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.”