B011 Amend Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church (First Reading)

 [this is an alternative to approving a second reading of 2018-A063]

In 2018, the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music wrote that the church had been “working without a canonical net” for many years with respect to certain widely used liturgical texts. “Texts that churches use every Sunday, across the breadth of the Episcopal Church, have very tenuous constitutional and canonical authorization,” they pointed out. These include the texts of Lesser Feasts and Fasts and its successor texts, along with Enriching Our Worship. The bottom line, they wrote, is that the “Constitution and Canons are silent on whether General Convention can authorize liturgies not included in the Book of Common Prayer, short of amending Article X. Further, it doesn’t authorize a process for authorizing liturgies.”

The proposed path of the Task Force for Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision (TFLPBR) addresses this issue (2022-A059), but would create more problems than it solves. In short, A059 proposes to change the definition of the prayer book: instead of an actual book, “The Book of Common Prayer is understood to be those liturgical forms authorized by the General Convention” as provided for in its revised Article X. In theory, many such liturgies could be added, as “contemporary and future methods of publication may not be restricted to the form of a book.” By doing so, the TFLPBR proposes, the church may add liturgies to the prayer book that respond to the “expressed yearning for inclusive language and expansive imagery for humanity and divinity through approved trial and supplemental liturgies to the Book of Common Prayer and sanctioned for optional use throughout the Church.”

This proposed path presents several difficulties. Most problematically, the proposal encourages the profusion of liturgical texts with prayer book status, without sufficient guardrails in place to ensure that they are ready to articulate the faith and order of the church to which all clergy must subscribe. Since no re-printing of new prayer books is envisioned, it would become all too easy to add continually to the new “prayer book in the cloud,” a theoretically infinite virtual three-ring binder that would rapidly become internally inconsistent and incoherent. Moreover, the resolution proposes no vetting by the SCLM or other body, but only the votes of two successive General Conventions. New texts could be written by a single deputy and proposed from the floor, and in three years attain prayer book status. By contrast, the 1979 BCP underwent extensive scrutiny by a team of trained scholars and leaders over many years before its adoption.

A059 includes the amendment to Article X proposed by the SCLM and passed as a first reading in 2018. This amendment ensures that General Convention may authorize at any meeting “for use throughout this Church, as provided by Canon, alternative and additional liturgies to supplement those provided by the Book of Common Prayer.” A059 does not, however, provide by canon a clear description of what kind of authorization such texts should carry. A059 also does not sufficiently distinguish between “alternative” and “additional” texts, which are different in nature — for instance, alternative eucharistic prayers and prayer services for women grieving after miscarriages

If adopted, TFLPBR’s proposal would weaken the prayer book’s historic status as the “standard and normative text for worship in this Church,” by including numerous new texts that will never be printed in the books sitting in our pews. No other province in the Anglican Communion has taken such a step, for good reason. A059 does provide a canonical net for other authorized texts not given prayer book status; but the canonical status given to them would not be well-suited to their nature as texts undergoing a process of reception.

We propose instead a four-part structure that corresponds to the actual use of liturgical texts in our church:

First is the Book of Common Prayer. We propose that no alteration or addition shall be made to the prayer book unless it has been studied and affirmed by the SCLM and passed first as a Trial Use text.

Second, we suggest a new category, Authorized Liturgical Rites. Such texts would be available for use throughout the church as specified by canon, allowing for texts to be authorized churchwide without needing to amend or add to the prayer book. While some Anglican provinces have retained their historic prayer books alongside a comprehensive prayer book alternative (such as in Canada, New Zealand, England, and South Africa), other provinces (such as Scotland) have established a process for authorizing additional rites on a more ad hoc basis without producing a complete alternative service book. Our proposal is akin to this second approach.

Third, there would be a category of Experimental Use Liturgical Rites, as additions to or alternatives to the BCP or Authorized Liturgical Rites. These rites would explicitly be subject to the diocesan Ecclesiastical Authority’s permission, as currently specified by former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold in the preface to the first volume of EOW.

Fourth, there would be a category of Supplemental Liturgical Rites, corresponding to texts such as The Book of Occasional Services and Lesser Feasts and Fasts. As the SCLM recognized in 2018, we have no canonical category allowing for such texts, and canonical clarity for their status is desirable.

Our church has already been operating de facto with these four categories. While the current Constitution does not spell out that the SCLM should give careful study to liturgical texts before attaining prayerbook status, that was the wise practice that gave us the 1979 BCP. This process has been bypassed of late, but it would be prudent to make it canonically necessary.

Recently, the church has authorized several texts for Trial Use in a way that functions like our proposed Authorized Liturgical Rites: various expansive language eucharistic prayers, and inclusive marriage rites. With a new category of Authorized Liturgical Rites, the church would eventually be able to decide whether this or another category best suits them.

Finally, the third and fourth categories fill a clear need. EOW liturgies have been authorized in multiple and differing ways by bishops and rectors across the church. This is appropriate for texts in a process of experimentation, which can be revised as necessary in an organic way without bearing the burden of the faith and order of the church. This is the kind of bottom-up process of discernment that the 2018 General Convention envisioned in Resolution A068.

Our proposal will lessen liturgical confusion by providing a clear, orderly path for continued liturgical revision and experimentation while ensuring that changes to the Prayer Book reflect unhurried consensus and careful study.

 

2022-A059 – Amend Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church (First Reading)

 

Resolved, the House of ________________ concurring,

That the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church amend Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church as follows:

Sec. 1. The Book of Common Prayer, as now established or hereafter amended by the authority of this Church the General Convention, shall be in use in all the Dioceses of this Church. The Book of Common Prayer is understood to be those liturgical forms authorized by the General Convention as provided for in Section 2 of this Article. No alteration thereof or addition thereto shall be made unless the same shall be first proposed in one regular meeting of the General Convention and by a resolve thereof be sent within six months to the Secretary of the Convention of every Diocese, to be made known to the Diocesan Convention at its next meeting, and be adopted by the General Convention at its next succeeding regular meeting by a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by a vote by orders in the House of Deputies in accordance with Article I, Sec. 5, except that concurrence by the orders shall require the affirmative vote in each order by a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies.

Sec. 2. No alteration of or amendment or addition to the Book of Common Prayer shall be made unless the General Convention approve the same on first reading in one regular meeting of the General Convention and, by resolve so directing, be sent by the Secretary of the General Convention to the Secretary of the Convention of every Diocese, to be made known to the Diocesan Convention at its next regular meeting, and be adopted on second reading without alteration by the General Convention at its next succeeding regular meeting by a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by an affirmative vote by orders in the House of Deputies in accordance with Art. I, Sec. 5 of this Constitution, except that concurrence in the affirmative by the orders shall require the affirmative vote in each order by a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies.

Sec. 3. But notwithstanding anything herein above contained, the The General Convention may, at any one meeting, by a majority of the whole number of the Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by a majority of the Clerical and Lay Deputies of all the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies, voting by orders as previously set forth in this Article:

a. Amend the Table of Lessons and all Tables and Rubrics relating to the Psalms.

b. Authorize for trial use throughout this Church, as an alternative at any time or times to such revisions of or alternatives to the established Book of Common Prayer, in whole or in part, as may be proposed from time to time by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and implemented according to the directives of the General Convention. or to any section or Office thereof a proposed revision of the whole Book or of any portion thereof, duly undertaken by the General Convention.

c. Authorize for use throughout this Church, as provided by Canon, alternative and additional liturgies to supplement those provided in the Book of Common Prayer.

Sec. 4. And provided that nothing Nothing in this Article shall be construed as restricting the authority of the Bishops of this Church to take such order as may be permitted by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer or by the Canons of the General Convention for the use of special forms of worshipwithin their jurisdiction.

 

Explanation

General Convention Resolution 2018-A068 directed the Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision to propose to the 80th General Convention revisions to the Constitution and Canons “to enable The Episcopal Church to be adaptive in its engagement of future generations of Episcopalians, multiplying, connecting, and disseminating new liturgies for mission, attending to prayer book revision in other provinces of the Anglican Communion.”

The proposed draft revision of Article X reorganizes the text for clarity of language and structure; incorporates the text of Resolution 2018-A063, passed on first reading and pending for second reading; and responds to the expressed yearning for inclusive language and expansive imagery for humanity and divinity through approved trial and supplemental liturgies to the Book of Common Prayer and sanctioned for optional use throughout the Church.

The opening statement of Article X is not changed, retaining the principle that the BCP is the standard and normative liturgical text for worship in this Church. A second sentence is added to express the understanding that all liturgies that General Convention authorizes following the protocol of Section 2 are part of the Book of Common Prayer. The remainder of the section, setting forth the method of adoption, becomes Section 2. The amendments attempt to shift the Church’s awareness that contemporary and future methods of publication may not be restricted to the form of a book. What General Convention adopts as a prayer book is not a form of publication (a book) but rather the content, i.e., the text of the liturgies.