Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018 General Convention, Day 8

A couple of vignettes from my committee meeting this morning are illustrative of the state of things in the Episcopal Church these days:
  • In revising the revision of the Book of Occasional Services, one member, a bishop, pointed out the conclusion to a prayer in one of the liturgies, a conclusion that was attempting to be trinitarian without using masculine language (Father, Son), so it read, "Creator, Word, and Holy Spirit." The bishop (rightly) observed that to use "Creator" as a surrogate for "Father" is theologically questionable, since all three Persons of the Godhead are involved in the act of creation. So he suggested "Fount" instead, citing ancient sources as precedent. This led to a longish time of vigorous debate, and the committee finally settled on "Holy and Undivided Trinity" instead of delineating the individual Persons. This is ridiculous, of course, because you can't indefinitely avoid saying "Father" when talking about God. You can temporarily do so for some individual instance--though, as we saw today, not easily--but eventually you have to come back around to "Father" or you lose your moorings entirely. As another bishop pointed out to me yesterday, "Jesus' devotion was focused on the Father. How can ours do anything less?"
  • There was, once again this convention, as there has been at least for the last two, a resolution asking for the study of the practice of offering Holy Communion to unbaptized persons. Pleas for it in testimony were quite passionate. But they were all completely non-theological, focusing rather on strategic and hortatory concerns like hospitality. In the end, I am grateful to say, the resolution was defeated among both the Bishops and the Deputies on Committee 12. It fails. But we will, no doubt, see it again in three years. It's an old friend.
The headline news of the afternoon was the Bishops' consideration of the Prayer Book revision resolution that we began discussing yesterday. Rather than a protracted and messy floor debate--rumor was that there were forty pre-filed amendments in the queue--the chair immediately recognized the Bishop of Texas, who moved a substitute resolution that, instead of calling for a process of Prayer Book revision, calls for retaining BCP79 as the authorized liturgical standard in TEC, but the development of a robust and ever-growing/changing collection of alternatives to Prayer Book texts that display some of the characteristic that the proposers of Prayer Book revision have been hoping to see. So, in terms of form if not content, this adopts the English and Canadians models, where the Prayer Books of 1662 and 1958, respectively, retain their status as the official liturgical standards, but are largely ignored in favor of collections of alternative services. 

There were a good many questions, and a relatively small amount of actual debate, but in a relatively short time, this substitute was adopted and became the main motion and was passed overwhelmingly, with scarcely audible opposition. I find this a surprising and positive development. It will allow Episcopalians in places that are minded to do so to continue worshiping in the familiar forms without the shadow of revision constantly looming over them. It will now go back to the House of Deputies, via a newly-appointed small conference committee, and Committee 13. This is an encouraging development. 

I should not fail to also mention that the readmission of the Diocese of Cuba back into union with General Convention, following a 52 year hiatus, passed overwhelmingly and joyfully. The Bishop of Cuba was immediately seated on the floor of the House.


Malcolm+ said...

One small note:

The Canadian BCP was approved over two General Synods in 1959 and 1962. Although occasionally referred to as the 1959 BCP, it is most often referred to as 1962. It certainly isn’t 1958 though.

Michael Clark said...

Bishop, is this new motion a good thing? I don't like the way the 1662 BCP is ignored in England. I don't want our BCP ignored. I love the BCP, and I use it every Sunday. I also don't want revision at this time, but I also don't want to foreclose revision. No BCP is perfect, and someday we might be ready. In the meantime, I'd like to keep using the BCP, not put it in a museum and all start doing our own thing. I'm not lucky enough to be in your diocese, so what if the diocese I'm in start's using the really crazy alternative services? How does this protect those of us who just want to use the BCP?

Undergroundpewster said...

When alternative liturgical resources become common place, what will the Book of Common Prayer become? Just an alternative resource as commonality disappears from the denomination.

Michael Berry said...

Failure to align TECs doctrine (because that is what the BCP is) means that TEC can pursue practices contrary to scripture and orthodox Christianity while proclaiming that it is in fact orthodox based on the BCP. An unrevised BCP gives them cover.

The actual practices will be in the so called trial and alternate service liturgies which may freely be used, now apparently without the Bishops permission.

Debra Olsen said...

Good reading yourr post