HoB Opens Door to Liturgical Revisions

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The House of Bishops on Tuesday passed a resolution that would open the door to revision of the Episcopal Church’s liturgical texts.

The resolution, a substitute for resolution A068, was drafted by Bishop Andy Doyle of the Diocese of Texas in consultation with a group of more than 50 bishops with whom he consulted after Monday’s legislative session in which the house first discussed the matter.

The issue now returns to the House of Deputies which, on Saturday, passed a different version of the same resolution.

In introducing the substitute resolution, Doyle said he tried to address the concerns of his colleagues regarding the Deputies’ version of A068, while “moving liturgical revision forward while honoring our past.”

Deputies on the relevant legislative committee will meet Wednesday morning. Should they recommend adoption of the substitute resolution with no amendments, it could come to the floor of the house tomorrow.

The substitute resolution proposes creation of a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision comprising 10 lay people, 10 priests or deacons, and 10 bishops to ensure that “diverse voices of our church are active participants in this liturgical revision.”

The relationship of the task force to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is not spelled out in the resolution which also “envisions bishops engaging worshiping communities in experimentation and the creation of alternative texts to offer to the wider church.  The resolution urges each diocese “to create a liturgical commission to collect, reflect, teach and share these resources with the SCLM.”

The bishops’ resolution also envisions streamlining the process by which the church receives and approves liturgical texts. It directs the SCLM in consultation with the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons to propose constitutional and canonical revisions to the 2021 General Convention that would facilitate the church in being “adaptive in its engagement of future generations of Episcopalians, multiplying, connecting, and disseminating new liturgies for mission.”

The resolution memorializes 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.”

It proposes a $201,000 budget for the translation of liturgical materials and encourages Executive Council “to identify additional funds in the amount of $200,000” to begin the liturgical revision process.

Before the debate on the resolution began, Bishop Steve Lane of the Diocese of Maine informed the house that the Committee on Program, Budget and Finance had voted not to include money for prayer book revision in the budget it would release tomorrow. He said the committee, which he chairs, “is trusting our collaborative system” including trusting in the Executive Council to respond “if the church adopts a program of revision.”

In supporting the resolution, Bishop William Franklin of Western New York, a church historian, reminded the house that the English Reformation had begun with the liturgical revisions of Thomas Cranmer. “He was burned at the stake,” Franklin said, eliciting laughter in the house. “It will be a great investment for our church,” he said, “as it has been in our church since the 16th century.”

Several bishops who yesterday expressed reservations about the version of the resolution that had been passed by the House of Deputies said the substitute resolution allayed their fears. Bishop Skip Adams of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina said the substitute resolution lowered his level of concern from four on a scale of five to two on a scale of five.

Several bishops expressed reservations about designating the Book of Common Prayer 1979 as “a” prayer book of the church rather than “the” prayer book of the church.

Doyle said that using the indefinite article allowed parishes that wanted to continue to use the 1928 prayer book to do so. In addition, he said, memorializing the 1979 prayer book as “the” prayer book of the church would tie the hands of future conventions who might wish to make a different designation.

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