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Holy Women, Holy Men: onward

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By Douglas LeBlanc

General Convention’s Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music has endorsed continued trial use of Holy Women, Holy Men. During lengthy discussion July 5 of the proposed successor to Lesser Feasts and Fasts, numerous people testified that the text should be revised heavily.

The Rev. Patrick Malloy, acting dean of General Theological Seminary, said he is part of a community that prayed from Holy Women, Holy Men daily for a year. “Many of the texts were difficult to read and impossible to chant,” he said. “This calendar is too packed” and undermines the genius of the Book of Common Prayer’s calendar.

The Rev. David Sibley of the Diocese of Long Island also opposed Holy Women, Holy Men. “Many of the collects are hagiographies more than they are prayers,” he said.

The Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, proposed a substitute motion to suspend trial use, allow further changes to lie fallow for the next three years, and limit the number of new names in the future to 15 per General Convention.

“The expression ‘Drinking from a fire hose,’ it seems to me, is the most apt description of taking in Holy Women, Holy Men,” Martins said. “I think we need to take into account that this may simply be a project that has gone off the rails. I’m not sure the project can be rescued by tweaking it.”

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago, supported the substitute resolution by Martins, but it failed on voice vote after vigorous debate.

The Rev. Gregory M. Howe, custodian of the Book of Common Prayer, asked the committee not to suspend trial use. About 30 years earlier the House of Bishops had “put a lid on Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” he said.

“Please don’t put a lid on this again,” he added. “The last time it happened, it took nearly 20 years to pry it back off again.”

The Rev. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, defended trial use and Holy Women, Holy Men vigorously during the committee’s meeting.

The committee endorsed a substitute that continues trial use and asks the SCLM to give particular attention to guidelines and principles approved by General Convention in 2006.

The Rt. Rev. Scott Barker, Bishop of Nebraska, and several other speakers from his diocese and elsewhere praised the entry on the Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano. Fr. Kano, like other Japanese immigrants to the United States, was arrested and confined to an interment camp during World War II.

Bishop Barker asked the committee to “be creative” in honoring Fr. Kano, regardless of what it decided about Holy Women, Holy Men as a whole.

On another front, as the committee discussed authorizing a task force on the study of marriage Susan Williams of Western New York urged a consistent use of “same-sex” rather than “same-gender.”

“People have sex and animals have gender,” she said.

“It’s not strictly a grammatical point, because gender also involves gender identity,” Meyers said.

Williams’s amendment prevailed.

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