready for inclusion in the BCP, but that day is not yet here. Still, let’s keep it authorized. And kudos to the proposer for attaching the rite in Spanish and English.

 

D036 Sacrament of healing within the context of worship services. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution seeks to study “the annual frequency of Public Services of Healing (BOS); whether bishops bless Oils for the Sick at a Chrism Mass, or other service; and whether contemplative practices are available in parishes.” It’s not clear to me why this study is important, what we will learn from it, or how the results might change our church. The explanation rightly says that healing services are important and that folks may not get a lot of training in this area. True and true. But I don’t see the need to launch a major project right now. We have plenty of other things going on.

 

D041 Support the Adoption of an Ecumenical Feast Day of Creation in our Liturgical Calendar. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

The proposers say that there’s a massive global and ecumenical movement to celebrate a Day of Creation in the liturgical year. This is proposed for September 1. I probably should have included this resolution over in my post about calendar commemorations. Oops. I’m not convinced this is a necessary or a good idea. We already have calendar confusion, and we’ve tinkered with the calendar endlessly. Even if that weren’t an issue, I’m not sure that a fixed day celebration on September 1 will get much traction. We already have materials for a season of creation. There’s nothing stopping any church that wants to from having a votive mass on September 1 in thansgiving for creation. We don’t need General Convention to tell people they can do this.

10 Responses

  1. Scott, I am with you on A109. Need French and Haitian Creole, as well as Spanish.

  2. Len Freeman says:

    An amazing review of these materials… And yes, having one BCP, in a real book, makes great sense for clarity, continuity and theological integrity. Additional materials in accompanying books, or online texts would provide “expansion” but Lord knows we have more eucharistic etc texts than we can “shake a stick at”…. with the problem of losing the commonality of our “common” worship, and by extension our community in fact. Good work on all this Scott… hope it’s being extensively read.

  3. Ward Nelson says:

    Excellent commentary. Thank you!

  4. Gerry Wolf says:

    Excellent work, Scott. I’m surprised at how many younger priests are committed to using the BCP as is. I also agree that we have a plethora of alternate choices. If one reads the rubrics carefully, there are far more options that can result in a more “inclusive” liturgy as presently written. However, there could be changes that further enhance our worship if well written and theologicallly sound.

  5. James Richardson says:

    Scott, D002 is sponsored by me but the work of many. It is not “open communion” but attempts — or attempted — to have a reasonable conversation about why we have such a negative canon about communion (it starts with “No unbaptized person may….”) rather than an invitation to baptism and communion (it could say “All baptized people are invited…”). This resolution is already dead in Committee #10, with the bishops voting to “take no further action.”

  6. Martin Geiger says:

    One of the changes C018 makes really does need to happen and has nothing to do with whether “The BCP” is a book or not. The current canons on the standard Book of Common Prayer say that the standard BCP is “The copy of the Book of Common Prayer accepted by the General Convention of this Church, in the year of our Lord 1979” – But we have altered the BCP several times since then! Most notably by adopting the RCL but also by changing the calendar. We already update the signature at the front, and presumably the standard BCP, so this canon doesn’t seem to match our actual practice. Changing the definition of the standard BCP to include changes made through the process in Article X just reflects our actual practice.

    • Scott Gunn says:

      Sure, we could publish a new Standard BCP every time we tweak it, but that’s going to be expensive. They’re folio volumes, produced in a small run and then they’d go out to the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the various dioceses. I’d imagine that would cost something like $50,000 each time. Maybe worth it? As it is, the Standard BCP is unchanged, but the custodian simply issues a new certificate after each tweak, certifying new print copies with the latest tweaks. Church Publishing has made the PDFs available as well (as does Forward Movement from our printing).

  7. Micah W. says:

    Two thoughts:

    On A114, you referred to the “expansive language” versions of prayers A, B, and D. When I originally skimmed the liturgies after GC2022, I thought to myself, “Hmm, OK, seems fine, no big deal.” But then when my parish tried some of these texts for the first time, I was struck by the theological losses. A few of the changes seem positive: “by the grace of Jesus Christ” in the absolution, for instance. But most were net losses, notably including in multiple places in beautiful post-communication prayer: “as living members of (your Son) our Savior Jesus Christ”. The whole prayer is built upon the relationships between the Father, the Son, and us, all united through this communion. The entire theology of prayer is destroyed by removing words here and there. The language in these versions is *not* expansive—it is limiting. It isn’t an improvement for those who love the words of the texts as they were carefully created and edited, and have been prayed and shared; and it isn’t an improvement for those who seek truly expansive ways to address and speak about God. So let’s authorize trial use of high-quality, theologically rich, truly expansive prayers; but let’s not redact our existing well-crafted and well-loved prayers merely to reduce instances of masculine pronouns and referents. The side effects have not been adequately reckoned.

    On the subject of Prayer Book revision in general, I mostly agree. We do in fact need a new BCP at some point, and I believe it should be an actual book. I also agree that it’s crucial for this work to be of high quality and well funded. Despite its flaws, the 1979 BCP has held up remarkably well; its rich theology and beautiful language have united and supported the praying church for decades! This is a testament to the skill and labor of the creators and administrators behind the revision process.

    However, I think the exact scope of a new BCP revision is up for debate. We are tired as a church, and are still struggling for a shared vision on certain things, including the direction of our liturgical materials in the broadest sense. So while you say “We should begin with 20-25 years of scholarly work on liturgy, theological anthropology, and liturgical theology in a post-pandemic, post-Christendom, pluralistic world,” similar to our lead-up to the 1979 BCP, I’m not sure the next BCP needs to be on exactly the same scale. The 1979 revision was a more radical shift than anything that preceded it; it doesn’t necessarily follow that the next one needs to be equally radical (that can wait for the one after!). I think we need a new BCP soon, if only to do things like firming up the theology of confirmation, streamlining the layout of Morning Prayer, removing problematic language from Prayer C or perhaps adding Eucharistic Prayers from EOW, helping same-sex couples not be liturgically second-class members of our communion, or even simply using “them” instead of “him” in prayers for specific individuals. AD 2048 too late for liturgical marriage equality. Fully going through a more modest revision process allows us to, in the future, start from a place of these changes most of us can agree on and then build on that commonality, rather than combine the need for simple, urgent changes with the daunting uncharted territory of radical revision, which we may not be quite ready for as a church.

    • Scott Gunn says:

      The think whether the next BCP needs a radical revision is precisely the kind of question we need to ask in a sustained period of study, exploration, and conversation. There are folks who think we just need a few tweaks, and others who are actively ignoring the current book already because they perceive that it is out of step. So let’s figure this out.

      Plus, we have shown that we are not great at just sitting down and writing liturgies.

      But in all things, YMMV!

  8. Heath Hutto says:

    I’m confused by your statement under A114 that “One of the liberties they took is using “(May) God be with you” instead of “God be with you”. God be with you — or The Lord be with you — is a declaration, not a wish.”

    It seems obvious to me that the statement is a subjunctive one and not a declarative one:

    1) A) Parallelism in the mass: While there’s no verb in the Latin “Dominus vobiscum,” the statement is parallel to “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum” (the peace of the Lord be alway with you) where we do have a subjunctive verb. The parallelism is enforced by the fact that in the Roman rite the bishop says “Pax vobis” rather than “Dominus vobiscum.”
    1) B) Parallelism in the source: In Ruth 2:4 we have “Et [Boaz] veniebat … dixitque messoribus: ‘Dominus vobiscum’. Qui responderunt ei: ‘Benedicat tibi Dominus'” — the reapers resond with the subjunctive “benedicat,” which would suppose that the introductory statement was also in the subjunctive.

    2) A) BCP Translation 1662 Matins into French “Le Seigneur soit avec vous.”
    2) B) BCP Translation 1979 Communion into French “Le Seigneur soit avec vous.”
    2) C) BCP translation 1979 Communion into Spanish “El Señor esté con ustedes”
    2) D) BCP Translation 1892 Matins into German: “Der Herr sei mit euch.”
    In all of these foreign languages which require a verb, the subjunctive and not the indicative has been used.

    3) A) Fowler’s Modern English Usage has no declarative use for “Be” under that entry.
    3) B) The OED has no declarative use of “be” as the third person singular.
    3) C) The OED explicitly cites “Cursed be he that…” as an example of the subjunctive use of “be.”

    Just as in “the peace of the Lord be alway with you,” it seems clear that “be” in “The Lord be with you” is an optative (to be precise, precatory) subjunctive and not a declaration.

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