General Convention approved switching to the Revised Common Lectionary, new rites-of-passage liturgies, additions to Lesser Feasts and Fasts and a discussion about the appropriateness of “open communion.”
Churches will begin using the Revised Common Lectionary the First Sunday of Advent 2007 but may, with their bishop’s permission, continue using the prayer book liturgy until the beginning of Advent 2010.
The revised lectionary, which follows a three-year cycle, was developed ecumenically and adopted by several major North American Protestant churches -- including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- and many Anglican churches worldwide, explained the Rev. Ruth Meyers, liturgics professor at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and a deputy member of the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Cognate Committee. “It’s all available on line, so you don’t have to replace your prayer book.”
Most Gospel readings are identical to or very similar to those in the prayer book, she said. Churches can choose one of two Old Testament tracts for the weeks after Pentecost: a semicontinuous reading of sections of the Bible, or lessons closely paired with the Gospel readings. The new lectionary “includes stories of women and feminine images of God” that were omitted or optional in the current one, Meyers noted.
Convention approved liturgies for rites of passage -- including reaching puberty, earning a driver’s license or permit, dating relationships, graduating from high school, going to college, joining the workforce, going on a pilgrimage and moving from the family home -- “for experimental use and for publication and distribution by Church Publishing.”
The goal is to make the liturgies available to the laity, and also to provide for feedback to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM), committee members said.
The rites include nine prayers for national service, including prayers for those entering military service or being deployed or transferred, for families of service members and for those becoming conscientious objectors or entering alternative, national or mission service.
“The more prayers that we can have in that way, the better,” said Maj. Cope Mitchell, Army chaplain based at Fort Carson, Colo., noting chaplains from other denominations often use the Episcopal prayer book in their ministries.
SCLM will continue Lesser Feasts and Fasts revision, which includes an effort to increase the diversity of people held up as models, explained Bishop Henry Louttit of Georgia, cognate committee co-chair.
Convention gave final approval to commemorations of Florence Li Tim-Oi, Janani Luwum, Philander Chase, William Temple and C.S. Lewis for inclusion in the church calendar and future revisions of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Convention also authorized inclusion of a Common for Space Exploration and added the Martyrs of the Sudan.
Convention authorized trial use of commemorations for Harriet Bedell, deaconess and missionary; Anna Julia Heyward Cooper, educator; James Theodore Holly, bishop of Haiti and the Dominican Republic; Oscar Romero, archbishop of an Salvador, and the Martyrs of El Salvador; Tikhon, patriarch of Russia and confessor; Vida Dutton Scudder, educator and witness for peace; and Frances Joseph-Gaudet, educator and prison reformer. It referred to SCLM suggested additions for Genocide Remembrance Day, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Joan of Arc, the Confession of Martha, missionary and priest John Roberts, the Dorchester Chaplains of World War II, Queen Bertha and King Ethelbert.
No prayer book revision
While Lesser Feasts and Fasts undergoes revision, bishops rejected a resolution to establish a plan for prayer book revision. “That’s a disappointment,” said Deputy Susan Anslow Williams of Western New York, cognate committee member. “Our intention was simply to get some timeframe set out -- not work on it, just plan. I would really prefer that my children not be grandparents by the time there’s some new prayer book, whatever that’s going to look like.”
Convention recognized the canonical position that only baptized Christians are eligible for Communion but asked the bishops’ Theology Committee, in consultation with SCLM “and others they may deem appropriate,” to report back on “a pastoral and theological understanding of the relationship between Holy Baptism and eucharistic practice.”
In hearings on the original resolution calling for enforcement of the canons, proposer John Liebler, a Central Florida priest, said some churches advertise on their websites a policy of administering Communion to the unbaptized. “We have a wholesale violation of canon and of an ancient tradition.”
Violating a canon while asking for it to be changed is no way to carry on a “nonanxious conversation” about the issue, he said. “It seems to me that there’s more control over access to the floor of the House of Deputies these days than there is to the communion rail,” commented the Rev. Don Curran, deputy from Central Florida.
Others passionately defended open Communion. “It’s the greatest tool of evangelism that we have,” said the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of 3,500-member All Saints, Pasadena, Calif.
Lori Kizzie of Pasadena described how hearing an open Communion invitation drew her back into the church after 20 years of estrangement from Christianity. “I urge you to reject the closed table.”
After the hearing, the cognate committee amended the resolution to mandate a wider discussion on the issue. “It is something this church needs to honestly talk about,” said the Very Rev. Ernesto Medina of Los Angeles.
In other action, convention:
- Directed SCLM to develop liturgical materials concerning the adoption of children and recognizing and celebrating ministry in daily life, and to create new resources in the areas of burial of the dead and reconciliation of a penitent;
- Directed SCLM to continue work in the Praise and World Music Hymnal Supplement project;
- Encouraged use of Enriching Our Worship materials as appropriate for Sunday worship;
- Endorsed continuing the Leadership Program for Musicians Serving Small Congregations; and
- Directed SCLM to collect and develop materials to help church members “address anti-Jewish prejudice expressed in and stirred by portions of Christian Scriptures and liturgical texts.”