Committee recommends continued calendar revisions, marriage task force creation

July 6, 2012

[Episcopal New Service — Indianapolis] The Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee has recommended adoption of resolutions to continue revision of Holy Women, Holy Men and to form a task force to study marriage.

Resolution A051 originally called for continuing trial use of Holy Women, Holy Men — a revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts that would add numerous commemorations to the church calendar — and presenting a revised edition to the 2015 General Convention for first reading.

The version the committee approved July 5 directs the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to continue revising the book, “paying particular attention to the Guidelines and Procedures for Continuing Alteration of the Calendar in the Episcopal Church” adopted by General Convention in 2006 and giving “renewed attention to the form, the poetry and seasons of liturgical life inherent in the Book of Common Prayer”; and for the committee to continue seeking responses to the revisions from the wider church.

In hearings and committee discussion, several people expressed concern that the current revision diluted the liturgical seasons by including so many commemorations; that the qualifications for inclusion were unclear; and that some of the texts needed improvement. But others described its value as a worship and educational tool.

Praying through the texts at daily Eucharists at her church had “engendered an amazing amount of opportunity for conversation” and expanded understanding of vocation, said the Rev. Susan Russell, committee member and deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles. “In some ways, instead of circling the wagons, it’s been expanding the circle.”

The Rev. Patrick Malloy of the Diocese of Bethlehem testified that he was in a community that used the book for a year “and found that a great many of the texts were very difficult to read and impossible to chant.”

“This calendar is too packed,” which detracts from the serious baptismal theology of Lent and Easter, he added.

“The expression drinking from a fire hose appears to me to be the apt metaphor,” said committee member Bishop Daniel Martins of the Diocese of Springfield, who proposed an unsuccessful substitute amendment to suspend trial use of the book for the next triennium.

“One of the benefits of a period of trial use can be to find where the bugs are and where the glitches are,” said member Don Reed, deputy from the Diocese of Southern Ohio. “If people are finding bugs and glitches, that’s what we want, not what we should be afraid of.”

Studying marriage

Earlier, the committee passed Resolution A050 to create a task force to study the “biblical, theological, historical, liturgical and canonical dimensions of marriage” after substituting and amending the language of B014.

The revised resolution also directs the task force to consult with the standing commissions on Constitution and Canons and on Liturgy and Music “to address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such”; to consult with single adults, married couples and those living in other lifelong committed relationships; and to consult with other members of the Anglican Communion and the church’s ecumenical partners.

During July 4 hearings, two members of the Diocese of El Camino Real, which proposed a similar resolution (C076), spoke in favor of the task force following a similar study in their diocese. It was a “profitable and deepening experience for the diocese,” said Deputy Jeff Diehl. “We included all voices across the spectrum.”

During discussions July 5, committee member the Rev. David Thurlow of the Diocese of South Carolina objected to allocating $30,000 for a study during tough fiscal times and to taking an action contrary to the understanding of marriage in the wider church, including the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

“My deepest regret is that, when it comes to moral theology, we’re really willing to part company with the wider one holy catholic church,” he said.

But member Katrina Hamilton, deputy from the Diocese of Olympia, speaking as a single heterosexual woman, said she’d like to see the church “have a serious conversation” about marriage.

“I would like to get married one day myself, and when I do I would like to know what it is,” she said, choking up as she spoke. “I think we need this for all of us, not just for our gay and lesbian friends and brothers and sisters, but for me as well.”

— Sharon Sheridan is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.