Prayer Book Debate Begins Again for General Convention

Photo: Kentaro Toma, Unsplash

By Kirk Petersen

The Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music committee has scheduled three sessions of online legislative hearings on Saturday, February 19 to hear testimony on 25 proposed resolutions, many of them related to prayer book revision, a hot topic at the 2018 General Convention.

Hearings on resolutions are being held online for the first time this year, and before the actual start of the General Convention in July. The hearings are open to anyone, but require advance registration at least two business days before the hearing. That means Thursday for a Saturday hearing.

Among the 25 resolutions to be considered on February 19, Resolution A057 calls for continued consideration of changes in liturgical language and practices under principles spelled out in the 31-page “blue book” report of the Task Force on Liturgical & Prayer Book Revision.

Another potentially controversial measure, Resolution A059, arguably redefines “Book of Common Prayer” altogether, by including this language: “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.” Section 2 specifies passage at two consecutive General Conventions.

Over the years, many liturgies and other worship resources have been approved by General Convention, either for trial use or as alternatives to the liturgies in the BCP. The task force that sponsored the resolution maintains a website with a long list of such resources, although most do not meet the test of having been approved in identical form in consecutive General Conventions.

Other potential hot buttons on the agenda for February 19 include changes to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts Calendar, which honors the people considered saints by the Episcopal Church. Resolution D012 would immediately enshrine Bishop Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion, who died in 2020. Episcopal News Service reported in September on a “growing movement” to establish a feast day for Harris.

The resolution would bypass the typical practice of requiring two consecutive General Conventions to approve additions to Lesser Feasts and Fasts. It also runs counter to proposed Resolution A010, “Lesser Feasts and Fasts Revision Principles,” which among other things states “It should normatively be the case that a person be included in the Calendar only after two generations or fifty years have elapsed since that person’s death.” Advocates on behalf of Harris cite past cases where each of these provisions have been waived.

Resolution D011 would remove the Rev. William Porcher DuBose from Lesser Feasts and Fasts. DuBose, a noted theologian, was also an officer in the Confederate Army whose family owned more than 200 enslaved persons.

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