Sunday, July 05, 2015

General Convention Postscript

Back at home now, the miasma of General Convention seems surreal, like a bad dream. But I'm fairly convinced that it did actually happen. It seems appropriate to pass along a few parting thoughts.

The real surprise concerns the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church. Most people probably expected--I certainly did--that A Great Cloud of Witnesses would be adopted as the reincarnation of Holy Women, Holy Men, and continue on the glide path toward officially and finally succeeding Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Thanks to some attentive work by a handful of Deputies, GCW has been merely "made available," and will be published as a catechetical resource that may, by local option, be used liturgically, and not a liturgical document in its own right. The upshot of this is that, at least for the next triennium, Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) remains the official liturgical calendar that coordinates with the Book of Common Prayer. The SCLM's remit to revise LF&F has been executed, only they failed to do so. Of course, one can only speculate what they will do with this morass, given everything else that's on their plate (planning for revising BCP79 and Hymnal82, as well as the Book of Occasional Services). A whole list of names--pretty much every angel, archangel, and individual member of the company of heaven, and doubtless a few who may not even be there yet--have been forwarded to the SCLM's inbox with instructions to vet them against revised criteria that no longer pretend to pertain to a sanctoral calendar. So, the ones that survive the screening will be added to ... what? GCW? LF&F? Something we don't have yet? It's confusing.

Speaking of BCP revision, I have to admit that I didn't see that one coming. Yes, the Presiding Bishop has been calling for it, but my assumption was that most were politely applauding while inwardly rolling their eyes and sighing, "Not in my lifetime, please." I was wrong. There is obviously a critical mass of support for the idea. It rolled through committee and the HOB with only token opposition (mine!). I'm given to understand that there was some significant pushback in the HOD, but not enough to derail it. The driving force, of course, is the desire to cleanse the Prayer Book of masculine pronouns for God, and words like "Lord" and "Kingdom" that are redolent of masculinity. This is a subject on which I have an opinion or two, and will probably develop those thoughts in this venue as time goes on. But, for now, let me go on record that I hope the powers-that-be will give consideration to the Church of England model. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is, for the most part, used only by cathedrals and collegiate chapels for Choral Evensong. In most places, the recently published collections that make up Common Worship constitute what is actually used. Yet, BCP1662 enjoys privileged status as the official liturgical formulary of the Church. I'll be honest: I would not trust a new Book of Common Prayer that the Episcopal Church would write in this day and age. But I would be a great deal less anxious about the prospect of liturgical revision if all the new stuff were going into its own silo--available to be used, either wholly or selectively--while BCP79 remains the official liturgical formulary of the Episcopal Church. I can anticipate the argument that this would violate the principal of "common prayer," That's a nice idea, but the only time it actually inured was in the Roman Church between the Council of Trent and Vatican II. Despite Cranmer's proleptic ideal, it has always been more of an aspiration than a reality in Anglicanism, and is even now only a chimera in the Episcopal Church. For the sake of unity, we will need to up our tolerance for institutionalized liturgical diversity.

We did some fairly extensive work around structure. Not as extensive as some may have hoped, no doubt, but nonetheless significant. The elimination of all standing commissions, save for Constitution & Canons and Liturgy & Music, is for us, a pretty bold move. Personally, I would have liked to put the SCLM on the chopping block as well. They need to be reined in from their proven propensity to create their own work by proposing resolutions to General Convention that tell them to do stuff. I tried to fix that canonically during floor debate, but my amendment didn't make it though the sausage maker. I plan to give it another try in 2018. But what we accomplished will all be for nought if we are not vigilant. You can chop bureaucratic infrastructure back in a fashion that seems refreshingly merciless, but it has an inexorable tendency to come back like kudzu in a southern forest or blackberries on an Oregon roadside. I can't say that I'm sanguine about our collective resolve to keep our shears sharp and at the ready.

Finally, we elected a new Presiding Bishop. I like Michael Curry. He's already been immensely helpful to the Diocese of Springfield. A couple of years ago I had an airport food court conversation with him about an unusual sort of vacancy in the diocese, and he pointed me in a direction that led eventually to a very fine priest who is now with us and doing a great job. I'm excited about Bishop Curry's heart for evangelism and the ease with which he talks about Jesus. Those will both be immensely refreshing changes in what we hear from our Primate and chief public face. I am with him about 95% of the way, and I hope he and I have the opportunity sometime to converse about the other 5%, about which I wrote here last September. I shall endeavor to pray for him daily.

Just so you know, I'm not intentionally neglecting the Big Kahuna--marriage. But I need to say something pastorally within my own diocese before opining more broadly. That's a work in progress. I will get to it, probably within the next couple of weeks.


Greg said...

I hope we do not revise the Prayer Book at this time. Our church has been through so many battles recently. A period of peace and healing would be great before we even think about revising the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It seems like the church is exhausted at this point. At least, I am.

Dale Matson said...

"Speaking of BCP revision, I have to admit that I didn't see that one coming." Really?
You agree with the new PB 95%?

StJohnsPriest said...

I never thought in my lifetime I would hear a call for 1979 to be a standard of Common Prayer since it contains 6 Eucharistic Canons. Hardly common. At least through the 1928 (closest thing in the ECUSA to the 1662) you had the common use to the same Eucharistic canon even if the broad and low church may have done it with less ceremonial than the Anglo-catholics. Even if a parish had incense and moved the Gloria to the beginning of the Mass, at least the words were recognizable to the visitor from the monthly communion parish down the street.

Undergroundpewster said...

Didn't they pass Hymnal revision as well? So long "Onward Christian Soldiers".

Undergroundpewster said...

They will have a hard time scrubbing "Lord" from both the BCP and Hymnal, and what about the Gospel readings?

C. Wingate said...

We already have the Common Worship model here, with Enriching Our Worship, and it's a big problem now for someone like me visiting another parish. And it seems nearly impossible to vet potential rectors and interims adequately to ensure that they aren't going to show up and impose EOW or muck with the BCP rites so much as to make them unacceptable to the orthodox.

Unknown said...

Bishop, we use EOW all too often here in the area, and I have had it w/ E.O.W. If an E.O.W. liturgy is used, deleting references in the consecration prayer to "Father," and refusing to call Jesus "Lord," I simply do not take communion -- and encourage others to take similar action.

In the run-up to GenCon, we had an institution of a new rector at a neighboring parish -- to which we have close connections -- and I attended, discovered that they were using E.O.W., and I went forward for a blessing, but did not receive. When I got home, I wrote a letter to the Bishop (he was the one who I declined, but who gave the blessing), to the new rector, and to my own rector, explaining my actions and my rationale -- never suspecting it would be germane to the GC call for new BCP revision. That issue, more than homosexual "marriage," or CWOB, will drive many, including me, out of TEC. DICK MITCHELL