An Update from GC79: Prayer Book Revisions

The Rev. Michael McCain, an alternate deputy to General Convention, sent the following update:

Prayer Book revision is one of the more notable conversations that is taking place so far in this General Convention. The General Convention formed a specific committee, to focus on resolutions related to this topic. The Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169, at the time of this writing, has 16 Resolutions before it, ranging in a variety of topics including, initiating whole-sale Prayer Book reform, adding to and amending the Baptism Covenant, use of inclusive language, marriage rite reform, and creating new translations of the BCP.

It is helpful to know the general structure of how an open legislative committee hearing works. Simply, during a committee hearing, there are two phases, hearing and deliberation. During the hearing phase, anyone has the opportunity to witness before the committee and make a case for why the committee should recommend supporting, amending, or defeating that particular resolution. During the deliberation phase, the members appointed to that committee meet and go about the formal business of the committee, which generally results in the committee recommending that a specific action, or no action, be taken by the Houses of the General Convention.

At the time of this writing, all but one of the 16 resolutions are still awaiting committee action. So we are in the thick of listening to witnesses and waiting to hear the result of the deliberations of the legislative committee. The open committee meeting regarding two significant resolutions, A068 and A069, was held on July 4th at 8:00 AM.

There are two main options proposed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, “A068 – Plan for the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer” and “A069 – Engagement with the Book of Common Prayer.”

A068, option 1, is a resolution that would initiate the process of full prayer book revision. This resolution provides direction that the revision of the prayer book “will continue in faithful adherence to the historic rites of the Church Universal as they have been received and interpreted within the Anglican tradition of Common Prayer ” and that it will “utilize the riches of Holy Scripture and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship.”The resolution also directs the revision to utilize expansive and inclusive language, incorporate themes of care of God’s creation, and consider the ability of current technology to provide broader access to liturgical resources. A068 is on the legislative calendar for the House of Deputies of July 6th, to be considered by the House this afternoon.

A069, option 2, is a resolution that “calls the Episcopal Church to devote the next triennium to deep engagement with the structure, content, language and theological thrust of The Book of Common Prayer (1979), with a view to increasing the Church’s familiarity with the book in its entirety.” This option is one that invites the whole church to look with fresh eyes at our current Prayer Book and to explore more deeply the liturgical and theological properties of the book. This resolution also includes a direction for the SCLM to “develop materials to aid local dioceses, congregations, seminaries, and schools in the process of this deep engagement . . .”

The Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169 sent Resolution A068 to the floor of the House of Deputies with a recommendation to adopt with amendment. Debate on A068 should begin on the House of Deputies floor around 4:00 PM today, July 6.