Category : Liturgy, Music, Worship

Gavin Dunbar’s report on The Episcopal Church(-TEC)’s General Convention of 2018

General Convention 2018 is now over, thank goodness. What it all means is far beyond human comprehension, and I make no attempt to comprehend it. But there are some matters worth reporting.

In a dog’s-breakfast compromise motion initiated in the House of Bishops, a proposal for comprehensive revision of the 1979 was scuppered. Sort of. In rather odd language the motion
“memorialize[s] the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as a Prayer Book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, The Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian formularies ensuring its continued use” (Resolution A068). Aside from the grammatical difficulties, I don’t understand how “memorializing” something “ensures it’s continued use”. Isn’t that something you do for the dead?

To put a positive spin on this resolution, it insulates the 1979 BCP – including the remnant Cranmerian texts of Rite I – from further revisions, which in the current climate could only have been disastrously bad. In particular it preserves the preface to the 1979 Marriage rite, and its teaching (in accord with the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10) that “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and the man enter into a life-long union” that is “intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another…; and, when it is God’s
will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (pp. 861, 423).

Yet the very same motion authorizes “the ongoing work of liturgical and Prayer Book revision …upon [sic] the core theological work of loving, liberating, life-giving reconciliation and creation care”. In a remarkable move, it sidelined the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and established a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision, with membership appointed jointly by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, “ensuring that diverse voices of our church are active participants in this liturgical revision by constituting a group of leaders who represent the expertise, gender, age, theology, regional, and ethnic diversity of the church” (sic). (There was a kafuffle about inadequate provision for participation by Spanish-speaking Episcopalians from the Central American dioceses – but based on prose like this, the English-speakers should have been complaining too.)

The inclusion of “theology” in the categories of diversity raises a hope that is quickly dashed by the requirement that such revisions “continue in faithful adherence to the historic rites of the Church Universal as they have been received and interpreted within the Anglican tradition of [sic] 1979 Book of Common Prayer” – wording which carefully excludes the actual historic
and pre-1979 Anglican tradition of Common Prayer. So much for theological diversity.

They are to be “mindful of our existing ecumenical commitments” -but not in accordance to them, language that was thought to be objectionably limiting – “while also providing space for, encouraging the submission of, and facilitating the perfection of rites that will arise from the continual movement of the Holy Spirit among us and the growing insights of our Church”. I quote this dreadful prose in full with the same horrified pleasure one has in pulling off a scab. Moreover, they are to “utilize the riches of Holy Scripture, and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, class and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship [sic]”; all of which means the revisions must “utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity” – i.e. not the language prioritized by Scripture and tradition.

To no one’s surprise, they “shall incorporate and express understanding, appreciation, and care of God’s creation”. There is more, but you get the picture. If the 1979 BCP has been
preserved in aspic, and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music deprived of control of liturgical revision, two very modest wins, the floodgates have been opened to liturgical and theological folly. The one hopeful note is that little or no funding has been provided for this untethered experimentation.

One other relevant decision: Resolution B012 makes same-sex marriage rites available for all congregations that wish to use them, subject to authorization by their rectors or priests-in-charge. While that opens every diocese to same-sex marriage, it also protects the conscience of every rector who can withstand the vilification that will fall on those who avail themselves of this right. So there you have it: “the future of God’s mission through the Episcopal Church of the Jesus movement” (sic).

–The Rev. Gavin Dunbar is rector of Saint John’s, Savannah, Georgia

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

(Wash Post) The Episcopal Church (TEC) will revise its beloved prayer book but doesn’t know when

The church has already authorized many alternate texts, which churches can use as supplements to the Book of Common Prayer, with gender-neutral language. To address the strong demand at the conference for the lessening of male imagery for God in Episcopal services, the conference authorized more of those texts and voted to make them more widely available.

In the past, priests needed the approval of their bishops to use the supplemental texts; now, any priest can choose to use them, [the Rev. Ruth] Meyers said.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, TEC Bishops, Theology

(ENS) TEC Diocesan bishops who blocked same-sex marriages take reluctant first steps toward allowing ceremonies

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

ACNA’s Liturgy Task Force seeks feedback on Initiatory and Pastoral Rites

In April, when the Liturgy Task Force met to finalize the lesser daily offices, the Great Litany and the Lent and Holy Week rites, 277 feedback emails significantly assisted the Task Force in shaping the final forms of those services.

The last appeal for feedback was hugely successful. We are nearing the home stretch. According to a recent survey by the Barna Organization, 1 in 10 active Christians uses the Book of Common Prayer daily. The BCP 2019 will form a generation of believers. Let’s make it the best it can possibly be.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Liturgy, Music, Worship

(NR) Americans Quit Church but Still Search for Meaning, Now as Loners

People may be looking to nontraditional beliefs in their search for meaning, but there are reasons to doubt that those are effective substitutes for religion. Religion may be a uniquely powerful meaning resource because, in addition to providing a needed space for spiritual engagement, it binds individuals to a meaning-sustaining social fabric. Many alternatives to traditional religion are products of an increasingly individualistic culture, more focused on personal interests and less on social duties. However, the more a belief system promotes interdependence, the more likely it is to enhance meaning. Research shows that belongingness increases a sense of meaning, whereas loneliness and social alienation undermine it. Similarly, the people who are least vulnerable to existential anxiety perceive themselves not just as distinct individuals but as part of broader social and cultural groups. Religion is best able to serve an existential function when it cultivates strong family, friendship, and community bonds. This isn’t to say that religion doesn’t have its own problems. After all, humans are involved. When people form groups, whether secular or religious, they become susceptible to in-group biases that can contribute to social conflict.

It is no small matter that, in their search for meaning, people are turning to beliefs that may not reliably generate and maintain meaning. Viewing life as full of meaning is associated with a wide range of positive health outcomes, including longevity. People who believe they have an important purpose in life tend to be motivated to take care of their physical, mental, and social health and are better able to manage the many challenges and stressors of life. Moreover, feeling that life is meaningless is a risk factor for depression, anxiety, problem drinking, drug abuse, and suicide — which are all on the rise in America.

It isn’t enough to make life longer, easier, or even more pleasurable. People need to feel that they matter, that they are meaningful members of a meaningful social world. Not all beliefs in the supernatural or paranormal help to fulfill this need equally. Our society is becoming not more truly secular but more individualistic and, as a result, more likely to suffer from an epidemic of meaninglessness.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(ENS) At TEC General Convention, the Marriage rites resolution is heading back to House of Deputies after a small amendment by the Bishops

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(1st Things) Carl Trueman–Common Prayer, or Predictable Politics?

That, I suspect, is one reason why the basics of the Prayer Book stayed in place for so long, with revisions being for many generations of the minor sort. Consensus on the fundamentals remained steady, and the changes were accordingly cosmetic. By contrast, the last century has witnessed liturgical change after liturgical change wrought by the various Anglican and Episcopal groupings around the world. None of these changes, as far as I can tell, embodies anything like significant improvement in either prose style or theological content. Tracing the revisions would no doubt prove a fruitful, if depressing, topic for a Ph.D. thesis, as the revisions witness to an age of restlessness and shortsighted obsession with the latest fads.

One of the reasons for this is surely that Christian liturgy—and God himself—have become victims of the abolition of the pre-political: Even those universals of human existence mentioned above—birth, sex, death—have become the political issues of the day via abortion, LGBTQ rights, and euthanasia. For the postcolonial mindset, to hold to a traditional liturgy that refuses to play the games of a pan-politicized world is to take a political position. And so traditional liturgy comes under relentless pressure to conform to the latest piety of the dominant political lobbying groups. When politics is everything, God loses his awesome transcendence and human beings take center stage. And the momentary afflictions of the professional victims displace the eternal weight of God’s glory. Historic, biblical Christianity thus becomes irrelevant—no, worse: It becomes the instrument of oppression.

That is why it is no surprise to see that the Episcopal Church in the USA is doing what it does best: planning to screw up the faith of its people yet further by eliminating gendered language about God from the liturgy. It is pulling off the remarkable hat trick of demonstrating profound ignorance about how God-language works, reinforcing the denomination’s divorce from anything resembling historic Christianity, and making itself yet again into a rather insipid and irrelevant tool of the liberal political establishment whose approval it apparently craves.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

(TLC) At the TEC General Convention In Austin, Many Bishops are Reticent on Prayer Book Revision

Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan was one of several who said a grand book revision might be dated even before its completed, especially in an era when advances in media technology are challenging the value of traditional books.

In a nod to the need for church growth, Bishop Rob Wright of Atlanta asked whether a carefully revised book will represent misplaced resources if it lands ultimately “in pews that are empty.”

“I wonder if this isn’t just classic work avoidance,” he said.

Some concerns raised on the floor brought theological issues to bear. Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virginia recalled how a theological imperative made the 1979 revision important and worth doing at the time.

“What drove it coming into being was deeply theological — primacy of baptism and centrality of Eucharist,” Johnston said. In 2018, “a lot of the language I hear driving this is demographics and sociology.”

The bishops’ prayer book debate contrasted sharply with the House of Deputies discussion on July 6.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, TEC Bishops

(ENS) TEC General Convention Deputies Say Yes to Prayer Book Revision

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Book of Common Prayer, Atonement, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Food for thought on a Saturday–from the Visitation of the Sick in the (older) BCP

And there should be no greater comfort to Christian persons, than to be made like unto Christ, by suffering patiently adversities, troubles, and sicknesses. For He Himself went not up to joy, but first He suffered pain; He entered not into His glory before He was crucified. So truly our way to eternal joy is to suffer here with Christ; and our door to enter into eternal life is gladly to die with Christ; that we may rise again from death, and dwell with him in everlasting life–will be quoted by yours truly in the Sunday sermon tomorrow

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Book of Common Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) US TEC bishops seek to halt Prayer Book revision and deter more from departing

A compromise that would avoid making changes to the Prayer Book’s references to marriage has been proposed by bishops in the Episcopal Church of the United States, in an effort to avoid the departure of members who hold a traditional view, including immigrant and non-US Episcopalians.

The resolution, prepared for discussion at the 79th General Convention, due to begin in Austin, Texas, yesterday, seeks to widen access to marriage in the eight dioceses where gender-neutral rites approved for trial use in 2015 have not been authorised by the bishop. It proposes that these bishops provide “delegated episcopal pastoral oversight” to their congregations, on request.

Unlike the resolution put forward by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, however, it does not propose any changes to the Prayer Book (News, 25 August 2017).

“While the great majority of Episcopalians celebrate the gains that have been made in our Church for LGBTQ+ persons, many of us also regret the schism, division, and departure of members who have faithfully served our Church for many years,” the proposing Bishops, of Long Island, Pittsburgh and Rhode Island (all of whom have authorised use of the rites), wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Wa Post) Is God male? The Episcopal Church (TEC) debates whether to change its Book of Common Prayer

The terms for God, in the poetic language of the prayers written for centuries, have almost always been male: Father. King. Lord.

And in the Episcopal Church, the language of prayer matters. The Book of Common Prayer, the text used in every Episcopal congregation, is cherished as a core element of Episcopal identity.

This week, the church is debating whether to overhaul that prayer book — in large part to make clear that God doesn’t have a gender.

“As long as ‘men’ and ‘God’ are in the same category, our work toward equity will not just be incomplete. I honestly think it won’t matter in some ways,” said the Rev. Wil Gafney, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Texas who is on the committee recommending a change to the gendered language in the prayer book.

Gafney says that when she preaches, she sometimes changes the words of the Book of Common Prayer, even though Episcopal priests aren’t formally allowed to do so. Sometime she switches a word like “King” to a gender-neutral term like “Ruler” or “Creator.” Sometimes she uses “She” instead of “He.” Sometimes, she sticks with the masculine tradition. ” ‘Our Father,’ I won’t fiddle with that,” she said, invoking the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to say in the book of Matthew.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology, Theology: Scripture

More GK Chesterton Food for Thought–A Creed is not Credible in one era and the not in another

An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century.

–GK Chesteron Orthodoxy, Chapter V

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

(David Ould) Melbourne Anglican Church and Clergy take part in Same-Sex Wedding

It is now evident that the wedding was planned in order to avoid breaking the letter of each denomination’s law while clearly violating their spirit. The Baptist Union of Victoria prohibits its ministers from conducting same-sex weddings but has no equivalent prohibition on its buildings. The Anglican Church prohibits both minister and building. Thus we have the use of a baptist building, with Anglican ministers who are not technically officiating at the wedding although they clearly take a significant part in it (Rev. Moore essentially conducted the service). Finally a former baptist signs the paperwork.

It is a clear challenge to the teaching, doctrine and good order of at least 2 major denominations.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the First Book of Common Prayer

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, did restore the language of the people in the prayers of thy Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Church History