April 21, 2015

Dept of Canonical Redundancy Dept

A further note on my earlier comments about liturgical revision and its process, in which I chided both those calling for and those panicking over a possible amendment to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, Article X, I want to add to what I noted earlier about the longstanding practice of the Episcopal Church in authorizing liturgical texts in addition to the Book of Common Prayer. The proposed resolution A066 to amend the Constitution is seen by its proposers as needed to allow or regularize such authorizations. That is not the case.

Let me first reiterate that Article X is primarily concerned with the BCP and the process of its amendment. It also contains a clause about the authority of a diocesan bishop to authorize additional liturgical material -- an authority which by extension belongs to the whole House of Bishops (and which they exercised in that manner as long ago as 1907).

However, for those who crave the source of the written authority for the development and use of other liturgical texts, one can find it in the BCP itself. The permission stands among the very first modern words of the book (page 13, following on the historical Preface of 1789, which also noted that variety is the spice of liturgy). The BCP affirms that in addition to the Holy Eucharist and Daily Office "and the other rites contained in this Book, other forms set forth by authority within this Church may be used."

There were similar provisions in the BCP 1892 and 1928, which led to the work on the Book of Offices beginning in 1907, revised in 1917, 1940 and 1949; Lesser Feasts and Fasts, approved for "trial use" (even though not an addition to or revision of the BCP except in the Calendar) in 1964, and its later editions, including Holy Women Holy Men; the Book of Occasional Services (1979, since revised several times); and Enriching Our Worship volumes 1-5, last authorized for provisional use in 2012.

If one is anxious about "authority" in this case, it is abundantly clear that the authoritative body for the liturgy of the whole church is the General Convention. This is the body that authorizes the BCP itself (in two successive regular sessions) with no other approval necessary. (Proposed changes are referred to the dioceses in the time between sessions for reference, not approval). This is the body that has been authorizing additional and supplemental liturgical texts for just under a century.

Given the amount of material that has been authorized under the current procedures, it hardly seems necessary to burden the Constitution with a clause for a purpose already addressed in the BCP itself -- or to charge the General Convention with having to debate it. I urge the relevant legislative committee to mark it as redundant and "already addressed" and let the session get on to other work,

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

3 comments:

WSJM said...

I notice over on Thinking Anglicans some observations that some folks who have their knickers in a twist over the alleged wholesale violation of the Seventh Commandment (apparently in regard to same-sex marriages, which is not what the commandment is about, except incidentally) seem to have no problem with their own wholesale violation of the Ninth Commandment.

Just sayin'...

Tobias Haller said...

William, you might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment...

WSJM said...

Thank you, Mr. Urquhart....