A group calling itself Revision Matters has launched a website intending to foment a conversation on BCP revision. They describe their effort as “A conversation among Episcopalians and friends about why revising the Book of Common Prayer matters — to us, to the church, to the world. All manner of reflections welcome: personal, theological, ethnographic, historical, literary, political. We aim to stay kind and respectful.”
In a post from yesterday, The Rev. Miranda Hassett, rector of St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Madison, WI laid out their preference for a church-wide conversation as an indispensable prerequisite for any decision on revision.
“Over the centuries, and around the world, the Book of Common Prayer has been adapted, translated, and revised, in the ongoing effort to meet those intentions in new times and contexts.
It’s been nearly forty years since the current Book of Common Prayer became our official prayer book, and much of the liturgical work that fed that revision took place fifty or more years ago. It’s been a changeful half-century, and some of those changes have touched how our liturgical language means and feels.
At the 2015 General Convention, our last every-three-years legislative gathering as a denomination, a resolution was passed that asked the church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to present a plan for the comprehensive revision of the current Book of Common Prayer to the upcoming 2018 General Convention. The SCLM responded by proposing four possible paths forward for the church:
- Full and comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer beginning at the 2018 Convention;
- Creation of a comprehensive Book of Alternative Service, with the 1979 BCP untouched;
- Intensive church-wide conversation about whether revision of the BCP is needed or desirable, and if so, to what extent; or
- A step back from any plans for liturgical revision or creation of new liturgical materials, and instead a commitment to deeper study of the theology of our current liturgies.
Here’s where we stand, as the voices of Revision Matters.
It doesn’t look like the Episcopal Church is ready for path 1. There clearly hasn’t been a churchwide conversation about how we’re using the prayer book, what we love about it and where it chafes or constrains.
Those who have staked a position and made a case online or in print have largely represented one side of the question. There’s a scarcity of public writing about why revision matters — and we don’t believe it’s because nobody wants revision.
Therefore, we commend Path 3 to the church: Let’s talk about this. Broadly, openly, freely.
Let’s hear a wide range of voices about what we love, what we struggle with, and what we hope for, in our life of common worship as Episcopalians and our relationship with this little red (or sometimes blue?) book.
Let’s listen too — even when it’s hard. This is tender territory; some of the words that others find hurtful or simply meaningless may be written deep in our hearts.
Revision Matters is intended to host some of that necessary conversation. We hope to welcome and curate short reflections from folks all over the church, about why prayer book revision matters to you or in your church context.
Please read, share, and if you’ve got something to contribute, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”