COLUMBUS, OH: Ecumenical Lectionary Mandated at General Convention
By Hans Zeiger
COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/16/06)-An ecumenical Revised Common Lectionary has been adopted at the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church as the exclusive Lectionary of the church.
The Episcopal Church must implement the Revised Common Lectionary as the standard of the church at Advent of 2007, amending pages 889 through 921 of the Book of Common Prayer. With the permission of bishops "for orderly transition," congregations may opt to continue use of the traditional Lectionary until Advent of 2010.
For the past several conventions, unsuccessful attempts have been made to officially adopt the Revised Common Lectionary. The Very Rev. Susan Williams of the Diocese of Western New York accused past opponents to the change of having "a level of ignorance."
Ignorance to what? Women. The Rev. Ruth A. Meyers of the Diocese of Chicago, Secretary of the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music said that the revised Lectionary should become the "only authorized Lectionary of the Episcopal Church" because it presents "feminine images of God."
An amendment was debated that would afford congregations an free choice between the traditional Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary, much as the case has been since a trial period was allowed for the Revised Common Lectionary.
Arguing for the amendment, one deputy said, "just let the market decide." Ernesto Medina disagreed. "Where it becomes a clear issue of justice is in the raising of the stories of women," said Medina. "This is one of those situations where the market cannot decide justly."
But Richard Cole of Churches in Europe said that the imposition of the revised Lectionary would be "an unwelcome intrusion" to the churches with which he fellowships overseas.
The Rev. Andrew Gerns, a deputy from the Diocese of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, opposed the amendment, observing that the Revised Common Lectionary is already used in the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Canada. "I believe that we need to not have an option, but to commit, to allow the publishers to move forward," said Gerns.
In a final appeal for choice, the conservative Rev. Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of San Joaquin joked, "It's a bit of an anomaly, but the deputy from the Diocese of San Joaquin rises to speak in favor of diversity." Lawrence expressed his aversion to the limited Scriptural selection of the Revised Common Lectionary. "I am in favor of those great texts and stories of the Hebrew Scriptures that are always fun to preach on, but it is the prophets who make us uncomfortable."
Lawrence added, "There will be confusion in the church which already has many causes for confusion."
The amendment was narrowly defeated.
The House of Bishops passed the resolution earlier in the week. Some in the House of Bishops, worried that the financial costs of the measure could be burdensome to local parishes. "It will be tremendously expensive," said the Rt. Rev. James Adams, Bishop of Western Kansas.
The Resolution, A077 states, "Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That this 75th General Convention direct that the Revised Common Lectionary shall be the Lectionary of this Church, amending the Lectionary on pp. 889-921 of The Book of Common Prayer, effective the First Sunday of Advent, 2007; with the provision for continued use of the previous Lectionary for purposes of orderly transition, with the permission of the Ecclesiastical Authority, until the First Sunday of Advent 2010."
According to Dr. Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA, the decision was "reasonable because of all of the available possibilities, this is undoubtedly the best-the best, that is, if it has decided to abandon the Cranmerian Daily Lectionary and Eucharistic Lectionary of the classic prayer book."
Toon added, "Since the Episcopal Church is a mainline denomination in the United States of America, and since virtually all of the mainline denominations are using the Revised Common Lectionary, and further since the Revised Common Lectionary is an adaptation of the lectionary of the Roman Catholic Church, then for all the best ecumenical reasons it is good that it is to become the lectionary of the Episcopal Church.
"However," Toon cautioned, "the purpose of a lectionary is that the Bible be read, heard, digested, and obeyed. So merely adopting a common lectionary is only half the necessary procedure; the other half is the actual reading of it with understanding and the obeying of its content with joy."
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