Wednesday Word: Revisions

BCP Revision

If you've been following the proceedings at General Convention in Austin these past several days, you will know that one of the big issues being discussed and debated is prayer book revision. If you haven't been following the proceedings at General Convention, let me be the first to tell you that one of the big issues being discussed and debated is prayer book revision.

Prayer book revision is always a touchy and sometimes heart-wrenching topic among Episcopalians. That is to be expected because, although we are a “bible-believing church,” it is the Prayer Book that shapes our liturgy, our prayers, our theology, and hopefully our life. From Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline during the days, to Holy Eucharist on Sundays and Wednesdays, to Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and Burial, we Episcopalians live the Prayer Book. So revising it is always filled with hope and fear and joy and anger and a whole host of other emotions.

In the early stages of this debate, I have already heard people proclaim that if the BCP is revised they will leave the church. I've heard people proclaim that we need a new BCP to reflect concerns of inclusive language. I've heard fears that it will become not a Book of Common Prayer, but a book of á la carte liturgies that would make the Episcopal church unrecognizable as a body. I've heard anticipated joy of seeing a fully inclusive book. There have been concerns that women are not equally represented on the revision committee. There have been concerns that non-English speakers are not fully represented on that committee. And there have been many other sentiments expressed.

So yes, revising the Book of Common Prayer is a theological, liturgical, rubrical, and grammatical minefield.

As I write this, the House of Deputies voted to begin the process of revision. The House of Bishops has yet to vote. If they approve, the process will begin. If they don't, it won't.

But this won't happen overnight. If the House of Bishops approves revision this week, you won't find new BCP's in the pew next Sunday. Or the Sunday after that. Or even by Christmas. This is still a long process. My first memory of the BCP was the Green Book. Then the Zebra Book. Then the Proposed Book. And finally the authorized Book of Common Prayer. The proposed timeline would give us a new BCP in 2030.

I don't think we need to go all apoplectic. I don't think we need to start crying that the sky is falling. I don't think a new BCP will do away with Trinitarian language/theology. Nor do I think it will be, as someone said, “A New Age Unitarian mess.” So in the words of the Philadelphia 76ers, I will trust the process.

And in the meantime, I will continue to tape and glue my BCP together; and I will continue to worship God in the best way possible – with the Sacraments, Rites, and Ceremonies of this Church.



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