Four Possible Paths for the Book of Common Prayer

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) will be sending to General Convention 2018 four different paths forward for its consideration in regards to the Book of Common Prayer and liturgical renewal.  It will request that General Convention 2018 select one of the four paths that will chart the SCLM’s course for the 2018-2021, and 2021-2024 triennia.  The SCLM is looking for a clearly articulated (and funded) mandate for its work going forward.  The four paths are:

1) Full and comprehensive revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer beginning after the 2018 General Convention;

2) Creation of comprehensive Book(s) of Alternative Services and no revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, with work beginning after the 2018 General Convention;

3) Intensive church-wide conversation between the 2018 and 2021 General Convention about whether a revision of the Book of Common Prayer is needed or desirable; to what extent; and whether, if revision is not desirable, the Episcopal Church should instead develop significant supplemental liturgical resources, such as a Book of Alternative Services;

4) A step back from efforts toward comprehensive liturgical revision or creation of new liturgies, and an accompanying commitment to deepening the collective understanding of – and engagement with – the theology of our current liturgies.

In shorthand, four possible paths forward are:

  • Revise Book of Common Prayer
  • Create Book(s) of Alternative Services, and leave the BCP 1979 alone
  • More talking, listening, researching, and discerning
  • Deepening our relationship with the 1979 BCP

In addition, General Convention 2018 could choose to combine path #2, #3, or #4 with another option, which is to develop “technical fixes” to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  Technical fixes are adjustments in grammar, punctuation, and word choice that do not change the theology, poetry, or intended meaning of the text.  (for example: in Eucharistic Prayer C – changing “you made us the rulers of creation” to “you made us the stewards of creation” or adding the matriarchs along with the patriarchs).  The SCLM will offer to General Convention 2018’s consideration a clear and detailed definition of the meaning of “technical fixes” and a list of specific examples.

The option that General Convention chooses will shape the ways in which the SCLM gathers information from the wider church after 2018.

A news release regarding our plans, and describing some of the methods of data collection we envision, was sent on December 5 to the wider church.

Resolution A169 of the 2015 General Convention directs the SCLM “to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the current Book of Common Prayer and present that plan to the 79th General Convention.”

 

 

60 thoughts on “Four Possible Paths for the Book of Common Prayer

  1. Looking through what is in each of the 4 options, and thinking about the likely outcome of focusing exclusively on each direction, it seems to me that the combination of efforts most likely to succeed at Convention, and produce the most helpful results would be to focus on Option 2, and also focus on a commitment to deepening the collective understanding of – and engagement with – the theology of our current liturgies (2nd 1/2 of Option 4). It’s important to understand that, while our efforts must have a direction, it does not need to be an exclusive either/or approach. There is room for both of these things in our sacred reflection space. I will be interested to hear about others’ conception of what they would like to see, moving forward.

  2. I appreciate this post and others. Personally, I hope the General Convention decides to move slowly, but confidently, with revision. That revision might take a few cycles of General Convention (and should). Alternative rites, listening, researching, and deepening our relationship with the 1979 Book could easily be part of the revision process.

  3. As a “technical fix” please do away with the reference to “unknown sins” in the confession on BCP page 393. “Unknown sins” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. It is impossible for an “unknown” action to be deemed a sin because in order to sin one must KNOW that the choice one is making is sinful and proceed to make the choice nonetheless: i.e., intention is the essential core of any determination of sin. As ascetical theologians tell us, unconscious, unknown, or unintentional actions can never be defined as sins—errors maybe, flaws perhaps, mistakes even, but sins, never.

    • I love the idea of deepening relationship in understanding 1979 BCP. It might be fine to have a book of alternates, but leaving the 1979 as the most usually used. Thank you for the chance to express myself.

    • Every Sunday, Orthodox Christians pray before receiving Communion: ” … forgive my transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, in word and deed, in knowledge or in ignorance … “

  4. I do not want to fight a BCP war. Please keep the ’79 BCP as it is and change the Book of Occasional Services or EOW all you want. There are certain things that could warrant BCP revision, but also much that, if included or deleted, would fracture the church more.

  5. As a younger person who only joined the Episcopal Church in the last five years, I’m still mining the deep riches of the 1979 BCP. I frankly do not see the need for revision at this time and think there are way more important things we as a church could be focusing on. We’re barely winding down from the chaos following Bp. Robinson’s consecration in 2003 and KJS’s tenure as Presiding Bishop from 2006-2015, and people are already itching to start up what will probably be the next contentious issue, prayer book revision?? Can we maybe instead catch our breath for a decade and have time as a church to just *be*, and do the work of the Gospel? I don’t see what the urgency is here. We don’t need change for change’s sake.

    • So well and thoughtfully said, Bryan. The Episcopal Church has much bigger fish to fry than flipping words around to “better” communicate with God.

    • I wholeheartedly concur. The current process of “fixin’ what ain’t broke” every few decades, represents a great deal of energy and initiative which could be better spent on growth, self-examination, and outreach. And that goes for the Hymnal, as well!

  6. One of the best ways to accomplish (1) is to really do (3) and (4). If you examine the Prayer Book Studies that led up to the 1979 BCP, there was solid scholarly and pastoral discussion until about 1970/PBS 19 or 20, when it seems that the task of getting a new book out overwhelmed the sort of reflection which was typical of the earlier PBS. The parts of the 1979 book that have worn well seem to correlate with the study that was put into their preparation. SCLM could do much worse than to restart PBS, particularly in the areas which received little study or trial use (e.g., the Holy Week services), but have been active areas of scholarly development in the last 50 years, or those areas that were simply overlooked (e.g., the correlation of collects and lessons).

  7. Before deciding on one of these routes, it would be well if the issues that are in need of revision (or at least attention) could be enumerated. There are a couple of issues, like the state of inclusive language, that I could identify as needing attention, and there are probably some specifics that need adjustment. It should be noted, for instance, that women’s ordination and the 1979 BCP were approved at the same convention, and thus there was a quick stop-gap about gender replacement of pronouns meant to make it possible to pass the new BCP without revising it–it makes sense 40 years later to do something more intentional about acknowledging that there are women clergy. However, these are not just technical fixes–the one illustration of a “technical fix” is hardly likely to assuage the anxieties of anyone who is concerned that revision might spin out of control–replacing “rulers” with “stewards” is not a question of archaic language, or a spelling mistake, it is that the term “rulers” is theologically or ethically objectionable to those who wish to change it. It may well be a good idea, but it is a question of theological substance. Such things should not be simply labelled as “technical” and of no account, rather it should be enumerated among the issues that need revision (not the single case, but the language that has become problematic over time).

    There are many that are far more anxious than I about BCP revision. However it is important to me that we have a single agreed-upon prayer book, lest divergences in worship spiral to the point that we have nothing in common. I don’t think that we need to be in a terrible hurry to complete the project. It’s important in principle to agree on what we’re doing. Then the project probably takes several stages. Even within our current canons, it would be possible to approve [let’s say, just for example] the first reading of a new BCP that was unchanged except for a revision of Rite II Eucharist, with revised Eucharistic prayers and prayers of the people. Then the progress on the Collects, the Daily Office and the Psalter could go forward and be incorporated as they were ready for approval. While it might appear awkward to have BCPs officially dated at 2024, 2030, 2033, and 2039, it would be a simple thing to authorize continued use of established books while this is happening and many congregations would use the new liturgies in locally printed services anyway. The strongest argument for this, is that the current Psalter needs as much revision for inclusive language and other problems as any part of the 1979 BCP. But, with our current resources and the feelings that would run around that revision, psalter revision could easily hold up final passage of a new BCP until 2039 or later. That is too long a delay for revision of the most heavily used portions of the BCP, but I would rather see a long-term agenda for overall revision, with way stations of success along the way, than either tossing aside needed revisions as too hard or waiting for the whole thing to be done.

    [I see that I haven’t even mentioned the pastoral parts of the BCP–Marriage clearly needs an update at an early time, and I think that constructive suggestions could be made and incorporated in the visitation of the sick for instance–but such things take time and reflection and some trial use]

  8. Can we take out the word “unworthy” from the Book of Common Prayer when referring to humanity? God declared Creation very good in Genesis 1, and Jesus’ sacrifice declares us all worthy. While “unworthy” is a synonym for “undeserving” by denotation, its connotation carries a different meaning and one that is devastating for many people.

    • God only declared creation “very good” before the fall. I think your intentions are good, but I find the theology behind your proposed changes very problematic.

  9. It’s about the same time as between the 1928 and the 1979 book, considering it would take many years after the work started.

    • True, but that transition didn’t really go as smoothly as it could have. Many parishes departed because of the ’79 BCP (and in fairness, also over women’s ordination). Some notable parishes still cling to the ’28 BCP to this day. The process was handled so poorly, General Convention eventually put out a resolution apologizing for the pain and division it caused. My point is mainly that we shouldn’t necessarily look to the ’28 -> ’79 transition as a model.

      • Maybe a way forward would be to start with the 1928 BCP as a basis. It was well beloved and reasonably simple. The 1979 BCP at about 1000 pages became very unwieldy imho.

  10. I’d prefer choice 3 and/or 4, with an emphasis on re-understanding, as a church, the role a BCP plays and has played in Anglican spirituality both corporately and individually, so we start any revisions or alternatives with the big picture in mind. An excellent study resource for this would be (among others) Inwardly Digest, recently published, by the SCLM’s Derek Olsen. Another is Martin Thornton’s superb English Spirituality. And of course Prayer Book Spirituality along with its study guide, from Church Publishing.

  11. I traveled through the revision process for the 1979 BCP. It was a long trip, but it gave me a good understanding of the prayer book and it’s intention for the services. Having been raise on the earlier version, I appreciated the Rite 1/Rite 2 option which seems now to have morphed into many options. Church brings many things to me, but when I am seeking comfort and strength, the familiar brings them.
    Personally, I don’t want a total revision. I certainly do not want revision that is meant only to make the Church or the service more appealing to someone just dropping in one Sunday. The need that brings someone through the door may be simple, but the commitment to God is not. Let us love those who need some warm place to sit, or food, or music to enjoy, but let us better educate those seeking to follow Jesus using our BCP as it was intended.

  12. I concur with Fr. Kadel above and that some combination of #3 and #4 are the best way forward at this time. We simply haven’t yet discovered the riches of this edition sufficiently yet. We should be in no hurry at this point. Conversation is always good, and some minor updates to marriage and to the liturgies for death and dying would be useful. Authorization of a single inclusive Psalter could go in to trial use for a while. I suspect most of the impetus for BCP revision is from clergy who are bored. I’m fairly certain that most of our laity have no deep desire for extensive revision.

  13. I really appreciate Walter Knowles’ post: “One of the best ways to accomplish (1) is to really do (3) and (4).” I’m a little worried that we as a church have not done so and want to put the cart before the horse.

    As others have commented, the fourth option listed in their blog is my favorite. I might be biased considering that I’m young and joined TEC recently in the last few years. The 79 BCP, with its biblically grounded liturgy that helped me ingest the Word of God and understand historic Christian spirituality, is in large part the reason why I joined this denomination.

    And yet while I’m continuing to discover new and wonderful things about the 1979 BCP, I sometimes sense an implicit pressure from the worship practices of many Episcopalians (e.g. a parish that is always using another country’s Prayer Book or Enriching Our Worship) to regard it as boring and outdated. It makes me wonder if we as a Church have really made enough of a commitment to the current Prayer Book as a teaching tool and as a spiritual system (which is how I treat it).

    Let’s look at Inwardly Digest, the recent book from former SCLM member Derek Olsen. He said ina recent interview that he designed this introduction to introduce people to the Prayer Book as a system of spirituality (a la a Benedictine Rule) rather than as a liturgical textbook full of disparate historical documents (a la the approach of Hatchett’s popular Commentary on the American Prayer Book).

    My question is: why did it take nearly 40 years for a book like this to come out? How many Episcopalians are taught (explicitly or implicitly) that Page 355 is all there is to the 79 BCP? If we want to embrace #1 for the next generation, then it seems that we still have yet to undertake the work required of #3 and #4.

  14. There’s not a great deal that needs work, but returning to some more ancient language, like Rome did, I feel is in order, since we followed their lead after Vatican II. A few things: 1.) “V. The Lord be with you. R. And with your spirit.” transcended East and West, Latin and Greek, and was the greeting and response for 1900 yrs. There’s no good reason other than personal preference to resist changing back, and in the face of all that history and tradition, personal preference does not hold up. 2.) Scrapping “It is right to give God/him thanks and praise” to a leaner, more elegant “It is right and good”, for that’s how all the prefaces start, and reduces clunky pronoun problems and, frankly, unnecessary made up phrases. 3.) Lord God of “Hosts”, instead of “power and might”, for the star imagery is lost with the newer, made up phrase, which inserts as well an earthly militarism out of place to the phrase. Look up at night, there’s the Hosts, for there’s been much research about the connections between stars and angels in the ancient tradition. Falling star? Some angel on an errand. Star of Bethlehem? An angelic figure. This imagery is there for a reason, and the imagery always comes before the interpretation, and always supersedes made up nonsense like “God of power and might”. 4.) Tighten up the Triduum liturgies, well…Thursday and Friday anyway, they’re a bit of a mess, and during a time when we should all be experiencing most similarly some of the most ancient of liturgies, there is the most variation just handed to a bunch of Anglicans that hadn’t had a real Holy Week in the Western (or Eastern!) tradition for 450 years. Some parishes do it right, but most make a real mess of it, and people stay away, showing up in their Easter best with their scrubbed children like nothing ever happened but a big parade and a few shed tears the Sunday before. When there is already a tradition (Roman Holy Week), and we have a claim to it, just do it. Also an hour of sloshing about with tubs of water in the middle of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is frankly ridiculous and keeps me away. Wash feet beforehand in the parish hall or some such place, with the Maundy Gospel, blessings, etc. (not unlike Palm Sunday, with its Processional Gospel, palm blessings, etc.) , then, clean and bathed and in the loving state of mind, process to the church for the Lord’s Supper Mass. If you don’t want your feet washed, you don’t have to sit around for an hour watching everyone else, and the symbolism is a more likely order.

  15. We have had FORTY YEARS to engage in “deepening the collective understanding of – and engagement with – the theology of our current liturgies.” And most clergy I know – including myself – have worked hard to achieve this “deepen[ed] collective understanding.” The answer is not to retreat into a liturgical shell – that’s the fearful response. I suspect it might be a response to those who ended up creating the Prayer Book Society in response to the work done to create the BCP 1979.

    Speaking as rector of a congregation that only uses the Supplemental Texts at our main Sunday service (BCP Rite I at 8:00 a.m.!) I can say categorically that most folk don’t want to go back, especially those who joined our parish after we began doing this, now more than 10 years ago – for them, this IS Episcopal worship – the only service they know. And when a 96 year-old says “this is wonderful” I have the strong sense that its not just the “rite stuff” it’s the “right stuff.”

    What is required in this time of enormous change is a commitment to deepening the collective understanding of – and engagement with – ” the wonderful work done SINCE the 1960’s-1970’s by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. If that results in a new BCP then I’d be very happy. If it results in a Book of Alternate Services I’d be less happy, but still fine with it.

    The other two options would, in my opinion, be a disaster for the Episcopal Church.

  16. It seems to me who grew up with BCP 28; missed most of the Prayer Book Studies except for some experience with the Zebra Book including marriage but have used the BCP 79, various rites from both the BOS and the various EOW that a combination of # 3 and # 4 should be our first steps–what have we used, what are the theological underpinnings, and what are the conclusions that both lay and clergy come to as a way of discerning what we should do in the future. I like the idea of a series of learning and conversation opportunities using the various seasons of the church year–shorter studies for the shorter seasons and longer ones in ordinary time. Many churches in my experience are looking for something to do in the way of Lenten studies–give them some questions and supplemental materials to assist in developing valuable conversation and then include a response piece to the SCLM. In the diocese in which I am living there are a number of churches without resident clergy so as materials for study are developed, they should be as approachable with or without clergy leadership.

  17. Please move slowly and deliberatly with respect to Anglocatholic theology. Please don’t hi dme yet another reason to leave the church. So many have left already due to liturgical revisionism and focus on words such as “he” rather than what is truly important.

  18. It is time for a new Book of Common Prayer. There is a richness in liturgy and in theology as well as with music that we must take into consideration. Like unto it, we also need to see a new hymnal. I am a former organist/choirmaster – and there is so much richness.

    It is time. Be not afraid.

  19. I consider myself one of those (unfortunate) rarities these days, being a 25-year-old Episcopalian-by-choice who has been elected to serve the vestry of a growing parish (at Valley Forge).

    Of these options, the only one I can see being even remotely likely to avert further rupture is #4. I have heard for myself of the strife the last time a new Prayer Book was introduced, and have worshiped according to the rubrics of the ‘old’ Prayer Book now and again. Strike #1, as we the Church have been wreathed in controversy for the past two decades, and this is not a hill worth dying on. Even in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, whose cathedral holds many peculiar observances indeed, the announcement that revision was being studied provoked a torrent of angry murmuring last Convention. Please, don’t let’s go through that again any time soon.

    #2 is equally unpalatable. Being Anglo-Catholic in churchmanship, I have seen for myself the diversity of worship practices that results from alternative service books. I departed the ELCA, where I was born the son and grandson of pastors, in direct consequence to their ELW confection of the mid-2000s. I earnestly beseech you to not overlook what “Common” in “Book of Common Prayer” means by imposing instead a Babel of unrecognizable alternative liturgies.

    But, as an Anglo-Catholic, I speak with the many who rejoiced in the Church’s first steps in BCP 1979 to seek to restore the richness of the full breadth of our tradition of Faith. It is, after all, the best-kept secret in Christendom. And I shall pray that this trend of restoration continues. (Preferably to the point at which Rite 1 consists of the ’28 Holy Eucharist and Rite 2 consists of the Missal Mass.)

    A combination of #4 tempered with a touch of #3 would be a great help to many. I say this with deep love for our holy Church, but Episcopalian catechesis is… rather a hot mess, really. When it does occur. It is a point of dismay to some that our parish is shepherded by Lutheran priests-in-charge-but they at least have the capacity to make the words of the Prayer Book sing joyfully in our hearts, even as it is. Perhaps, if we are to be the Church and bear the Light of Christ in this broken world, this might be more important than attempting an ill-advised makeover in the name of ‘relevance:’ IN the world, but not OF the world.

  20. Deepest thanks and appreciation to everyone who works hard to craft our beautiful liturgies. As an enthusiastic user of the liturgical (and musical) materials devised since 1979, I wish they were available in a format that made them easy to use in the pews. Our congregation makes an all-inclusive leaflet using all the materials the church has authorized, but it’s labor-intensive and not a realistic option for everyone. Whatever you create, please make it available for free in editable pdf/Word files and for minimal cost in printed booklets or books that churches can afford to buy enough of to use.

  21. As a 28-year-old somewhat recent Episcopalian, I am very concerned with this new process. Where a denomination spends its energy says a lot about what it values. I believe we should spend our energies on energizing our part of the Jesus Movement to serve more than spend our energies and resources on another round of prayer book revision.

    I feel that if we go forward with wholesale prayer book revision, it will mostly reflect the linguistic and sociological understanding and expectations of people born prior to the Moon landing. I’ve noticed that most of our diocesan conventions and national conventions are full of people who have paid their dues to the church, and are thus significantly above average in age, and also tend to be educated, wealthier, straight, and white (though not necessarily male). The Church is about to see a raft of retirements from the clergy and lay leadership over this coming decade. This is a chance to tell a new generation what The Episcopal Church is all about. We spent so much energy in the culture wars of the 2000s in order to show the world that we are an inclusive and modern church with ancient roots that I fear pouring resources into yet another internecine dispute will harm us further. Not to mention, many of the social changes are quite new. Nationwide Same-Sex Marriage is only a year and a half old. Who knows what our society is going to do with Transgender rights and inclusion. I feel as if we are on the verge a new Native American rights movement. The Romans, who we typically follow to a small extent, changed their liturgy only in 2011. The Archbishop is also changing things like the uniform date of Easter and the Nicene creed. So until these are settled, minor tweaks to add inclusive language and the handful of alternative services approved by convention should be enough to hold us through 2021 and even 2024 without a wholesale revision.

    The Episcopal Church is shrinking no longer because of the politics of human sexuality, but because the Church is not doing a good enough job at attracting my generation. And study after study (look at Pew) shows that my generation seeks authenticity of faith in action. The church does not need to spend its energy changing the one thing that makes it unique and beautiful. We need to fully lean toward presiding Bishop Curry’s call to be a part of the Jesus Movement and really see a renewal of the service-basis of our baptismal mission, just like the Methodists did a century ago.

    If we have to make significant changes, I would suggest that the commission first create a set of 20 most likely changes or points of contention. Then choose a different set of seven or so Sundays a year across liturgical seasons and ask all churches to submit their bulletins and liturgical practices with several binary choices across the 20 disputes to simplify the input (like did you say saying or omit the Nicene creed, which confession did you use if at all, and which Eucharistic prayer choice did you make? Then also ask for any substantial alterations to the liturgy) Perhaps also pick a few weekday services to look at.
    In each of the next three years, we could rotate which seven Sundays that might be. In the next year A, we could take Avent one, whereas in your B we could pick Advent three or four. So at the end of the three-year study, we would’ve had 21 different Sundays, that are from all three of the lectionary influences, from roughly 6000 parishes full of data. Combine that data with existing statistics on average Sunday attendance and church growth, and we could see what the most successful parishes are doing with liturgy and music.

    I have grown in deep admiration and love for this denomination and intend to seek a vestry seat or other leadership within the next fiveish years if they need me. In worship, I need a deeply-scriptural liturgy to give me comfort and conviction. So I say no hasty action. Clean up the alternative services book and EOW if you want, and then we can see about a wholesale revision. But such revisions should only come when the next PB is elected with the understanding that S/He would have the shepherd us through the difficult process.

    I hope that was helpful. Thanks for reading.

  22. We have a great treasure in the current Prayer Book. Let’s not throw it away. Minor tweaks, such as replacing “all men” with “all people” in the Rite One liturgies is fine; otherwise, we have change for change’s sake in a church that needs more stability. We also need for our parishes to explore the treasures already at their fingertips. I urge the SCLM to choose option four. It is the best for the health, stability, and growth of our church.

  23. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is not perfect, nor were any of its predecessors. However, in this volatile time in The Episcopal Church’s history, I fail to see how revision could be anything but disastrous. I can only see revision as being divisive, further tearing apart a church in sore need of unity and cooperation. If those in power are to get their way (which, I suspect, is a prayer book with a great deal of similarity to EOW, with perceived inclusiveness trumping all, even faith), it may result in many more Dioceses and Parishes leaving a church still reeling from losses, including some that we may not have been in danger of losing before.

    There is also the issue that the church has not fully explored the fruits of the 1979 book. Between those still attached to the 1928 book and those who were not satisfied with the changes brought by the 1979 book for other reasons (including for those for whom the changes weren’t radical enough), we haven’t had much time to explore the 1979 BCP as a church. Cathedral liturgies and Diocesan events, which are supposed to set the standards for worship for parishes, abandoned the prayer book long ago in many Dioceses. I’m a good decade younger than this prayer book, so I have no memory of how it was heralded when first approved, but I assume it was considered a major step forward for a church which, a scant 20 years later, began viewing it as an impediment. Perhaps we should explore why that is, or at least give the book a chance, before diving headfirst into revision.

  24. Technical fixes, and then option 2. The 79 Prayer Book is a beautiful work, and supports the “total ministry” view that we are still living into. And please, not a church wide conversation for 3 years that doesn’t have a required and defined outcome. The BCP and then one consolidated Book of Alternative Services.

  25. A single BCP, rather than multiple resources would be preferable. We are united by common prayer.

    The scale of the revision should more closely resemble transitioning from 1892 to 1928 than from 1928 to 1979. The basic framework of the current prayer book should remain in place. The baptismal ecclesiology of the current book is sound.

    Pay attention to Byron Stuhlman’s recommendations in “A Good and Joyful Thing” regarding the Rite Two Eucharistic Prayers.

    Also, less is more. We already have too many options. We should be able to memorize the prayers. They should be thoroughly familiar. In Rite Two, a single confession (“Most Merciful God…”), a single post communion prayer (“Eternal God, Heavenly Father…”) and one or two Eucharistic Prayers (A and B, revised according to Stuhlman’s suggestions) would be desirable.

    A single wedding rite, or maybe a couple of rites, should be the same for everyone: straight and gay. I am not a fan of the separate but equal approach. Also, a rubric encouraging the use of the Blessing of a Civil Marriage (such that the legal and sacred aspects of weddings would more often be kept in separate realms) would be helpful.

    Burial Rite revisions would also be helpful. Rubrics covering the presence of cremains in the liturgy would be welcome.

  26. Choice four. The Episcopal Church has not lived into the 1979 revision. We need serious teaching and reflection of the sort that produced that book and the first step is to help the Episcopal Church start using the 1979 BCP fully and faithfully.

  27. I am deeply troubled by this statement: “Technical fixes are adjustments in grammar, punctuation, and word choice that do not change the theology, poetry, or intended meaning of the text. (for example: in Eucharistic Prayer C – changing “you made us the rulers of creation” to “you made us the stewards of creation” or adding the matriarchs along with the patriarchs). The SCLM will offer to General Convention 2018’s consideration a clear and detailed definition of the meaning of “technical fixes” and a list of specific examples.” Here you say that technical fixes are those that do not change the theology, poetry, or intended meaning of the text, and then you cite two example (in Prayer C) that do just that– change both the theology and meaning of the text.

    Changing “rulers” to “stewards” substantively changes the meaning of the text, and departs from the Biblical reference. It’s a theological choice, which is exactly WHY you suggest changing it. If it didn’t affect the theology, you wouldn’t care about changing it.

    And adding the “matriarchs” is another fraught theological issue. Firstly it completely ignores that “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” is an actual, biblical name for God, with an incredible history and meaning. Secondly, simply adding wives actually underscores patriarchy, rather than diminishing it, because the women are defined only in relationship as wives. And thirdly, WHICH wives do you add? Do they ALL get mention, or only some? Each of those choices make theological assumptions.

    I would be happy to allow the SCLM to suggest technical changes, if the changes fit within the guidelines that you name. Substituting “give our thanks and praise” for “give him thanks and praise,” for example, is a simple substitution that already exists in our supplemental material, and does not effect meaning. Occasionally substituting “people” for “men” might be a similar technical fix. But trying to slip in theological changes under the guise of technical fixes is disingenuous. And it’s one of the reasons why I think option 1 and 2 at this time is not viable. If we can’t be honest and thoughtful about the theology behind the changes that we make, then Prayer Book revision will be a disaster.

    • Captain Howard Galley – the author of Prayer C – offered his own correction (written, apparently, on his washing machine while doing the weekly wash):
      “God of our holy and righteous ancestors, redeemer and mother of Israel, God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ……”

  28. This is very interesting information. Some good ideas. I wish to add a few suggestions of my own. One of the brilliant accomplishments of the 1979 BCP is that you kept the prayer book of 1928 (forgive if I am off on the year) so that those who really love the old prayer book can continue to enjoy Rite I if they so choose. The addition of Rite II is wonderful as it was (and still very much is) a version that is unique and so beautifully done. The current BCP gives us those options and it is one of the many reasons for the success of the 1979 version. IN 1998 Enriching Our Worship came out and is also a very valuable resource for those who want to use that. I would hope that the next revision of the BCP would keep the current Rites I and II so that they can still be used and enjoyed, and that any new versions would also included. Perhaps the incorporation of Enriching Our Worship would be a great move.

    The other suggestion I would like to give is that change is difficult for everyone. Some more so than others, but still difficult. I would hope that the SCLM would develop a good pastoral plan for Parish Worship committees and Priests to be able to prepare their congregations of the changes coming that will accommodate those who will like the changes, and those who won’t.

    I hope these will be carefully considered and that they are helpful.

  29. I’m looking forward to this conversation. Four thoughts.

    First, I hope that a thorough projection of the cost of each option is laid out. The cost of extensive surveys, the cost in meetings, the cost of typesetting and setup costs, the cost of parishes purchasing new BCPs or other printed resources, etc. The original message above put money in a parenthetical which I find somewhat telling – has anyone actually even thought about what this will cost? The easiest way for revision to fail is for the SCLM to assume GC will write a blank check.

    “They couldn’t agree on revision” isn’t the same thing as “We didn’t give them the facts they needed to actually consider revision.” Which leads to my second thought.

    Second, I hope a part of this process is a fact/practice based survey of as many churches as possible to see (among other things) how many church 1) don’t even use the pew (physical) version of BCP at all, 2) use it only for small services (midweek Eucharist or office), 3) use it most of the time or often, 4) use it exclusively. And why…. Against printing endless full text bulletins? Not enough money or staff time to publish a full bulletin? Don’t see the need since the BCP and hymnal work well enough with proper page announcements? Also, a survey should ask what your congregation does that is technically outside of the strict rubrics of the BCP? Do you change words? Which ones? What alternate liturgies (not random collects but actual liturgies or full Eucharistic prayers) and resources do you use regularly. I could come up with a pretty long list of fact based questions about current practice in congregations that would be very informative to anyone considering revision or whether options 1, 2, 3, or 4 are the road to go.

    Make it a full and in depth survey based on fact-of-practice rather than opinion-of -what-might-be-nice-or-bad. “What do you do?”, not “What do you want?”. We do what we want, including changing portions of the BCP or not using it to suite our needs. Note that the tweaks suggested to prayer C are already done in many places. How many churches have pen or pencil changes to the Altar Book? Give those churches the opportunity to tell their story.

    With some effort it should be possible and worthwhile to do a comprehensive survey of current practice… the SCLM would just have to organize and do a ton of ground work rather than coming up with resources that might or might not be used or practical – the former, rather than the latter is why they exist in the first place. Assuming dioceses took such a mandate to get every parish to fill out a fact based survey seriously, it ought to be possible for each diocese to get most of its churches to respond to a liturgy/BCP survey. Craft a survey that gauges current practice, test it in one diocese on twenty different churches, get the survey into final shape, and then spread it across the church via a single contact point in every diocese. One contact point (Canon to the Ordinary or Liturgical officer) can be responsible for ensuring the leadership (rector, priest in charge, or warden) of every congregation fills out a single survey on behalf of the congregation that details what current practice is. It will take time, it will take a lot of work and organizational skills on the part of the SCLM, but it will be thorough and will produce an accurate record of where we stand.

    Recent surveys by the SLCM have been passive (“please fill out our online survey if you care or heard about it”), which is easy to do, but produces really questionable results. 2000 people can fill out a survey telling you what they want, but that’s far less useful than learning what is actually going on in 2000 different congregations.

    A current-practice-based survey should be done regardless of whether you support 1,2,3,or 4.

    Third, I hope that any thoughts of BCP revision or addition of alternate texts would also include a renewed conversation with other English speaking Christian bodies about common texts (canticles, prayers, etc.). That’s important for a variety of reasons, not the least is musical. We had ICET, and perhaps what that gave us is out of date, but if we are serious about liturgy, we don’t do it in our own little vacuum. And that doesn’t even begin to address the issues that Episcopalians using the BCP in other languages face.

    Lastly, I hope that the SCLM can articulate and communicate the reasons why they think revision might be needed. The 79BCP is Baptism and Eucharistic centered, it is ecumenical, etc. Those were some of the reasons articulated on the front end for why revision was needed. Why do we need this is not an unimportant question to ask, and it would be great if the SCLM articulated the many answers to that to the broader church.

  30. If I can lend my opinion, I believe that we need to deepen our relationship with the 1979 BCP. Adding more “stuff” to our liturgy isn’t the answer at this point. We have too many options and fiddly-bits that the idea of Common Prayer is sliding away from us and fast.

    Something that I believe *could* be done without much uproar is a re-organization of the current BCP’s content, as right now one needs a compliment of bookmarks to keep everything straight, flipping back and forth. Physically re-organizing the sections and adding in metadata like return page numbers in the margins would be a boon. I’m currently implementing such a system into my own Breviary which uses the the Rite I Daily Office.

  31. I agree with Matthew Mead.

    An important resource in the revision process in the 1970’s was the formation in almost all dioceses of a Diocesan Liturgical Commission (later including Music). The chairs of other members of such commissions met at least annually during the process of revision as the Association of Diocesan Liturgy and Music Commissions. The revisers could get good information responses from the dioceses in this way that greatly enhanced the process. This come as a direct response to a call from GC for such commissions in each diocese to be formed. Relatively few bishops refused to appoint commissions in their dioceses.

  32. Hi,

    I’d like to begin by thanking the Commission for their hard work. I am not particularly trusting of this process. To me, the worst thing the Commission can do is ram this through. To that end, options 3 and 4 are the best.

  33. Reading all these responses, it strikes me that we need most a better understanding of what the current practice is … who uses BCP79? who does? … and why that current practice was chosen. I really haven’t known any other book of prayer than the current BCP although many parishes whose services I’ve attended use some variant in a printed bulletin.

    Clearly all options will generate controversy, but probably 1 & 2 the most. That said, a vague general conversation or a general directive to learn the current version (options 3 & 4) seems likely to end up nowhere with nothing accomplished. Instead, I’d like to see a) an active survey of current practice (shouldn’t cost too much to collate what individual parishes send in) and b) an active survey collecting the motivations for changing the current BCP.

    Inclusive language is a big deal (BTW matriarchs may technically be wives — that is beyond my knowledge of the entomology of the word — but the connotation to me of matriarch is of female leaders or heroes whose works and worth did not depend on males. After all, Ruth and Naomi would two of my picks for matriarchs and it was a lack of males that was their problem. Who ever bothers with the brother-in-law? Do we know his name at all?). I would like to see more inclusive language and would not think that would change the theology for many people.

    Beyond that, there lies murky waters … hence the need for surveys so we can see who are.

  34. Posted on behalf of Professor Louis Weil:

    I am grateful that the SCLM has issued an invitation to the larger church to express views about the proposal of a revision of the 1979 BCP. Your list of ‘Four Possible Paths’ is a welcome opportunity to look at the many questions concerning revision, and the preparation needed for such a revision to accomplish its goals.

    My own view is that we must undertake this preparatory work before we undertake a new revision. This is not in any way an opposition to an eventual revision, but it is because of my own personal experience both as a teacher of liturgical studies (for over a half-century) and because of my continuous contact with parish liturgies throughout that period. I remember telling seminary students back in the 70s that we have a tremendous job of education before us simply because we live in a culture that has enormous difficulty with symbolic actions, rituals and words. The liturgy on its own does not give this formation — not because it cannot play a formative role, but because (and I have observed this very often), people who have little sense of how symbols ‘work’ experience them through a filter of literalism which erodes the nature of the symbol.

    If we undertake the work and expense of a new revision and continue to avoid the fundamental work of formation (of laity, clergy, seminarians) we shall find ourselves with the same problems while celebrating some newer rites. People need to be offered a grounding/formation in what I usually call ‘a liturgical sense’. But our culture works against that in the realm of religion, and also as a matter of fact, in our public and political life as well. One can find a much fuller sense of symbol and a ritual sense in other areas of life, often quite removed from obviously religious activities. I would note particularly that in many films (as long as they are not on a religious subject!!!), there is often expressed a profound sense of the sacred embodied in completely secular terms.

    A powerful example of this (among many) is the brilliant series of ten short films by the great Polish film director Kyzysztof Kieslowski: ‘The Ten Commandments’ — a far cry from Cecil B. DeMille’s version (!!!!) — and I would insist ultimately far more significant from a religious point of view. We would do well to profit from the teaching of the late Paul Tillich on this subject: our culture tends to confuse a religious subject with authentic religious content. We might observe that there were aspects of DeMille’s version which were actually pornographic in style — and if we cannot understand this important distinction, we need to find some way to offer our people a serious opportunity for engagement with how authentic symbols embody spiritual reality. To foster this, the work of the SCLM might appropriately be directed toward ways to support this in all aspects of the church’s life. We have a splendid tradition, but I feel we have lived off that bank account and have not embraced the responsibility of its full pastoral implementation in the lives of church members. Merely producing a new BCP will not accomplish that. Perhaps preliminary work toward a full revision might be undertaken along with a serious engagement with the complementary need for a tiling of the soil in which the liturgical signs may take root and nourish the ongoing renewal of the church.

    The Rev. Dr. Louis Weil
    Hodges-Haynes Professor Emeritus of Liturgics
    Church Divinity School of the Pacific
    Berkeley, California

      • Charles Pope here, Priest in Charge of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in St. Albans, West Virginia. After some encouragement from our Bishop, we recently celebrated a Eucharist out of the 1789 BCP. As you may recall, 1789 directions call on clergy to warn the people about approaching the Lord’s table unprepared. After the service several of our older people thanked me profusely for doing the service.
        I discerned that they really did not miss the negativity of 1789 days. But they did miss the sense of preparation in general. Is there a 21st century mode of preparation we might consider? Might it be a striving for purity that precedes communion? Might this appears in subsequent BCP additions or revisions? I am more for building on what we have than replacing in general.

  35. 1979 already provides a Penitental
    Introduction that can begin the Eucharist as freqently as needed or desired. It also has an exhortation that calls on us to prepare for receiving the Sacrament.

    • Good point. I think the contrast was one being optional and one not. And since we do communion a lot more often than people of the 1789 book, preparation in the 21st century could also be seen as contrasting. I like the idea of striving for purity.

  36. A few more thoughts after sleeping on my post above: The Pentitential orders for Rites 1 and 2 are specifically confessional in nature, whereas the Exhortation on p. 316 appears as a mix of confession and preparation. For me the theological issue falls between the continuum of preparation and confession. If preparation is specifically confessional, then what we have in the 1979 BCP is entirely sufficient. But if preparation is a larger endeavor that can include Confession then perhaps we need to make more liturgical room for preparation in subsequent liturgies. Preparation could be reflected in the Collect for Purity: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open…” That collect is about preparation, but it is not specifically confessional in nature, and it strives for cleansing and purity. I could see prayers offered for the weekdays leading up to Communion. For example: Monday – “Almighty God, unto whom..” Tuesday – “Guide me waking O Lord, and guard me sleeping..” Wednesday – “Direct me, O Lord, in all my doings…” Thursday – Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you…” Friday – “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace..” Saturday – “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”

    Other variations could have us preparing for Communion on high feast days with specific preparations for each.
    Or we could assume that communicants would utilize what is currently available in 1979 BCP toward their own individual preparation-confession.

  37. Another related thought: A confession looks for and anticipates an absolution. Preparation looks for and anticipates a sense or a statement of readiness.

  38. I attended the Forma conference last week and made a comment that I’ve been encouraged to place on this blog. I don’t know if this is precisely the right place to put it, but here goes.

    In our baptismal covenant we “renounce all sinful desires that draw [us] from the love of God.” This language sticks in my throat because I have not been able to square it with Paul’s proclamation that “nothing separates us from the love of God.”

    My understanding is that our sins are no barrier to God, thanks to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. I think of sin primarily as a matter of self-delusion: we come to believe that we are drawn away from God’s love, and thus we find ourselves unable to accept it. But this is not true to the reality of God’s infinite, eternal love, and the Christian hope is that all barriers of sin, no matter our understanding of them, will fall away in the nearer presence of God.

    Can somebody, then, help me understand why our baptismal covenant is phrased in this way, and can someone help me find appropriate language about it to share with those I teach about baptism? Many thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s