Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day "0" (no legislative sessions)

There were no actual full-house legislative sessions today, but the process sputtered toward the official starting line. My committee--Committee 11 on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music--began the day at 7am with hearings on a number of relatively second-tier resolutions, dealing with such things as translations of liturgical texts into other languages, recommending support for programs that help musicians in small churches, and continuing the work of the Congregational Song Task Force. These were sent to the House of Bishops (where all liturgy resolutions go first) with 'Adopt' recommendations, though one was amended slightly. A resolution asking the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to compile essays and other resources on the subject of Christian Initiation earned a 'Reject' recommendation, with which I concurred. Among other things, I picked up a vibe of it being a stalking horse for reopening official consideration of authorizing offering Holy Communion to unbaptized persons, which the last General Convention resoundingly rejected. We also discussed authorizing a comprehensive revision of the Book of Occasional Services. While I voted No on this, both because I sense that we're blurring the distinction between public liturgies and occasions of personal pastoral care, and because I suspect ulterior motives regarding further revision of liturgical language to remove ideologically offensive but orthodox traditional terms like "Lord" and "Father," mine was the lone dissenting voice, and it was reported out with an 'Adopt' recommendation.

The evening committee meeting heard more testimony, this time on resolutions relating to the liturgical calendar. This has turned out to be a bit of a quagmire. The current official calendar and compendium of materials for the keeping of lesser commemorations is the 2006 Lesser Feasts and Fasts. In 2009, a volume called Holy Women, Holy Men was approved for trial use, and that trial use was extended in 2012. The proposal from the SCLM now is to supplant it with a new book called A Great Cloud of Witnesses. The problem is that GCW is not just an apple to HWHM's orange; it's a zebra. The assumption underlying HWHM (and LF&F before it) was that this is as close as TEC gets to "canonizing saints," that those who are assigned calendar dates are presumed to be exemplary Christian disciples worthy of emulation by all the faithful. GCW explicitly claims to not be a sanctoral calendar, but, rather, a sort of almanac or "family history"--people, most of them them practicing Christians, though not all, who contributed to society and/or the life of the church in significant ways, and who merit being learned about, though not necessarily emulation or veneration. Hence, there are different entrance criteria for GCW than there were for HWHM. The problem is, this distinction is not yet very widely known, so people are behaving like was are still going to have a calendar of saints, and the discussion surrounding who gets so designated and who doesn't is very political and highly contentious. Add to that the fact that there are some unintended conflicts in the related resolutions, which affects the logic of the order in which they are considered, and you have a fine mess. It remains a mess, but the mess will soon become hash, and something will get done. I will probably vote in favor of adopting GCW, though with tepid enthusiasm. It's actually an admission of our failure to coalesce around a broadly understood and agreed theology of sainthood. It's a punt. But at least it's honest, and it's better than HWHM. What I really wish, though, is that we would simply not deal with such things at this convention. None of it is an emergency. And there are demanding items on our plate that are emergencies.

1 comment:

underground pewster said...

When I blogged about the Great Cloud of Witnesses last month, a comment was sent in suggesting a new policy: "any new people have to have died 200 years ago. That should sort it."