The 2015 General Convention – Liturgical Changes (or not) – Part II
- For the first time, it will now be allowed, with our Bishop’s permission, to use, on a Sunday celebration, that section in the Prayer Book starting around p. 400 which allows for the presider at Holy Eucharist on Sunday to be more personal and to create his/her own Eucharistic Prayers as long as such prayer follows the mandatory structures that our Prayer Book demands. Since 1979, this “Order for Celebration” has been allowed for small group weekday type Eucharistic celebrations but never on a Sunday.
- The convention referred back to committee for further study the creation of a new question to be posed as part of taking (or renewing) Baptism Vows: “concerning our responsibility as baptized Christians to care for God’s creation.”
- Liturgical materials honoring God in Creation are now to be made more available and perhaps be inserted into another book we clergy use: The Book of Occasional Services (BOS).
- Regarding that above cited BOS, there is now a call to bring that book up to date. No work has been done on it since the 1990’s.
- Final and perhaps most theologically meaningful and somewhat controversial: Convention referred back to commission for further study the possibility to allow priests to confirm adult candidates whom they instruct and baptize. This would mean, e.g., that two years ago, if this change had been made, I would have been permitted to both baptize and confirm Matt Worner and Georgia and Reilly Grzywacz. This (re)opens the theological debate of the meaning of Confirmation as a separate rite much less a separate sacrament reserved to a Bishop. Just FYI: Roman Catholic priests have been allowed to confirm adults whom they baptize since 1972 via the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Eastern Orthodox priests have always been allowed to “chrismate” (they don’t even use the word “confirm”) any baby, child or adult as part of the Rite of Baptism. In the words of the immortal Betty Davis: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”(–All About Eve–)
The 2015 General Convention
As promised, here are a few of the liturgical changes that are on the horizon for our Church.
- Convention approved the passing of two resolutions which call for writing the plan to create a new Book of Common Prayer (“BCP”) and a new Hymnal (“H”). The BCP we use (our 4th since 1789) has been in effect since 1979, and the H since 1982. Since that time, many additions have been made to other supplemental books. It is time to bring our materials up to date. Also, so many of our prayers need to reflect changes in language that have occurred even in 35+ years. NOW remember, all the resolution does is order the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music to create the plan by 2018 of how we go about creating new books. The actual work does not begin until then.
- Work on a book that contains the services and calendar of feasts throughout the year is now in its 3rd draft entitled A Great Cloud of Witnesses. Think of this as a book of “saints” recognized by the Episcopal Church.
- Convention maintained our Church’s practice of inviting all baptized Christians to receive Holy Eucharist. It will not permit an “open invitation” to non Christians who do not share our belief in this sacrament to receive communion. (There is a faction in the Episcopal Church that wishes to do so.)
- Work will continue to be done with the translations of John’s Gospel in the sensitive Good Friday liturgy whereby his phrase “the Jews” can properly convey that John is not condemning all Jewish people but only the leadership of those who had Jesus crucified. We believe that it was for all of us that Jesus died and we are all the sinners in need of redemption.
- Convention approved two new marriage liturgies with gender neutral language as well as continued interim use of the blessing of same sex marriages. These are trial liturgies that will be tested through use. Eventually, this becomes a part of prayer book reform as well.
The 2015 General Convention
Again – just a wee bit more background. Every “resolution” (and there were over 300 of them) is produced either by a report from a group or a request from an individual of our church. One can often deduce much “backstory” simply knowing from where a particular resolution came. There are letter prefixes that reveal this. An “A” resolution comes from any Commission, Committee, Agency or Board of this Church. A “B” resolution was proposed by a Bishop. A “C” resolution originated in a diocese (probably from that Diocese’s own annual convention) and a “D” resolution was proposed by an individual who was not a Bishop. So remember, these are not grades. They are merely designation markers.
Next week, I am going to bring up specific resolutions. Some of them were passed and have now become mandates for the life of the Episcopal Church. Some failed. Most have to do with the internal life of the church. Some are political or moral statements regarding issues going on in our country or in the world.
But keep this in mind: When a resolution passes, though a program or project may be needed, wanted or even necessary, if such a project is not covered in the church’s budget (and the Episcopal Church must have a balanced budget – by canon law) then the resolution, although passed, may simply have the force of a moral statement but can’t be carried out. The Episcopal Church in its national structures lives by the mandate that you cannot spend what you do not have.
Next week… Internal Church changes!!!!
As I mentioned in the E-News, for the next few weeks, I am going to mention, summarize and begin to explain some of the many resolutions that have become a part of the Episcopal Church’s life since the completion of its General Convention this past July 3.
Just background FYI: The General Convention is the supreme legislative authority in the Episcopal Church which meets every three years. Like the U. S. Congress (with which it has some similarities), the gathering is a bicameral institution made up of (1) The House of Bishops (which includes every bishop of our church) and (2) The House of Deputies (which is made up of up to 4 clergy and 4 lay persons chosen from each of the over 100 Dioceses of the Church). Therefore there are close to 1000 persons at this gathering.
Any resolution must be voted on and adopted in identical language by both houses or it fails to pass. Any change in language from one house to the other, in effect, creates a “new” resolution, and thus must be sent back to the original house where the resolution passed to be voted on again using the changed language.
Certain issues are considered so serious that in order to pass, not only must the Bishops vote in the affirmative, but the House of Deputies is then split into clergy and lay sections – by diocese – each voting separately. In that case, the resolution must be approved by BOTH clergy and laity separately from each other. You de facto create the need for three and not merely two affirmative votes. This is called a vote by orders.
Of ultimate importance, issues that would change The Constitution of our Church or The Book of Common Prayer must go through a reading at one General Convention, then those resolutions are sent back to the various dioceses for their information. Only at the next General Convention (three years later) can a vote be taken, and approval must be done in a vote by orders.
Next week: some specific changes that will impact our church! (Now aren’t you all happy that your rector is a canon lawyer?)
Now that summer has come, this church complex will often echo “the Sounds of Silence.” Most of us will get away at some point this summer – hopefully to become refreshed in body, mind and spirit. It is just quieter here. Even the traffic from Rt. 35, which can be heard when the windows of my office are open, seems less frequent and frenetic.
Might I offer a suggestion: use some of this summer time for your own spiritual health. Turn off your phones, radios, iPads, and TVs for a small portion each day. None of us are THAT important that the world needs to have us 24/7. Take some time – outdoors if you can – and just be quiet. Take some time to think about who you are and where God is calling you to go and to be. Take a few moments for meditation. Take some time and DO NOTHING!
Also be loving! Allow your spouse to have that quiet: take on his or her role of chauffer, chef and community organizer for a time. Summer gives us “time” to refresh. Don’t waste it! We’ll see you at Holy Eucharist each weekend. Enjoy your time.