Archive for the ‘The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974)’ Tag

“Lead Me, Guide Me”: The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1970-2000   18 comments

1974-1987 Dutch Reformed

Above:  My Copies of Psalter Hymnal Supplement (1974), Psalter Hymnal (1976), Rejoice in the Lord (1985), Worship the Lord (1987), and Psalter Hymnal (1987)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART VI

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Lead me, guide me, along the way,

for if you lead me I cannot stray.

–Doris M. Akers, 1953, Psalter Hymnal (1987), Hymn #544

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

The Guide to the U.S. Dutch Reformed Liturgy Series is here.

Sometimes my timing works out well.  This post covers (with a few exceptions) the time period 1970-2000.  And, helpfully, the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC), held simultaneously in Pella, Iowa, adjourned recently.  I even watched some of the video coverage online and read updates on denominational websites.  If, as Philip Graham observed, journalism is the first draft of history, I get to wear my historian’s hat consistently for Part VI yet will have to change hats a few times in Part VII.  And knowledge of the very recent past informs my writing regarding events of 1970-2000.

Documenting my claims matters.  I have provided a bibliography of hardcopy sources at the end of this post.  And you, O reader, will find some of URLs behind text in places.  I have also derived information from official Minutes.  So, for the record, the Agendas for Synod and Acts of Synod of the CRCNA from 1970 to 1999 are here and those from 2000 forward are here.  I found the Acts and Proceedings of the General Synod of the RCA here.  And the Minutes of the Synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) are here.

The period 1970-2000 was a time of turbulence for both the CRCNA and the RCA, which moved closer to each other.  As the RCA became more conservative and the CRCNA more diverse and progressive, the latter experienced schism in the 1990s.  Both denominations (the RCA and the CRCNA) struggled with the roles of women in the church and prepared and published new hymnals and liturgical forms.  And, by the end of the 1990s, both had facilitated the formation of union churches.

I need to be clear about one point before I proceed to the main body of the text.  The CRCNA was–and remains–a conservative denomination.  The same statement applies to the RCA.  This is not a story mainly about conservatives and liberals, although the RCA does have a liberal wing.  No, this is primarily an account of those who were–and remain–conservative and those who were–and remain–more conservative–sometimes even reactionary.

I write as an interested outsider–an Episcopalian raised a United Methodist in Georgia, U.S.A.  My sense of intellectual curiosity and my desire to get the facts straight propel me in this endeavor.   Thus I have “no dog in the fight,” although I do have and express opinions–sometimes in a snarky manner.  In fact, I have found elements with which to agree and admire and those with which to differ strongly in both the RCA and the CRCNA.  I tend to be a social-theological liberal on most issues and a liturgical conservative, actually.  Thus I support full legal and social equality for homosexuals in church and society, consider myself a feminist, do not mistake the Bible for a science book, abhor racism and imperialism, use The Book of Common Prayer (1979) happily, favor European classicism in hymnody, and recoil in horror at contemporary worship.  If I see a guitar in church, I hope in vain for a Spanish classical guitar performance.  The last time someone handed me a tambourine in hopes that I would use it (after the day’s sessions at an Episcopal Lay Ministries Conference in the Diocese of Georgia circa 2000), I returned the instrument promptly and without speaking.  My guiding principle regarding ethics is loving my neighbor as myself, thus I also have strong reservations regarding abortion mixed with libertarian concerns about the best way to reduce the number of incidents of that practice.

So, without further ado….

II.  THEOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS AND TENSIONS

Roman Catholicism places a high value on tradition.  But, as I learned at the Newman Center at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, in the early 2000s, Roman Catholicism has layers of tradition.   It clings to some traditions tenaciously, considering some revealed by God and therefore off-limits to change, yet alters others.  One can make the same analysis of the Reformed, heirs to their own traditions–those doctrines and practices others had passed down for generations.  Some in the CRCNA and the RCA were more attached to certain traditions than to others.  And some of these Reformed became detached from certain traditions over time.

Racism and Civil Rights

Racism can prove to be a difficult issue with which to wrestle.  Often one’s racism is subtle and unconscious.  If this holds true for individuals, how much more difficult an issue is it for institutions, cultures, and societies?

Both the CRCNA and the RCA have been and remain mainly White, for their ethnic heritage is Dutch.  The RCA had Americanized before the CRCNA broke away in 1857.  The CRCNA, a staunchly Dutch enclave for most of its first century of existence, came to embrace diversity and multiculturalism in the 1970s and 1980s.  Their 1984 and 1985 Synods even declared the first Sunday in October to be All Nations Heritage Sunday as a means of increasing awareness of racial and ethnic diversity in the denomination and of pursuing racial and ethnic reconciliation.  The Synod of 1986 expanded this to All Nations Heritage Week, which repeated annually.  Each year the focus shifted to a different racial or ethnic group in the CRCNA.

Both the CRCNA and the RCA addressed racism and racial-ethnic considerations within their ranks.  The RCA formed racial-ethnic Councils–Black (later African-American) in 1969, American Indian in 1972, Hispanic in 1974, and Asian-Pacific American in 1980.  Of these only the Black Council seemed to ruffle White feathers consistently.  Yes, the RCA General Synod of 1974 had recognized the need to avoid paternalism, but attachment to White privilege remained.  The 1978 report of the Black Council criticized the RCA’s Christian Action Commitee (CAC) report for being soft on the role of multinational corporations in financing Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.  The General Synod, in response, approved the Black Council’s report and a motion to study the denomination’s investments in South Africa.  That report had also assigned blame within the RCA for racism and related problems.  Yes, the General Synod accepted that critique, but many in the RCA considered the Black Council beligerent and disruptive.

The CRCNA Synod of 1970 responded to a conference of African-American parishioners held at Chicago, Illinois, in March of that year.  Attendees to the Black Conference reported feeling misunderstood by the White majority.  They also complained that some official literature was not only irrelevant but offensive.  Racial discrimination (in violation of Synodical policy) at a CRC parochial school in Cicero, Illinois, also disturbed them.  They prepared a list of concrete proposals (scholarships, more leadership opportunities, et cetera) and asked for an alteration of Article 52 of the Church Order to permit the singing of non-authorized hymns at the discretion of congregational leaders.  The Synod of 1970 responded favorably to these actions, some of which required a few years to come to fruition.  The change in the Church Order occurred five years later, for example.  But, as the Synod of 1970 declared,

Recognition of different cultural patterns in certain minority groups suggest that flexibility in the choice of hymns should be given serious consideration.

The CRC Synod of 1971 created the Synodical Committee on Race Relations (SCORR).  This group did much.  It aided Church members in transracial adoptions, developed leaders from racial minorities, supported multiracial congregations, worked with churches in racial transition, proposed All Nations Heritage Sunday/Week, lobbied against Apartheid, et cetera.

Speaking of Apartheid….

One of the main criticisms of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the RCA and the CRCNA had been that the Council meddled in matters economic, social, and political.  This became an official complaint of the CRCNA and a grievance of the right wing of the RCA.  Yet both denominations, to their credit, condemned Apartheid.  On the other hand, their tactics were not always what they should have been.  But at least the denominations “meddled,” something the call of social justice required.  Loving one’s neighbor as oneself mandated “meddling” in this case.  Faith without works was dead.  (James 2:26)

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Above:  South African President F. W. de Klerk with Nelson Mandela, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1993

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011634245/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16052

Former President Nelson Mandela died in 2013.  I recall news reports from the time.  People from across the political spectrum in the U.S.A. praised the great man, a reconciler who did much to help the Republic of South Africa emerge from Apartheid.  Yet some on the conservative side of U.S. politics persisted in their condemnations of Mandela, as if the Cold War had not ended over twenty years prior.  Some prominent conservatives who had condemned Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) in previous decades came to his defense in 2013, however.

These incidents reminded many of Cold War politics, which led many in the global West to defend the Apartheid-era government of South Africa and to denounce the ANC into the 1990s.  In 1985, for example, the RCA invited Oliver Tambo, President of the ANC, to address its 1986 General Synod, set to convene at the Crystal Cathedral.  Pastor Robert Schuller, who had condemned criticisms of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) decades before, barred Tambo from speaking at the church.  The ANC, some alleged, was a Soviet-funded terrorist organization.  Should the head of such a group address the RCA General Synod?  And Schuller argued that the denomination should stay out of politics.  Tambo accepted a different speaking engagement–at the United Nations Labor Organization, in Paris, France, at the same time as the RCA General Synod–and the ANC sent its Secretary-General, Alfred Nzo, to the General Synod instead.  Many in the RCA remained unsatisfied.

A proper understanding of Reformed ecclesiastical relationships relative to the U.S.A. and South Africa requires some knowledge of denominations.  Four South African denominations proved germane to the RCA and the CRCNA:

  1. The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRCSA),
  2. The Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCSA),
  3. The Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA), and
  4. The Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC).

The DRCA and the DRMC merged in 1994 to become the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA).

The CRCNA sent a letter to South African denominations in 1976.  It expressed concern regarding the Terrorism Act of 1967, by which the South African government arrested dissidents, many of whom died under suspicious circumstances while in detention.  The government reported an abnormally high rate of people dying by falling out of high windows and down flights of stairs, for example.  The CRC letter expressed concern that the government was using this law to oppress innocent people and persecute Christians and asked if the churches had expressed misgivings to the central government.  The White DRCSA, which made theological arguments for Apartheid, defended the law.  The RCSA, which had White, Black, and Colored members, replied that it was working for the revision of the law.  The CRCNA, emphasizing Biblical concepts of justice, approved the Koinonia Declaration (1977) (Acts of Synod, 1978, pp. 402-407), which condemned Apartheid, in 1978, the same year the denomination reported the replies from South African churches.

The CRCNA, which had longstanding ecclesiastical fellowship with the RCSA (rather the White national synod thereof), established the same relationship with the Black DRCA and the Colored DRMC in 1982, the same year it declined ecclesiastical fellowship with the White DRCSA.  The reason for that rejection was not to

seriously compromise our witness against racial discrimination and suggest an indifference to the plight of millions of nonwhite South Africans who suffer under the system of autogenous development which is supported and abetted by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa.

The DRMC, on the other hand, had, in 1982, condemned Apartheid as a sin, a heresy, and

a mockery of the gospel.

There was a problem with the RCSA.  It justified Apartheid too.  To be precise, that White part of it (the national synod) with which the CRCNA discovered in 1989 it had ecclesiastical fellowship, supported Apartheid.  There were three other RCSA synods–two Black and one Colored–with which the CRCNA lacked ecclesiastical fellowship.  So the CRC sought that relationship with those three synods while it suspended ecclesiastical fellowship with the national synod.  This suspension had been in the works since 1985.  SCORR and others in the CRCNA had urged it prior to 1989, but the Synods had attempted persuasion first.

The CRCNA, which declared in 1987 that Apartheid was

in gross violation of biblical principles and a repudiation of Christian ethical imperatives,

declared in 1990 that the anti-Apartheid Belhar Confession (Acts of Synod, pp. 215-217) was consistent with Reformed Doctrine.  The RCA, by the way, commended that Confession in 2000 as a way to address racism within their denomination.  The Belhar Confession, a product of the old DRMC in South Africa, became a doctrinal standard of the RCA in 2010 and an Ecumenical Faith Declaration of the CRCNA two years later.

The CRCNA’s suspension of ecclesiastical fellowship with the RCSA’s White national synod hurt many feelings in the latter body.  This point arose repeatedly in the 1990s, even as the RCSA reformed itself racially in the post-Apartheid era.  In 2000 the CRCNA was still attempting to make peace with that group.

In 2000 the CRCNA was moving toward ecclesiastical fellowship with the DRCSA, which had apologized for having supporting Apartheid.

Also in 2000, both the RCA and the CRCNA had friendly relations with the URCSA.

Dancing in the Christian Reformed Church in North America

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Above:  Tango Tee, 1914

Image Copyright Holder = Puck Publishing Corporation

Artist = Walter Dean Goldbeck

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011649774/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-28039

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Q:  Why don’t Fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

–An old joke

The CRCNA resolved in 1966 that movies and television programs were legitimate forms of entertainment, subject to Christian analysis.  Some in the denomination applied that reasoning to dancing, much to the chagrin of others in the CRC.  The Synod of 1971 adopted an overture to study “acceptable ways” for Christians to dance and rejected an opposing overture.  Six years later the Synod allowed regulated dances at church colleges.  At the Synod of 1978, however, some CRCNA members complained that such dancing was wrong.  It set a bad moral example, they said.  It smacked of worldliness, sexual stimulation, and other vices, they complained.  And, they continued, it caused offense to other Christians.  That Synod instructed the Calvin College Board of Trustees to hold no more dances until more study had concluded.  The Synod of 1980 sent the report, “Dance and the Christian Life” (Acts of Synod, pp. 448-466) to churches for study for two years.  This document affirmed much dancing.

The CRCNA made great strides toward removing the proverbial long pole from its equally proverbial intestinal tract (No wonder so many people had such difficulty dancing, much less sitting!) at the Synod of 1982.  “Dance and the Christian Life” (Acts of Synod, pp. 556-575) said in part:

In the most basic sense the human capacity to dance roots in creation.  God gave us bodies that are instruments of sense and motion and made us capable of responding to musical themes and rhythmical movement.  This capacity is rooted in creation, not in the fall.

The report called on Christians to use dancing to honor God.  Ballet and traditional folk dances were acceptable, but ballroom dancing was morally troublesome and disco was out of the question.  Any narcissistic or sexually suggestive form of dance was unacceptable, according to the report.

So, if dancing should honor God, was liturgical dancing acceptable?  The Synod of 1985, scotched the question, saying that liturgical dancing would distract from the centrality of the Word in worship.

War and Peace

The Cold War distorted U.S. foreign policy regarding human rights.  The U.S. Government supported brutal regimes which sent death squads to victimize innocent civilians.  But at least those governments were not Communist!

Consider, O reader, the case of El Salvador.  The right-wing dictatorship killed innocent civilians regularly and fought a Leftist rebellion.  One man who spoke out vocally and frequently against his government was Oscar Romero, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador.  For his troubles the government assassinated him on Sunday, March 24, 1980, at the end of his homily.  In that homily Romero had quoted “The Church in the Modern World,” a Vatican II document:

God’s reign is already present on our earth in mystery.  When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection.

Then he had continued:

That is the hope that inspires Christians.  We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.

The RCA General Synod of 1981 requested that the Reagan Administration cut off aid to the government of El Salvador.  This was far from a unanimous decision, for some delegates thought that the denomination should stay out of politics.  Others suspected that the supporters of the overture wanted the Communists to win.

The CRCNA Synods took a less direct approach to such matters.  The Synod of 1975 approved a report, “Ethical Decisions About War” (Acts of Synod, pp. 518-533), which allowed for conscientious objection but not for going underground or fleeing the country except in the most extreme cases.  And, in 1982, the Synod adopted summary statements of “Guidelines for Justifiable Warfare” (Acts of Synod, pp. 104-105) and sent them to the Prime Minister of Canada, the President of the United States, and the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches

Within the RCA much opposition to the denomination’s membership in the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the National Council of Churches (NCC) stemmed from the Cold War and the fear of Communism.  Some even alleged that the Council, if not Communist, were at least soft on Communism.  And the trope that the Councils meddled in matters social, political, and economic was commonplace.  As I have documented, however, some of the critics who leveled the latter charge supported church opposition to Apartheid, which was social, political, and economic.  In such cases the charge of hypocrisy was appropriate.  The allegation of insensitivity to injustice was apt for those who opposed anti-Apartheid efforts by churches.

The RCA General Synods of 1971, 1973, and 1983 rejected overtures to leave the NCC and the WCC, but the denomination did not require any congregation to provide financial support for them.  Interestingly, the shift in the RCA was such that, in 2000, the General Synod, while not seeking to leave the NCC and the WCC, favored affiliating with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) should that body amend its Constitution to accept denominations affiliated with the NCC and/or the WCC.

The CRCNA was never going to join the NCC and/or the WCC, but it sent observers to WCC gatherings and had an observer on the NCC’s Faith and Order Commission throughout the 1980s and 1990s.  The CRCNA also recognized WCC affiliates as members of the body of Christ.  This was an improvement over a former position of that denomination, wherein WCC affiliates were sects so far as the CRC was concerned.  (A “sect” seems to be a religious group of which one disapproves strongly.)

The CRCNA’s natural inclination was to rejoin the NAE, which it did on October 5, 1988.  (I found the date in Acts of Synod, 1989.  Oddly enough, the last time I checked the denominational website, it was uncertain of the date.)  This re-affiliation was a long time in coming.  The CRCNA, trying to preserve the purity of its Reformed witness, had withdrawn in 1951.  The creation of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible in the 1960s and the 1970s had brought the denomination into cooperation with the NAE.  A report to the CRCNA Synod of 1970 approved of CRCNA agencies’ cooperation with agencies of NAE affiliates.  That Synod also encouraged such collaboration.  Nevertheless, the CRC’s Interchurch Relations Committee was not yet ready to make a recommendation regarding rejoining the NAE.  That Committee did make that recommendation in 1987, however.  The report rebutted the allegation that membership would dilute the CRCNA’s Reformed witness by pointing out that the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) were members.  The CRCNA had ecclesiastical fellowship with both of them and had, in the 1950s and 1960s, considered merging with the latter.

Homosexuality and Homophobia

On March 19, 2008, on the Demorest, Georgia, campus of Piedmont College, I attended a presentation by Dr. Stephen Brookfield, a specialist in critical thinking and a professor at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota.  (Yes, I still have the handout, on which I wrote the date.)  Brookfield said one thing which has remained with me:  Our most basic assumptions are those we do not think of as assumptions.

Many assumptions regarding homosexual orientation (a psychological category which did not exist until the 1800s) have proven to be false.  Until 1973 the American Psychological Association considered homosexuality a disorder.  One accepted explanation of causation was bad parenting.  Thus homosexual orientation was allegedly an affliction–not a choice, though–for which therapy was the compassionate response.  The assumption was that homosexuals were abnormal people at best.  According to those who considered the orientation a choice homosexuals were perverts who needed to repent of their sin–amend their manner of life.

But what if sexual orientation is neither a disorder nor a choice nor a sin?  Many people did not consider this possibility, for their most basic assumptions were those they did not consider to be assumptions, regardless of evidence.

Both the CRCNA and the RCA refused to ordain practicing homosexuals, but there were differences in the denominational positions.  The RCA General Synod of 1974 rejected a proposal to provide “compassionate support” of homosexuals in the life of the denomination and affirmed the traditional rejection of homosexuality instead.  A variety of opinions existed within the RCA.  Should homosexuals have all the same rights as other people?  Or is homosexuality a sinful condition.  Or is it akin to a handicap, therefore not sinful?  In 1978 and 1979 the RCA Theological Commission proposed that homosexuality is not a choice and that homosexuals should have the same civil rights as other people.  The General Synod referred the report to congregations for study and avoided the issue for a few years.

The specter of homophobia reared its head in the context of AIDS in the 1980s.  The 1987 General Synod favored AIDS education.  Yet, as letters to the editor in the denominational Church Herald magazine proved, many members of the RCA blamed the victims and used homophobic rhetoric.  AIDS was divine retribution for sinful activities, they said.  That was a position the General Synod of 1988 contradicted, although not unanimously.  The following year the General Synod, after much debate, accepted a recommendation that the RCA

create a climate within the church whereby all persons will be truly accepted and treated as God’s children.

Then came the 1990s.  The General Synod of 1990 rejected an overture to adopt the 1978-1979 report and adopted instead the position that

the practicing homosexual lifestyle is contrary to scripture, while at the same time encouraging love and sensitivity toward such persons as fellow human beings.

By the 1990s, however, many members of the RCA had concluded that sexual orientation was a biological given , not a disorder, choice, or sin.  (Can there be sin without choice?)  The position of the denomination remained unchanged, though.  The 1994 General Synod, without reversing the 1990 decision, called upon RCA members and congregations to repent for not living up to pastoral statements regarding homosexuals.  It also advised RCA members to pray and to learn and grow in ministry.  Six years later the General Synod passed overtures rebuking the United Church of Christ (UCC), with which the RCA was in full communion, for ordaining practicing homosexuals.

Canada legalized homosexual acts between consenting adults in 1969.  In that context and the context of the position of the psychological profession regarding homosexuality at the time the CRCNA Synod of 1970 approved an overture declaring that

Homosexuality is a growing problem in today’s society

and authorizing a study of “Homosexual Problems” with an eye toward considering

a genuinely Christian and rehabilitative attitude toward these members.

That overture also noted the existence of a range of attitudes toward homosexuals among members of the CRCNA.

The Synod of 1973 defined the CRCNA’s position regarding homosexuality and homosexuals.  Subsequent acts of Synod over the years referred people to the decision of 1973.  That ruling said that, among other things:

  1. Homosexuality is a sexual disorder “for which the homosexual may himself bear only a minimal responsibility;”
  2. Christ died for homosexuals too;
  3. Homosexual practice is incompatible with the will of God as the Bible reveals that will;
  4. The Church must treat homosexuals as it treats all other sinners, everyone being sinful;
  5. The Church must help homosexuals live chaste lives;
  6. The Church must help homosexuals overcome their “disorder;” and
  7. Parents should not act so as to contribute to homosexual orientation in their children.

The Synod of 1999 affirmed the 1973 report and added to it “Direction about and for Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members” (Agenda for Synod, pp. 237-279).  The approved version of this document softened some language so as to avoid even the appearance of casting aspersion upon anyone, but it did not contradict the dated causation theory present in the 1973 report.  The following year the Synod rejected an overture complaining that the church was soft on homosexuality.

Evolution

The CRCNA made an unambiguous statement about Evolution in 1991.  After much debate the denomination went on record as opposing the possibility of evolutionary forebears of human beings.  Debate continued, of course, and the CRCNA reversed that position in 2010.  Constant since 1991 has been the position that all theology and science is properly subservient to the Bible and to Reformed confessions of faith.

Opposition to Evolution was one factor in the drafting of Our World Belongs to God:  A Contemporary Testimony (Acts of Synod, 1983, pp. 410-421; Acts of Synod, 1986, pp. 843-856); secularism was another.  This document, revised in 2008, has the potential for liturgical us, as in setting parts of it to music.  Nevertheless, a survey from 1986 revealed that few congregations used it liturgically.  The explanatory note in Our Faith (2013) reads in part:

While not having confessional status it is meant to give a hymn-like expression of our faith within the heritage of the Reformed confessions, especially addressing issues that confront the church today.

If one reads portions of the testimony as poetic theology, there is no conflict between it and science.

Roman Catholicism

The Cold War between the Roman Catholic Church and much of Protestantism has ended.  As I type these words I think of examples of cooperation and dialogue, including many involving Evangelicals.  Billy Graham knew and respected Pope John Paul II, for example.  Mainliners tended to arrive at this place of respectful disagreement on many points and cooperation on others ahead of many Evangelicals, but at least those who have become more open have done so.  Rome has also opened up since Vatican II, so the process of rethinking old prejudices has occurred on several fronts.  Unfortunately, many have yet to settle upon this “live and let live” position of dialogue, acceptance, and tolerance.

The RCA and the CRCNA have the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) as part of their heritage.  In the 1975 CRC translation Question 80 reads:

How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass?

The Answer begins:

The Lord’s Supper declares to us

that all our sins are completely forgiven

through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ,

which he himself accomplished on the cross once for all.

It also declares to us

that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ,

Who with his true body

is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father

where he wants us to worship him.

In Our Faith (2013) the text continues inside brackets:

But the Mass teaches

that the living and the dead

do not have their sins forgiven

through the suffering of Christ

unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests.

It also teaches

that Christ is bodily present

under the form of bread and wine

where Christ is therefore to be worshiped.

Thus the Mass is basically

nothing but a denial

of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ

and a condemnable idolatry.

The CRCNA Synod of 1998 rejected an overture to remove Question and Answer 80 from confessional status.  Yet that same Synod sought dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church to clarify the current doctrine of the Mass.  Thus, with the dialogue concluded, the Synod of 2004 removed Question and Answer 80 from confessional status in the CRCNA.  Then the Synod of 2006 placed the last three paragraphs of the Answer inside brackets

to indicate that they do not accurately reflect the official teaching and practice of the Roman Catholic Church and are no longer confessionally binding on members of the CRC,

as a footnote in Our Faith (2013) indicates.  More of that footnote informs the reader that the RCA

retains the original text, choosing to recognize that the catechism was written within a historical context which may not accurately describe the Roman Catholic Church’s current stance.

So, can we move on from the 1500s now?

Roles of Women and Language for God

Gender–the social, economic, cultural, and political implications of anatomy–is a major issue in theology.  It relates to sexual orientation, which I have, of course, covered already in this post.  It also pertains to the roles of women in the church and how one speaks and writes of God.

Both the RCA and the CRCNA wrestled with the roles of women in the church during the period this post covers.  And both opened all church offices to women.  The fact that the RCA did this first ought not to surprise any observant reader of this post and/or its predecessors in the series.  The RCA heard the first overture to permit women to serve as elders and deacons in congregations at the General Synod of 1918.  That overture failed because the General Synod decided that approving the measure would cause division in the denomination–harm out of proportion to any good which would result.  The issue recurred during the ensuing decades, failing time after time.  The General Synod of 1942 cited the prohibition against female elders and deacons while rejecting an overture to ordain women as ministers.  Then, in 1958, the General Synod declared that there was no Biblical reason to exclude women from church offices.  Nevertheless, the RCA opened the offices to elder and deacon to women in 1972–fourteen years later–and the ranks of the clergy in 1979.

In 1972, over the strong objections of many and to the great joy of others, the RCA struck the Book of Church Order provision designating elders and deacons as “males.”  Traditionalists liked up their counter-arguments:

  1. Scripture forbids a woman to hold authority over a man;
  2. The change in the Book of Church Order is unconstitutional;
  3. The change will prove to be divisive; and
  4. Women are not biologically fit to lead men.

Point #1 was a sexist reading of the Bible.  Point #2 was a matter for the denomination to decide.  Point #3 was moot, for the refusal to open church offices to women had already proved divisive, as protests at the General Synod of 1969 proved.  And, as for Point #4, all I have to say is one name:  Boudicca (died in 61 C.E.), the English Celtic warrior queen who fought the Romans.

Next came the movement to ordain women as ministers.  The Book of Church Order did not restrict candidates for the ministry to “males,” for it referred to “persons.”  Thus the first ordination of a woman to the ministry and installation as pastor of a church occurred in October 1973.  Other irregular ordinations followed over the next six years as the debate over whether women were “persons’ for the purpose for ordination to the ministry occurred.  In 1980, one year after the official approval of the ordination of women as ministers, the General Synod instituted the “conscience clause” for those who opposed the practice.  The denomination removed that clause in 2013.

A 1992 survey revealed the East-Midwest/West split in the RCA regarding female ministers, elders, and deacons.  In the East, where just under a third of the members lived, 90% of parishioners favored female deacons and elders and 80% supported female ministers.  Yet, in the Midwest and the West, where the majority of members lived, two-thirds of the parishioners favored female deacons and elders and barely half supported female ministers.

The CRCNA followed a long path to opening church offices to women.  The Synod of 1973, like the RCA General Synod of 1958, determined that there was no Biblical justification for excluding women from church offices.  A 1975 report to the CRCNA agreed.  The CRCNA studied the issue for ten more years before declaring in 1985 that male headship over women prohibited females from holding church offices.  Four years later, however, the CRCNA opened up non-ordained church offices to women.  The Synod of 1990 opened all church offices to women theoretically, but theory became reality five years later.  Despite that fact, not all the CRCNA Classes had consented to the ordination of women in 2010.

Women have a long way to go before they achieve equality in the life of the church in the CRCNA and the RCA.  According to surveys in 2000, resistance to female leadership roles in the church was stronger in the CRCNA than in the RCA.  78% of RCA parishioners and clergy favored female ministers, compared to the 48% approval rating in the CRCNA.  Likewise, 44% of CRCNA congregations prohibited female deacons, 62% barred female elders, and 71% forbade female ministers, in contrast to the corresponding numbers in the RCA–13%, 14%, and 18%, respectively.

Dame Julian(a) of Norwich (circa 1342-circa 1417), the English mystic and solitary nun, wrote:

Also, as truly as God is our Father, so as truly is God our Mother.  And he shows in all and namely in these sweet words, where he says, “I it am.”  That is to say, “I it am, the might and goodness of Fatherhood;  I it am, the wisdom and kindness of Motherhood; I it am, the light and the grace, that is all blessed love; I it am, the Trinity; I it am, the Unity; I it am, the high sovereign goodness of all manner of things; I it am, that makes you to love; I it am, that makes you to long, the endless fullness of all true desires.”

If the saint could have traveled in a time machine to the CRCNA Synods of 1991 and 1997, she would have been disappointed.  The Synod of 1991, recognizing that human gender concepts do not apply to God, declared nevertheless that “over-correcting” for previous uses of masculine language for God compromises

essential biblical teaching of God the Father and God the Son.

The Synod of 1997 confirmed the preservation of masculine language for God (Acts of Synod, pp. 265-372) in worship and official literature.

Dogma (1999)

Above:  Alanis Morissette as God in Dogma (1999)

A screen capture I took via PowerDVD from a legal DVD

I can guess what some in the CRCNA thought about Alanis Morissette’s portrayal of God in Dogma (1999).

The Christian Reformed Church in North America in the 1990s

Relatively liberal tendencies in the CRCNA–as evidenced by debates over Evolution and the move toward the opening of church offices to women–led to a tumultuous decade for the denomination as opponents inside and outside the tent assailed it.  Part of the CRCNA’s right wing defected and several traditionally friendly denominations turned on the CRC.

Sturm und Drang had become so severe at the end of 1992 that independent churches composed of dissident former CRCNA parishioners had started to form.  Some of these congregations affiliated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), with which the CRC had explored organic union in the 1960s, until the OPC nixed that plan.  By the end of 1994 thirty-two congregations had left the CRCNA outright.  In the middle and late 1990s the OPC, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and the Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC) not only blessed out the CRCNA for ordaining women but severed ecclesiastical relations with it.  The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) expressed concerns yet did not sever relations.  In 1997 the PCA, the OPC, the RPCNA, the KAPC, the ARPC, and the rump Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), at the time the other six members of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), which the CRCNA had helped to found in the middle 1970s, voted to suspend the membership of the CRCNA in that body.  (The continuing RCUS is the remnant of the original U.S. German Reformed Church/RCUS, which existed from 1793 to 1934, and whose legacy lives primarily in the United Church of Christ.)

Meanwhile, in 1995, the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), which chose that name the following year, organized.  Forty-two congregations had representation at the inaugural meeting.  The URCNA adopted the liturgical forms in the 1976 edition of the 1959 Psalter Hymnal in 1996 and modified the Form of Subscription to the Canons of Dort the following year.  The OPC established a relationship with the URCNA in 1997 and, in time, became its partner in creating a new psalter-hymnal (perhaps due for publication in late 2016) to succeed the Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976) in most URCNA congregations and the Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (1990) in the OPC.

The CRCNA moved closer to other ecumenical partners.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), which had broken away from the old United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1981 ahead of the 1983 merger which formed the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PC(USA)], remained in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRCNA.  The EPC had tried unsuccessfully and repeatedly to join NAPARC, which rejected those requests because the denomination’s policy of allowing women to hold all church offices, at the discretion of congregations.  (The EPC Book of Order speaks of church office holders as “persons” also.)  And relations with the RCA improved.  In 1989 the General Synod of the RCA and the Synod of the CRCNA met concurrently on the campus of Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, complete with two joint worship services.  By the end of the 1990s both denominations had facilitated the formation of union congregations, especially in communities where one larger congregation could minister more effectively than two smaller ones.

The times were changing, as were the CRCNA and the RCA.

III.  LITURGICAL DEVELOPMENTS AND TENSIONS

Rationales

There exists a tension between tradition and innovation in liturgy.  To change nothing transforms liturgy into a museum exhibit, but to reject tradition because it is old and that which is new is “in” is the opposite error.  There is also a question of theology:  Why do we do x, y, and z in that order and according to a certain schedule?  This is where tradition enters the picture.  Perhaps one’s tradition is younger than another tradition, so switching to the second option, although new to one, is actually more traditional.  Maybe the theological logic of that is much more sound than the theological logic one grew up learning to follow and to which one adheres.

I make these points to state my case that we who follow any given  liturgy need to think about why we do what we do.  Going on liturgical autopilot is a common strategy and a terrible idea.  Perhaps it explains why so many people fail to understand beautiful patterns of worship and therefore reject them for schlocky modes of worship–reject gold in favor of dross.

Speaking of dross….

The rationale for abandoning tradition for “seeker services” and other forms of traditional worship has been that

the words, symbols, and ritual actions deriving from the classic liturgical forms of the Reformers and of the broader catholic traditions are no longer relevant or accessible to contemporary churchgoers.

–Christopher Dorn, in James Hart Brumm, ed., Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America, 2007, page 44

Dan Copp, writing in the Introduction to The Church Rituals Handbook, Second Edition, a 2009 resource of the Church of the Nazarne, made an excellent case for keeping the rituals anyway:

For the disciple of Jesus, rituals serve to remind us of who we are and whose we are….Sometimes we hesitate to engage in church rituals because of those around us who are not yet disciples of Jesus.  We wonder if they would understand or be put off by the ritual.  Yet, we believe that they, too, are “exiles” who yearn for and do not yet recognize the “cadences of home.”

U.S. Lutheran minister and liturgical scholar Frank C. Senn, in Christian Liturgy:  Catholic and Evangelical (1997), pages 701-702, wrote a damning critique of postmodern liturgy:

Up until the influence of Pietism and Revivalism in the eighteenth century, hymn texts primarily rehearsed the story of salvation and reinforced doctrine.  The more personal and subjective lyrics of the pietistic hymns and revival songs can be regarded as ancestors of the kind of contemporary Christian songs that have been in vogue since the 1960s:  the pep rally-type folk songs of the 1960s and 1970s (“We are one in the Spirit,” “Sons of God”), the “Voice of God” songs of the 1970s and 1980s that gave God a “softer image” (“On eagle’s wings,” “Be not afraid”), and the “glory and praise” songs of the 1980s and 1990s that, with a soft rock character, have all but expelled any music from the church that sounds “churchy.”  Through two centuries, from evangelical pietism to contemporary Christian music, the emphasis has been on one’s personal relationship to Jesus or God rather than on what God has done for all humanity in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  Not only has the image of a “community of salvation” been lost in the texts, but the difficulty of intervals and rhythms in the tunes, and the increasing reliance on electronic instruments (e.g., organs, keyboards, guitars, basses, etc.) has lost the community in actuality, since the employment of popular musical styles in worship has diminished the level and vigor of congregational singing.  Using songs that can only be effectively rendered by soloists, choirs, or combos contributes further to the idea of worship as entertainment.  While the situation has been far worse in contemporary American Roman Catholicism than in mainline Protestant denominations, which still rely heavily on sturdy classical hymns meant for congregational singing, the Catholic folk tradition is being rapidly imported into Protestant worship and could accomplish the same consequences:  killing congregational participation and doing little to increase biblical or doctrinal literacy.

Now I, with those dire words (sadly, an accurate assessment), I launch into an explanation of liturgical forms in the CRCNA and the RCA from 1970 to 2000.

Forms Old, New, and Revised

The CRCNA revised the translations of old forms and produced new forms, which complemented their predecessors.  Thanks to technology one may read the current forms here.  In the 1980s the CRCNA began to publish a loose-leaf Service Book, so that interested people, such as ministers, could keep track of new forms, provisional and otherwise.

In 1990 the CRCNA Worship Committee conducted a survey.  It yielded the following, among other results:

  1. There was a growing interest in the church year and in the lectionary;
  2. It was common for ministers to ignore denominational forms for services and to improvise worship materials;
  3. “Seeker services”  and other forms of contemporary worship had become more commonplace;
  4. Celebration of the Lord’s Supper was becoming more frequent; and
  5. Most services emphasized the sermon.

Some of those results might seem mutually exclusive except for the fact of congregational diversity within the denomination.

Which modern translations of the Bible might pastors use in worship?  The CRC had approved the Revised Standard Version (RSV) in 1969, over a decade after labeling it a faithless and hopelessly liberal and modernistic translation.  (O, how things changed so quickly!)  The Synod of 1980 approved the New International Version (NIV), which existed because of the denomination.  In 1986 the CRCNA replaced the translation of the Lord’s Prayer in services and the Heidelberg Catechism with the new vernacular NIV text, as opposed to the older RSV rendering.  The CRC approved the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) in 1992, rejected the New King James Version (NKJV) in 1998, and turned down the New Living Translation (NLT) in 1999.

CRC Publications conducted a worship survey, the results of which appeared in its 1991 report to the Synod.  A few of the results were that, of the responding congregations:

  1. 47% used Our World Belongs to God:  A Contemporary Testimony seldom or never;
  2. 83% had NIV pew Bibles and 15% had RSV pew Bibles;
  3. 56% had Psalter Hymnal (1987) in the pews and 35% had Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976) in the pews; and
  4. 52% never used the Common Lectionary.

Those results place the 1990 survey numbers in context.

The Synod of 1997, attuned to troublesome aspects of contemporary worship which Frank C. Senn criticized so ably, adopted a report, “Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture” (Acts of Synod, pp. 93-144).  Two key conclusions were the wisdom of avoiding excessive individualism in worship and of not making worship too therapeutic.  Following the denominational forms–in their variety, with options for celebrating the sacraments, for example–more often would have had the effect of heeding that advice.

The RCA, whose Liturgy past and present is available online here, published its new Liturgy, Worship the Lord, an eighty-five-page long red paperback book, in 1987.  That volume contained the following:

  1. Order of Worship for the Lord’s Day (1968);
  2. The Sacrament of Baptism (changed in 1995);
  3. Reception into Communicant Membership (absent from the 2005 Liturgy);
  4. The Ordination and Installation of Elders and Deacons (changed in 2001);
  5. Preparatory Exhortation Before the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper (changed in 1995);
  6. The Order of Worship for Christian Marriage (changed in 2002);
  7. Orders for Christian Healing (1984);
  8. The Order of Worship for Christian Burial (changed in 2002);
  9. The Ordination and Installation of a Minister of the Word (changed in 2001 and renamed to indicate a Minister of Word and Sacrament);
  10. Reception into the Classis and Installation of a Minister of the Word (changed in 2001 and renamed to indicate a Minister of Word and Sacrament);
  11. Directory for Reception into the Classis and Installation into a Specialized Ministry (changed in 2001);
  12. The Directory for Worship (1986); and
  13. Our Song of Hope:  A Confession of Faith (1978).

The form for Reception into Communicant Membership, based on that for Baptism, had two parts–the meeting with the church elders and the ritual in the context of the congregation, whereby one promised to accept the church’s guidance.

The Order for Worship, which one also found in the back of the Rejoice in the Lord (1985) hymnal, built the:   Lord’s Supper into the Sunday service by default and included the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed, a prayer of confession and the assurance of pardon, and the Decalogue.  Most congregations did not celebrate the sacrament weekly, though.

Our Song of Hope:  A Confession of Faith (1978) was the product of people who hoped that congregations would use it liturgically.  Certainly its closing prayer indicated sound theology of corporate worship:

Come, Lord Jesus.

We are open to your Spirit.

We await your full presence.

Our world finds rest in you alone.

The use of the first person plural form was–and remains–appropriate, as does the content.

The denomination authorized other services after the publication of Worship the Lord (1987) and prior to the debut of Worship the Lord:  The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America (2005).  They were:

  1. Preparatory Services I and II:  Before the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1995);
  2. The Service of Farewell and Godspeed for Pastor and Congregation (1994);
  3. Blessing–Prayer of Godspeed:  A Service of Farewell (1993), for parishioners about to move away;
  4. The Lord’s Supper in Home and Hospital (1990); and
  5. Celebration for the Home (1994), the blessing of a new home and its owners; a rite adopted form the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services; and
  6. Worship at the Closing of a Church (1994).

Of course, preparing, authorizing, and publishing such forms did not guarantee that a minister would use them when they fit particular circumstances.

Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Small Children

My previous statement applies to the CRCNA also.  The denomination approved new forms, reworded old ones, and prepared new abbreviated forms of extant ones.  I will not catalogue them in this paragraph, but I will list many of them during my discussions of Psalter Hymnal Supplement (1974), Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976), and Psalter Hymnal (1987).  One of these forms was the Communion Service from 1968.  Yet few congregations used it through 1972.  The CRCNA had capable liturgists writing and revising forms for services, but how many parishioners and congregations cared?

The theology of liturgy regarding Baptism and the Lord’s Supper played out differently in the CRCNA and the RCA.  Should children who, although baptized as infants, take Communion before having made a public profession of faith?  This argument was one of inclusion versus purity, and one of the historic hallmarks of the CRCNA had been to preserve purity.  The RCA, however, had manifested an inclusive “we are family and can disagree agreeably” attitude often, at least officially, as a matter of history.  So, is the table of the Lord just for the fully committed or does Jesus welcome everybody?  The RCA, at the General Synod of 1988, chose the inclusive policy by a narrow margin (139-132) and made the decision optional, leaving the matter to the discretion of congregational leaders.  The next year’s General Synod affirmed this course of action.  The CRCNA, however, decided in 1988 that only children who had made a public profession of faith may partake of the sacrament.  The Synod of 1993 preferred that this public profession take place in conjunction with the child’s first Communion.  Two years later the Synod adopted a form for a child’s public profession of faith (Acts of Synod, 1995, pp. 715-716).

Psalter Hymnal Supplement (1974) and Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976)

The CRCNA had published its most recent hymnal–the Centennial Edition–in 1959.  Much had changed in the church musically since then, however.  The old debate had been Psalms versus hymns, but the singing of Psalms–one of the reasons for founding the CRCNA in 1857–was considerably less popular than ever in the denomination.  (O, the irony of a foundational reason for the founding of a denomination becoming irrelevant!)  The new debate was the singing of authorized hymns versus the singing of unauthorized hymns.

The CRCNA published Psalter Hymnal Supplement in 1974.  The first edition contained sixty-three hymns; the second edition (1976) had sixty-four.  There were some traditional hymns, but most offerings were contemporary or otherwise non-traditional for a denomination with a strong Dutch heritage.  The book, which proved unpopular, seemed inadequate compared to other volumes with more selections.  On the other hand, the hymns in the Supplement adhered to a principle the Synod of 1972 had endorsed:

Worship is a corporate activity.  The songs sung in the public worship service should reflect that corporate unity and not be too individualistic an expression of spiritual experience.

That was–and remains–a correct principle.  Other hymnals, such as Hymns for the Living Church (1974) and Hymns for the Family of God (1976), went overboard with the use of the first person singular pronouns.  Morgan F. Simmons was correct when he wrote circa 1990 that these non-denominational Evangelical hymnals were “examples of narcissistic religion” which offered “solipsistic fare.”  (Quotes from The Confessional Mosaic, 1990, page 182)

The Supplement also contained the following:

  1. The Heidelberg Catechism (1973 translation);
  2. The Report of the Liturgical Commission (1968);
  3. Forms for the Baptism of Children (1971 and 1973);
  4. Form for the Public Profession of Faith (1972);
  5. Forms for the Ordination of Ministers of the Word, the Ordination of a Foreign Missionary, the Ordination of a Home Missionary, and the Ordination of a Teacher of Theology (1971).

The Synod of 1975 permitted local church boards to, with discretion, supplement the Psalter Hymnal (1959) and the Psalter Hymnal Supplement with hymns from other sources in response to a 1970 request of African-American members of the denomination.  And there was change in the Psalter Hymnal in 1976, when the CRCNA published a new edition with updated liturgical content in the back.  The hymns remained unchanged, however, so this was properly the Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976).  Congregational diversity in the realm of hymnody had become a reality.  In 1980 80% of CRC congregations supplemented the Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976) with other volumes–fifty in all–some of them local creations of legally dubious status.

Psalter Hymnal (1987)

Work on the gray Psalter Hymnal (1987), which started to appear in pews in the Spring of 1988, began in 1977.  It expanded the number and range of approved musical offerings.  The 1959/1976 hymnal had 493 selections, but the 1987 volume had 641, for example.  Psalter Hymnal (1987) included a new and complete metrical Psalter as well as hymns from Asian, Hispanic, Native American, and African-American cultures.  One of these hymns influenced the title of this post.

There was more than hymns and service in the Psalter Hymnal (1987).  The Psalter Hymnal Handbook (1998) also refers to the following:

  1. The three ecumenical creeds–Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian;
  2. The Belgic Confession;
  3. The Canons of Dort and the Form of Subscription thereto;
  4. The Heidelberg Catechism;
  5. The Form for Baptism (1981);
  6. The Forms of Baptism of Children (1973 and 1976);
  7. The Forms of Baptism of Adults (1976 and 1978);
  8. The Form for the Public Profession of Faith (1986 revision);
  9. The Form for the Public Profession of Faith (children, 1995, so added to later printings);
  10. The Service of Word and Sacrament (1981);
  11. The Form for the Preparatory Exhortation for the Lord’s Supper (1981; no longer required as of 1988);
  12. The form for the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1964 and 1964/1968);
  13. The Forms for Excommunication and Readmission (1982);
  14. The Forms for the Ordination and Installation of Ministers of the Word (1971 and 1986);
  15. The Form for the Ordination of Evangelists (1979);
  16. The Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons (1982);
  17. The Forms for Marriage (the traditional service and 1979 rite);
  18. The Responsive Readings of the Law (1981); and
  19. Our World Belongs to God:  A Contemporary Testimony (1986).

Some copies of the Psalter Hymnal (1987) contain more of this content than others.  My copy, for example, omits all of the above except for the ecumenical creeds.

Rejoice in the Lord:  A Hymn Companion to the Scriptures (1985)

The time for hymnal revision came around again in the RCA in the late 1970s.  The Hymnbook (1955) was aging, and much had changed musically in the church since the middle 1950s.  Of course, official hymnal status meant little in the RCA, the vast majority of whose congregations had ignored the Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), a joint project with the old Reformed Church in the United States (1793-1934).  The Hymnbook, however, had been popular in the East of the RCA, if not in its Midwestern portion.  A 1983 survey revealed that RCA congregations used a total of forty-three hymnals.  Could a new official hymnal function in that capacity meaningfully?

Work on Rejoice in the Lord (1985) started in 1978, one year later than the creation of the Psalter Hymnal (1987) commenced.  Rejoice was first solo official hymnal for the RCA since the much-ignored Hymns of the Church (1869).  A report the General Synod of 1979 defined the goals of the hymnal committee:

  1. To produce a “Reformed hymnal of excellence,” excellence entailing the centrality of the psalmody, the maintenance of “Biblical and theological integrity” as a standard for selecting hymns, and the avoidance “of the ephemeral and the trendy;” and
  2. To create a hymnal which will “prove to be a unifying factor in our denominational life.”

The committee succeeded in its first goal and failed in the second.  That, I suspect, indicated more about the RCA than its hymnal committee.

The committee hired the Reverend Doctor Erik Routley (1917-1982) to edit the book.  Routley, originally an English Congregationalist minister who, by denominational mergers, had been part of the United Reformed Church (British) since 1972, had written hymns.  In the U.S.A., where he had lived since 1975, the non-denominational Hymnal Supplement (1984) included seven of them and Hymnal Supplement II (1987) contained four.  Eight of Routley’s hymns appeared in Rejoice in the Lord.  He was one of the greatest hymnodists of his time, so choosing him to edit the hymnal was a sensible decision.  So far, so good.

The hymnal’s subtitle, A Hymn Companion to the Scriptures, indicated the organizational plan for the hymns.  As the Preface informed the reader:

The plan of the book is very simple:  the canonical order of the Bible has provided the outline of hymns.  The hymns begin where the Bible begins–with God’s act of creation–and they conclude where the Bible concludes–with the great vision of God’s eternal city.  (Quote from page 7)

So far, so good.

Yet the hymnal proved more popular outside the RCA than inside it.  Only seven percent of RCA congregations adopted Rejoice in the Lord, which therefore did not function effectively as a denominational hymnal.  And my copy bears on its cover the stamped name of a congregation of the United Church of Christ.  Rejoice in the Lord was certainly superior to The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), which had only 313 hymns.

Toward the Future Hymnody

The RCA and the CRCNA were moving closer to each other in the 1990s, as I have established in this post.  Part of this mutual movement was collaboration on hymnals–one to supplement Rejoice in the Lord (1985) and bevy of other books out of which RCA congregations sang as well as the Psalter Hymnal (1987) of the CRCNA.  Thus it came to pass that, in 1996, the two denominations started work on what became Sing!  A New Creation (2001), a volume of 294 hymns–contemporary, multicultural, and ecumenical songs, many of them of the variety to which drives Frank C. Senn and I up one side of the liturgical wall and down the other.  This was a preview of things to come–namely Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), the current main official hymnal of the RCA and the CRCNA.

That, however, is a story for the next installment in this series.

IV.  CONCLUSION

The RCA and the CRCNA experienced much change and turmoil from 1970 to 2000.  The former nearly came apart at the seams in 1969-1970 and the latter suffered from schism and rejection by former ecclesiastical allies in the 1990s.  Liturgically, both denominations diversified and began to converge, so far as official hymnals were concerned.  This latter fact was either good or bad, depending on one’s preference in hymnody.  But at least the old RCA-CRCNA animosities were fading away.  That was undoubtedly a positive development.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Alexander, J. Neil.  This Far by Grace:  A Bishop’s Journey Through Questions about Homosexuality.  Cambridge, MA:  Cowley Publications, 2003.

Brink, Emily R., and Bert Polman, eds.  Psalter Hymnal Handbook.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1998.

Britannica Book of the Year 1970.  Chicago, IL:  Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1970.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

Coalter, Milton J., et al, eds.  The Confessional Mosaic:  Presbyterians and Twentieth-Century Theology.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints.  New York, NY:  Church Publishing, 2010.

The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Church Press, 1974.

Hymnal Supplement.  Carol Stream, IL:  Agape, 1984.

Hymnal Supplement II.  Carol Stream, IL:  Agape, 1987.

The Hymnbook.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1955.

Hymns for the Family of God.  Nashville, TN:  Paragon Associates, 1976.

Hymns for the Living Church.  Carol Stream, IL:  Hope Publishing Company, 1974.

Japinga, Lynn.  Loyalty and Loss:  The Reformed Church in America, 1945-1994.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 77.

Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

Middledorf, Jesse C.  The Church Rituals Handbook.  Second Edition.  Kansas City, MO:  Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2009.

Our Faith:  Ecumenical Creeds, Reformed Confessions, and Other Resources; Including the Doctrinal Standards of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

Psalter Hymnal.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1987.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Board of Publication of the Christian Reformed Church, 1976.

Psalter Hymnal Supplement with Liturgical Studies and Forms.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church, 1974.

Rejoice in the Lord:  A Hymn Companion to the Scriptures.  Edited by Erik Routley.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985.

Romero, Oscar.  The Violence of Love:  The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Compiled and Translated by James R. Brockman, S.J.  San Francisco, CA:  Harper & Row, 1988.

Schuppert, Mildred W.  A Digest and Index of the Minutes of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, 1906-1957.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 8.

___________.  A Digest and Index of the Minutes of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, 1958-1977.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 7.

Senn, Frank C.  Christian Liturgy:  Catholic and Evangelical.  Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1997.

Sing!  A New Creation.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 2001.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided By a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 54.

Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition.  Suwanee, GA:  Great Commission Publications, 1990.

Worship the Lord.  Edited by James R. Esther and Donald J. Bruggink.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

Worship the Lord:  The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.  New York, NY:  Reformed Church Press, 2005.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7–THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST ENGLISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITING CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FISHER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROCHESTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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“God of Our Fathers”: The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1914-1945   16 comments

Psalter 1914-1927 and Psalter Hymnal 1934

Above:  My Copies of The Psalter (1914/1927) and the Psalter Hymnal (1934)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART IV

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God of our fathers, whose almighty hand

Leads forth in beauty all the starry band

Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,

Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

–David C. Roberts, “God of Our Fathers,” 1876; from Psalter Hymnal (1934)

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This series of blog posts, which I predict will run its immediate course in eight installments, with potential for a ninth eventually, has become quite involved–more so than I had thought previously.  That is fine; I am not complaining, for I have been learning much while preparing Parts IV and V and sketching the broad parameters of Parts VI and VII.  The intellectual pleasure of learning so much so quickly has been rapturous for me.  Yes, I am a geek–indeed, a nerd–and a proud one at that.  I like my brain.

One of my undergraduate education professors at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, in the 1990s told our class that students need hooks onto which to hang details.  I have tried to follow that advice well in a series of classrooms.  And I adhere to it now.  So, with that segue accomplished, here are your proverbial hooks, O reader:

  1. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) remained Americanized and, on the official level at least, favorable to ecumenical engagement.  This commitment was evident liturgically in The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), a joint project with the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).
  2. The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC) became more Americanized from 1914 to 1945, partly because of the domestic and foreign experiences of World War I.  The denomination remained strongly culturally isolationist for much of the period, though.  And it retained its status as a bulwark of very conservative Calvinism.  Nevertheless, the CRCNA was insufficiently right-wing for those who seceded in 1926 to form the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).  Despite its conservatism, the CRCNA did liberalize sufficiently to reverse its traditional Psalms-only rule for the majority of the denomination, in which pockets of hymn-singing had existed with Synodical approval since the 1880s.
  3. The RCA and the CRCNA, parent and breakaway child, have long had a non-hostile relationship on the official level.  The two have exchanged fraternal greetings annually at CRCNA Synods and RCA General Synods for a long time.  Nevertheless, the two have not traveled the same path for most of the time since the CRCNA broke away in 1857, hence the long separation.  By the end of World War II the RCA and the CRCNA, although still far apart on many issues, were closer than they were at the start of World War I.

II.  CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS, DENOMINATIONAL AND OTHERWISE

Liturgy is an extension of theology.  For example, whether one sings Psalms and hymns or just Psalms in church is a theological decision.  Liturgy also occurs in the contexts of culture and history.  Thus I must establish the contexts of liturgical decisions and patterns first if I am to adhere to the optimum policy.

World War I and Postwar Disillusionment

President Woodrow Wilson (in office 1913-1921) was reluctant to take the United States into World War I (1914-1918).  This raised the ire and scorn of former President Theodore Roosevelt (in office 1901-1909), who accused the incumbent of cowardice.  (Roosevelt ceased to extol the manly virtues of the war after he lost a son to it, but that is another story.)  Wilson won a second term narrowly in 1916, largely on the fact he had kept the nation out of the war.  Ironically, he led the United States into that conflict formally in the second month of that second term.  Reasons included a German threat to the territorial integrity of the country as well as serious financial considerations, such as the fates of historic trading partners in Europe.  The charges of a “capitalists’ war” were not entirely unfounded, even if they were overly simplistic.

The President, who had warned prior to April 1917 that U.S. entry into war would lead to many people forgetting that there had ever been such a thing as tolerance, embraced such intolerance once the nation had gone to war.  Nonviolent critics broke the law by engaging in activities such as giving speeches and distributing leaflets or attempting to do so.  Thus they violated statutes, which Wilson had signed into law, and went to federal prison.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld these convictions, but President Warren G. Harding (in office 1921-1923) exercised his power of the pardon generously, much to chagrin of the right wing of his Republican Party.  The founding of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was no accident, given the many violations of civil liberties in the United States during the war and shortly thereafter.

The intolerance extended to state laws, urban ordinances, and mob actions.  One man faced persecution under the Minnesota Espionage Act because he criticized a woman who was knitting socks for soldiers.

No soldier ever sees these socks,

he had said.  It was an unkind comment, but was it a criminal offense?  The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, banned performances of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, who had died in 1827.  Was a man who had been dead for nine decades and who had in life opposed the imperialistic policies of Napoleon Bonaparte supporting the Kaiser’s war effort?  And many Christians who worshiped in the German language had to contend with intimidation and vandalism.  During this time many Lutherans made a rapid transition to worshiping in English.  What became of freedom in the land of the free?

The CRCNA, which offered few English-language services on any given Sunday in 1915, also accelerated its use of English in worship due to pressures from jingoists, vandals, and state laws.  Some states, such as Iowa, outlawed preaching in Dutch.  And vandals attacked parochial schools, alleging that they were somehow Prussian.  The denomination’s position on World War I did not help matters when many people lost their minds, rallied around the flag, and renamed German names of dog breeds and food products.  In an age of Liberty Hounds (Dachshunds), Alsacian Shepherds (German Shepherds), and Liberty Cabbage (Sauerkraut) the CRCNA’s stance that the war was (a) evidence of total depravity and (b) God’s punishment on the U.S.A. for national sins aroused much ire outside the denomination.

Wilson oversold the war.  It was “the war to make the world safe for democracy,” allegedly.  Postwar realities, being grim, especially in Europe, inspired widespread disillusionment, as in the literary Lost Generation.  In this context the RCA, which had once considered World War I a holy war, learned a harsh lesson and backed down from its gung ho stance.  At the same time, however, the CRCNA learned a different harsh lesson and began to move away from its culturally isolationist position under pressure from returning veterans who belonged to the denomination.  When the U.S. entered World War II formally in 1941, the CRCNA was gung ho and the RCA supported the war effort without resorting to grandiose language.

Confessional Calvinism, Common Grace, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America

Two sides in the three-way disagreement over the Kuyperian Paradox locked horns within the CRCNA in the 1920s.  The Antitheticals, who favored Christian separatism, had lost the argument at the Synod of 1906, where the Confessionalists had won.  The two sides joined forces to oppose Calvin Theological Seminary professor Ralph Janssen, whom they accused of liberalism, and therefore heresy, because he had incorporated higher criticism into his Biblical studies.  These critics won at the Synod of 1922, which removed Janssen from his post.  Two years later, however, the CRC Synod made affirmation of Abraham Kuyper‘s later Common Grace theological stance mandatory for pastors.  That position held that even the unredeemed could function as God’s instruments.  In 1924-1925 the Reverend Herman Hoekstra and others refused to obey.  These Antitheticals seceded instead and formed the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).

Ecumenism

The RCA was, at least officially, enthusiastic about ecumenism.  It had become, for example, a charter member of both the American Bible Society (1816) and the Federal Council of Churches (1908).  The RCA considered itself a mainline denomination, albeit a fairly conservative one.  Yet even this position proved too liberal for much of its Midwestern and Western constituency, which was generally suspicious of social progressivism, membership in church councils, and plans to merge with other denominations.

There was more than one unsuccessful merger proposal involving the RCA from 1914 to 1945.  The first was a plan to merge the RCA and the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) in the 1910s.  The only fruit this tree bore was The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), a joint project of the two bodies.  The RCUS, by the way, went on to merge in 1934 with the Evangelical Synod of North America (ESNA), of Prussian Lutheran-Reformed heritage, to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church (ERC).  The ERC’s legacy became part of the history of the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1957.  Thus the 1920 Hymnal of the Reformed Church preceded two streams of successors:

  1. The Hymnbook (1955), Rejoice in the Lord (1985), and Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), the RCA lineage; and
  2. The Hymnal (1941), The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), and The New Century Hymnal (1995), the Evangelical and Reformed Church-United Church of Christ lineage.

The second plan, which began in the late 1920s, was to merge five denominations:

  1. The Reformed Church in America (RCA);
  2. The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS);
  3. The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the old “Southern Presbyterian Church;”
  4. The Presbyterian Church in then U.S.A. (PCUSA), the old “Northern Presbyterian Church” (a misleading label since it was a national body; and
  5. The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA), whose Psalters the CRCNA and parts thereof had adapted.

The plan failed on several fronts as denominations removed themselves from it.  The 1931 Southern Presbyterian General Assembly, citing questions of race and alleged doctrinal unsoundness in the PCUSA, withdrew, for example.  And an attempt to expand the union into a six-way arrangement including the CRCNA failed in 1930, when the CRC Synod declined, citing doctrinal concerns regarding the other five bodies.  These issues included Modernism, alleged laxity in church discipline, and permissive policies regarding membership in secret societies, such as the Masonic Lodge.

Of the five denominations only the RCA still exists.  The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) merged with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) to create the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1958.  The UPCUSA and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) reunited in 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PC(USA)].  And the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) merged into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1934-1957).  The current body which bears the RCUS name is a rump of the original denomination.

The CRCNA also contained a large number of people wary of membership in church councils.  It had joined the Federal Council of Churches in 1918, for the FCC was the only agency which placed military chaplains at the time.  Yet concerns about Modernism led the CRCNA to withdraw from the Federal Council in 1924.  The denomination became a charter member of the anti-Modernist National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1943.  Nevertheless, a vocal CRCNA constituency, objecting to such close work with Arminians and Fundamentalists and concerned about the allegedly detrimental effect it had on the CRCNA’s Reformed witness, succeeded in prompting the denomination’s withdraw from the NAE in 1951.

Worldly Amusements

Q:  Why don’t Fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

–An old joke

Hostility to “worldly amusements” has long been a characteristic of certain varieties of conservative Protestantism.  I have read such condemnations in the sermon notes of my great-grandfather, George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), and old-style Southern Methodist.  And stories of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other types of churches calling members to account for dancing, hosting dances, attending fairs, and/or playing card games from the 1800s to the 1900s are numerous.  Such hostility was also present in Dutch Reformed enclaves in the Midwest and present in both the RCA and the CRCNA.  The latter, however, unlike the former, made such hostility denominational policy in the twentieth century.

The theological principle of separation from the world (not being conformed to it), not to mention the insertion of long poles far into many spiritual large intestines, informed the condemnation of “worldly amusements.”  (How could some of these people sit down comfortably or at all?)  Thus, in the case of the CRCNA, the ruling that no member should play cards, attend movies, or dance became not just a recommendation but a piece of obligatory guidance.  As the Reverend Doctor Peter Y. De Jong wrote:

Because these principles are solidly grounded on Scripture, they must be heartily believed and conscientiously practiced by all of our members.  Such spiritual practice is far richer than refraining from sin because the church requires it.  In the light of these every Christian who prayerfully considers any problem can come to full light.  Only then will our spiritual life be full and rich and deep, which is pleasing to our faithful Covenant God and Father.

The Christian Reformed Church:  A Study Guide, Centennial Edition, 1956; reprint, 1964; page 81

I will return to this matter in subsequent posts.

III.  PSALTERS AND HYMNALS

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  From Dutch to English–The Psalter (1914)

The liturgical transformation within the CRCNA proved difficult for many people.  By 1940, however, English was nearly universal in the denomination, which had lost some members to the process.  The Psalter (1914) was far from popular in some quarters of the CRCNA.  Henry Vander Werp, a CRCNA alternate to the committee which had created The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (1905 and 1909), the basis of the United Presbyterian Psalter (1912), itself the basis of the CRCNA Psalter (1914), had created a Psalter of his own.  It retained more content from the Genevan Psalter (1563) and less from The New Metrical Version than did The Psalter (1914).  The Synod of 1912 rejected an overture to adopt his Psalter, justifying the decision by citing the fact that it was the work of one man.

The Psalter (1914) broke with CRC tradition in ways other than the obvious:  the exclusive use of English.

  1. It introduced different patterns of meter to the CRCNA.  Traditional Dutch meters kept the Psalms intact and applied a variety of meters and rhyme patterns to them.  Scottish Presbyterian meters, however, divided the Psalms into segments, thereby applying more than one versification to some texts.
  2. It also replaced many traditional melodies with tunes new to the CRCNA.  Only two Genevan Psalter tunes remained in the new Psalter.  The transition proved easier for the young than for the elderly.

The Psalter (1914), reprinted with the 1920 translation of the Church Order in 1927, contained rituals and other important documents in the back:

  1. The Heidelberg Catechism;
  2. The Belgic Confession of Faith;
  3. The Canons of Dort;
  4. The Liturgy;
  5. The Church Order; and
  6. The Formula of Subscription to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dort.

The Liturgy contained:

  1. Baptism;
  2. Public Confession of Faith;
  3. The Lord’s Supper;
  4. The Discipline–Excommunication and Readmission of Excommunicated Persons;
  5. Ordination of Ministers of God’s Word;
  6. Ordination of Elders and Deacons;
  7. Installation of Professors of Theology;
  8. Ordination of Missionaries;
  9. Marriage; and
  10. Consolation of the Sick.

These followed the traditional Dutch forms.

The Protestant Reformed Dutch Churches in America (PRCA) continued to use this volume after the CRCNA adopted the Psalter Hymnal (1934).  The liturgical forms available at the PRCA’s website in 2014 are nearly identical to those in the back of The Psalter (1914).

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Uniform Orders of Worship (1920-1930)

The European Reformed churches of the Protestant Reformation were liturgical, complete with service books and forms of worship.  This well-attested fact constituted news–irrelevant at best and unpleasant at worst–to many U.S. members of Reformed churches in the 1800s and 1900s.  That statement applies also to many of the U.S. Reformed in 2014.  Sometimes the tradition to which people cling is of more recent vintage than the alleged innovations to which they object.  So which one is the innovation?  The reality of Continental Reformed liturgical history did not, however, trouble the members of the CRCNA committee which produced three uniform orders of worship in time for the CRC Synod of 1920, which made them mandatory.  The Acts of Synod (1920), pages 185-204 contains the full orders with interesting explanatory notes.

The order of worship for the first (morning) service was as follows:

  1. The Introductory Service–The service opened with the Votum (Psalm 124:8) then continued with the Salutation (Romans 1:7) before leading into a Psalm of gratitude.
  2. The Service of Reconciliation–The confession of sin and absolution, parts of Protestant Reformation-era Reformed liturgies, were present.  They proved especially controversial due to rampant anti-Roman Catholicism, however.  The order of service specified forms for the invitation, the confession, and the absolution.  The Apostles’ Creed and the Psalm of praise followed.
  3. The Service of Thanksgiving–A general prayer, concluded with the Lord’s Prayer, led into the Offering, then a Psalm of thanksgiving.
  4. The Service of the Lord–There was no responsive reading, for the committee deemed that practice to be primarily a way of maintaining interest among members of the congregation.  Thus the minister, representing God at the church service, read a portion of Scripture.  Then the sermon followed.
  5. The Closing Service–A prayer, a Psalm or the Doxology or both, and the Benediction closed the service.

The other two orders of worship were quite similar to the first.  At the second (evening) service there was no Service of Reconciliation and the Decalogue moved into the Service of Thanksgiving.  The third order of worship, just for

Christmas, Old Year, New Year, Good Friday, and Ascension Day

Acts of Synod, 1920, page 199,

also omitted the Service of Reconciliation.  The third order of worship lacked the Decalogue, however.

These orders of worship became quite controversial, so the Synod of 1930 removed the absolution and made the orders optional.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Singing Hymns

The practice of singing Psalms–yet not hymns, allegedly the compositions of sinful men and women and therefore unworthy, as the traditionalist Reformed criticism describes them–used to be more commonplace in the Reformed world.  In 2014 some denominations retain the practice, but most sing hymns.  Objections to the singing of hymns in the RCA helped to form the rationales for the Secessions of 1834 (in The Netherlands) and 1857 (in the United States), thus they were among the justifications for the founding of the CRCNA.  Nevertheless, that denomination, from the middle 1880s forward, did not adhere strictly to the practice of singing only Psalms.

At first the CRCNA permitted groups with joined the denomination to continue their practice of singing hymns.  As I wrote in Part III of this series, some German-speaking congregations affiliated in the 1880s and English-speaking churches joined in 1890.  The Germans continued to sing their 355 hymns in addition to the 150 Psalms and Classis Hackensack kept singing its 190 hymns plus the 150 Psalms.  It even modified The Psalter (1914) to include its 190 hymns.  The camel’s nose was already inside the tent.

For the majority of the CRCNA, however, hymns were forbidden in worship.  Article 69 of the Church Order (1920 translation) read:

In the Churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, the Morning and Evening Hymns, and the Hymn of Prayer before the sermon shall be sung.

Nevertheless, many young members of the CRCNA favored singing hymns by 1918.  The Synod of 1928 appointed a committee to study the issue.  That group, which favored hymn-singing, issued its report two years later.  In 1932 the CRCNA modified Article 69 of the Church Order to permit the singing of hymns throughout the denomination.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Psalter Hymnal (1934)

Psalter Hymnal (1934) was a landmark worship resource for the CRCNA.  It both reached back into the denomination’s tradition and paved the way for changes.  On one hand Psalter Hymnal (1934) included more Genevan Psalter (1563) tunes than did The Psalter (1914), but on the other hand it opened the flood gates for hymn-singing to become more popular than Psalm-singing in the CRCNA.  The new hymnal emphasized the Psalms, which comprised 295 of its 458 musical offerings.  There were 140 hymns familiar to members of other denominations.  A few these songs were:

  1. O Worship the King;
  2. Now Thank We All Our God;
  3. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel;
  4. Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing;
  5. Silent Night! Holy Night!;
  6. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross;
  7. The Church’s One Foundation; and
  8. Abide With Me.

The standards for selecting hymns were:

doctrinal soundness, New Testament character, dignity and depth of devotional spirit, and clearness and beauty of expression.

Psalter Hymnal (1934), page iii

Much of the material in the back of the volume was similar to that in the rear of The Psalter (1914), the main difference being a revision in the English translation.  There were more offerings, though.

  1. The Three Ecumenical Creeds–Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian–were present.
  2. There was also a treasury of Christian prayers.

Also, the 1914 forms for the ordination of Ministers and Missionaries became forms for the ordination or installation thereof.

Psalter Hymnal (1934) stood in lineage with Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976), Psalter Hymnal (1987), and Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), books I will analyze in subsequent posts.

The Reformed Church in America:  The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920)

The history of hymnals in the RCA has proven to be more complicated than in the CRCNA.  Prior to The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920) the last official hymnal had been Hymns of the Church (1869), almost a carbon copy of the Anglican Hymns, Ancient and Modern (1861).  This Anglican-Reformed approach met with the disapproval of much of the RCA, which convinced successive General Synods to approve the use of third-party hymnals.  Thus the RCA, despite having a series of official hymn books, has long experienced a plethora of hymnals in use on the congregational level.

The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920) was a joint project with the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).  It started as a revision of The Hymnal of the Reformed Church in the United States (1890) in 1911, but the committee decided to try to make the new book an ecumenical venture.  The RCA General Synod of 1912 accepted the invitation to participate in the project, and the rest was history.  The joint committee wrote in the 1920 Hymnal:

Our purpose has been to lead congregations in every way possible in a more heartfelt worship in all Church services, and a more general participation in congregational singing.

The organization of the 700+ hymns was topical, not pegged to the Heidelberg Catechism, as early RCA hymnals had been.  And the RCA Liturgy was present in the RCA edition.

The Hymnal of the Reformed Church, in the RCA, preceded three other official hymnals.

  1. The Hymnbook (1955) was a joint project with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), and the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA).
  2. Rejoice in the Lord (1985), a solely RCA project, sold better outside the denomination than within it.  In fact, only seven percent of RCA congregations adopted it.  My copy of the hymnal bears the imprint of a congregation of the United Church of Christ.
  3. Lift Up Your Hearts (2013) is a joint project with the CRCNA.

Those, however, are topics I will explore in subsequent posts in this series.

IV.  CONCLUSION

Disagreements within denominations are frequently more important than those between or among them.  The Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) experienced 1914-1945 differently yet with some similarity.  Both had warring wings, for example.  The RCA, though, kept its wings in balance until immediately after World War II, when Part V of this series will begin.  In contrast, the more conservative, culturally isolationist wing of the CRCNA began to lose power to relatively progressive elements.  Nevertheless, the denomination forbade dancing from 1928 to 1982 and attending movies from 1928 to 1966. So we know that its culturally isolationist wing retained some power for a long time, despite the vocal and repeated protests of dissidents, who had entered the twentieth century mentally.  The CRCNA moved forward and backward from 1914 to 1945.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Brink, Emily R., and Bert Polman, eds.  Psalter Hymnal Handbook.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1998.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

De Jong, Peter Y.  The Christian Reformed Church:  A Study Manual.  Centennial Edition.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 1956.  Reprint, 1964.

Haeussler, Armin.  The Story of Our Hymn:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1952.

Hall, Kermit L., et al., eds.  American Legal History:  Cases and Materials. 2d. Ed.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1996.

The Hymnal; Containing Complete Orders of Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1941.

The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Church Press, 1974.

The Hymnbook.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1955.

Japinga, Lynn.  Loyalty and Loss:  The Reformed Church in America, 1945-1994.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 77.

Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

The New Century Hymnal.  Cleveland, OH:  Pilgrim Press, 1995.

The Psalter, Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, and Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eeerdmans Publishing Company, 1927.

Psalter Hymnal.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1987.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1934.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1976.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Centennial Edition.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1959.

The Psalter Hymnal:  The Psalms and Selected Hymns.  Pittsburgh, PA:  The United Presbyterian Board of Publication and Bible School Work, 1927.

Rejoice in the Lord:  A Hymn Companion to the Scriptures.  Edited by Erik Routley.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided By a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 54.

Thompson, Ernest Trice.  Presbyterians in the South.  Volume Three.  1890-1972.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1973.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Posted June 6, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors, Reformed (General), United Church of Christ Predecessors, Wesleyan (General)

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The Doddridge Count   41 comments

Doddridge 1905

Above:  Philip Doddridge’s Entry from the Author Index in The Methodist Hymnal (1905)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was among the giants of English hymnody.  He wrote more than 400 hymns, usually at the rate of one a week.  Reading about the decline of the inclusion of his texts in U.S. Methodist hymnody has prompted me to think about the broadening of worship resources as denominations become more multicultural in official resources.  This broadening is neither entirely good nor bad, but I remain mostly a European classicist without any apology.

My research method has been simple:

  1. I have consulted all germane hymnals (of which I have hardcopies; electronic copies do not count for now) in my library.  Supplements issued between official hardcover hymnals do not count, but post-Vatican II Roman Catholic hymnals do.
  2. I have not listed hymnals which lack an index of authors unless I have a companion volume to it with such an index included.  Thus this survey does not include many hymnals from the 1800s and 1900s.

The grand champion in this survey is The Methodist Hymnal (Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church, South; 1905), with twenty-two (22) Doddridge hymns.  The other members of the two-digit club follow:

  1. The Hymnal (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1895)–15;
  2. The Hymnal (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1911)–13; the same count in the edition with the Supplement of 1917;
  3. The Evangelical Hymnal (The Evangelical Church, 1921-1946, and its predecessors, 1921)–12;
  4. Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (Moravian Church in America, 1923)–12;
  5. The Church Hymnal (Church of the United Brethren in Christ, 1935)–11;
  6. Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1961)–11; and
  7. Trinity Hymnal–Baptist Edition (Reformed Baptist, 1995)–10.

Each of the following hymnals contains nine Doddridge hymns:

  1. The Pilgrim Hymnal (Congregationalist, 1912);
  2. The Church Hymnary (British, Australian, New Zealand, and South African Presbyterian, 1927); and
  3. The Hymnary of The United Church of Canada (1930);

Each of the following hymnals contains eight Doddridge hymns:

  1. The Pilgrim Hymnal (Congregationalist, 1904);
  2. The Methodist Hymnal (Methodist Episcopal Church; Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and Methodist Protestant Church; 1935; then The Methodist Church, 1939 forward); and
  3. Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America, 1985).

Each of the following hymnals contains seven Doddridge hymns:

  1. New Baptist Hymnal (Northern Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention, 1926);
  2. The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (The Methodist Church, 1966, then The United Methodist Church, 1968 forward);
  3. The Hymnal 1982 (The Episcopal Church, 1985); and
  4. Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America, 1990)

The Lutheran Hymnal (Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, 1941) contains six Doddridge hymns.

Each of the following hymnals contains five Doddridge hymns:

  1. Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962, and its predecessors, 1917);
  2. The Hymnal (The Episcopal Church, 1940); same count after the Supplements of 1961 and 1976;
  3. The Hymnal of the Evangelical Mission Covenant Church of America (1950);
  4. The Hymnbook (Presbyterian Church in the United States, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., United Presbyterian Church of North America, Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and Reformed Church in America, 1955);
  5. Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Moravian Church in America, 1969);
  6. The Hymnbook of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada (1971);
  7. Hymns for the Living Church (1974); and
  8. Praise! Our Songs and Hymns (1979).

Each of the following hymnals contains four Doddridge hymns:

  1. The English Hymnal (The Church of England, 1906)
  2. The Hymnal (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1933);
  3. Pilgrim Hymnal (Congregationalist/Congregational Christian, 1931/1935);
  4. Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (Northern Baptist Convention and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1941);
  5. Hymns of the Living Faith (Free Methodist Church of North America and Wesleyan Methodist Church of America, 1951);
  6. The Hymnal of the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1957);
  7. Pilgrim Hymnal (Congregational Christian/United Church of Christ, 1958);
  8. The Covenant Hymnal (Evangelical Covenant Church of America, 1973);
  9. Hymns of Faith and Life (Free Methodist Church and Wesleyan Church, 1976);
  10. Praise the Lord (Churches of Christ, 1992), and
  11. Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1993).

Each of the following hymnals contains three Doddridge hymns:

  1. The Church Hymnary–Third Edition (Scottish Presbyterian, 1973);
  2. The Hymnal (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1941);
  3. The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Presbyterian Church in the United States, and Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1972);
  4. Lutheran Worship (The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 1982); and
  5. Common Praise (Anglican Church of Canada, 1998).

Each of the following hymnals contains two Doddridge hymns:

  1. The Service Hymnal (Non-denominational Evangelical, 1950);
  2. Armed Forces Hymnal (United States Armed Forces Chaplains Board, 1958);
  3. Hymns of Grace (Primitive Baptist, 1967);
  4. Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974);
  5. The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974);
  6. Hymns for the Family of God (Non-denominational Evangelical, 1976);
  7. Hymns of the Spirit for Use in the Free Churches of America (American Unitarian Association and Universalist Church of America, 1937);
  8. Lutheran Book of Worship (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1987-, and its predecessors, 1978);
  9. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985);
  10. Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (1985);
  11. The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Non-denominational Evangelical, 1986);
  12. The Presbyterian Hymnal:  Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1990); and
  13. Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1996);

Each of the following hymnals contains one Doddridge hymn:

  1. Christian Youth Hymnal (United Lutheran Church in America, 1948)
  2. Hymns for the Celebration of Life (Unitarian Universalist Association, 1964);
  3. Hymnbook for Christian Worship (American Baptist Convention and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1970);
  4. Baptist Hymnal (Southern Baptist Convention, 1975);
  5. Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1987);
  6. Worship His Majesty (Non-denominational Evangelical, 1987);
  7. The United Methodist Hymnal:  Book of United Methodist Worship (1989);
  8. The Baptist Hymnal (Southern Baptist Convention, 1991);
  9. Sing to the Lord (Church of the Nazarene, 1993);
  10. Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994);
  11. The New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ, 1995);
  12. The Covenant Hymnal:  A Worshipbook (Evangelical Covenant Church of America, 1996);
  13. The Celebration Hymnal:  Songs and Hymns for Worship (Non-Denominational Evangelical, 1997);
  14. Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2006);
  15. Lutheran Service Book (The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 2006);
  16. Baptist Hymnal (Southern Baptist Convention, 2008);
  17. Celebrating Grace Hymnal (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 2010); and
  18. Lift Up Your Hearts (Reformed Church in America and Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2013).

And each of the following hymnals contains no Doddridge hymns:

  1. The Psalter (United Presbyterian Church of North America, 1912);
  2. The Psalter (Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1914/1927);
  3. The Concordia Hymnal:  A Hymnal for Church, School and Home (Norwegian Lutheran Church in America, 1932);
  4. Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1934);
  5. Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1959);
  6. Worship II (Roman Catholic Church, 1975);
  7. Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1976);
  8. Worship:  A Hymnal and Service Book for Roman Catholics, Third Edition, a.k.a. Worship III (1986);
  9. Singing the Living Tradition (Unitarian Universalist Association, 1993);
  10. Gather Comprehensive (Roman Catholic Church, 1994);
  11. Chalice Hymnal (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1995);
  12. Moravian Book of Worship (Moravian Church in America, 1995);
  13. RitualSong (Roman Catholic Church, 1996);
  14. The Service Hymnal:  A Lutheran Homecoming (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, unofficial, 2001);
  15. Gather Comprehensive–Second Edition (Roman Catholic Church, 2004); and
  16. Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2013).

The chronological arrangement of this information reveals that the Doddridge counts began to drop noticeably and consistently in the 1930s and that the pace of decline quickened in the 1950s and 1960s then again in the 1990s and later.

I understand that there is a finite number of hymns one can include in a hymnal.  When one adds a song of more recent vintage and/or from elsewhere in the world, another text–one which has fallen out of use–will probably fall by the wayside during the process of hymnal revision.  Sometimes new material is of great quality; I have shared some well-written contemporary hymns during hymn-planning sessions at church and gotten them to the choir.  But sometimes new content is of lesser quality; repetitive “seven-eleven” songs with few words have become more numerous in hymnals across the theological spectrum.  Whenever those displace quality texts, such as Philip Doddridge hymns, something unfortunate has occurred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MALTA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIANI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK, U.S. ARMY GENERAL

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Amended February 14, 2014 Common Era

Amended March 28, 2014 Common Era

Amended May 16, 2014 Common Era

Amended September 17, 2014 Common Era

Amended October 1, 2014 Common Era

Amended October 2, 2014 Common Era

Amended June 4, 2015 Common Era

Amended August 24, 2015 Common Era

Amended December 29, 2015 Common Era

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Posted February 8, 2014 by neatnik2009 in American Baptist Churches USA, Anglican and Lutheran (General), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Predecessors, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Predecessors' Offshoots, Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod Predecessors, Moravian (General), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors' Offshoots, Reformed (General), United Church of Christ, United Church of Christ Predecessors, United Methodist Church, United Methodist Church Predecessors, Wesleyan (General), Worship and Liturgy

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The Little Gate to God   4 comments

Little Gate to God

Above:  Part of Rauschenbusch’s Text, from Pilgrim Hymnal (1935)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Those who know me well are aware of the fact that I collect hymnals, especially old ones.  I have begun to explore a Christmas present, a copy of the 1916 Episcopal Hymnal, to great delight.  And the line of Pilgrim Hymnals interests me.  I have copies copyrighted 1912, 1935, and 1958.  Archive.org provides a method of obtaining a free electronic copy of the 1904 version.

Pilgrim Hymnals

Above:  The 1912, 1935, and 1958 Pilgrim Hymnals

Photograph Dated December 28, 2013 Common Era

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

All of these hymnals stand in the worship lineage of the United Church of Christ (UCC) (1957-), which adopted and authorized The New Century Hymnal in 1995.  As of yesterday, when I checked the UCC website most recently, the church publisher sold not only the 1995 hymnal and a Spanish-language hymnal, but The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), Pilgrim Hymnal (1958), and The Hymnal (1941) of the former Evangelical and Reformed Church (1934-1957).

Hymnals

Above:  The 1941, 1958, 1974, and 1995 Hymnals

Photograph Dated December 28, 2013 Common Era

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Of these volumes The Hymnal (1941) is the most impressive and Pilgrim Hymnal (1958) is also quite good.  The other two are regrettable books.  That is this Episcopalian’s opinion.

Pilgrim Hymnal 1935 Title

Above:  Part of the Title Page of Pilgrim Hymnal (1935)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Pilgrim Hymnal (1935) is a revision of Pilgrim Hymnal (1931).

Pilgrim Hymnal 1935 Copyright

Above:  The Copyright Notice in Pilgrim Hymnal (1935)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

This fact causes me to ponder the economics of hymnal revision, especially during the Great Depression.  I do recall that 1931 was the year the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States (1871-1931) merged with the General Conference of the Christian Church (1890-1931) to form the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches (1931-1957).  My surmise, then, is that the 1935 revision was not an overhaul of the 1931 volume.  I find a hint of this in the Preface to the 1958 Pilgrim Hymnal:

This book was first conceived as a revision of the Pilgrim Hymnal of 1931, but the recent developments in hymnody, in church life, and in world history have made it necessary to plan our work in larger terms.

–page v

Pilgrim Hymnal 1958 Copyright

Above:  The Copyright Notice in Pilgrim Hymnal (1958)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I have read online that the 1935 Pilgrim Hymnal contains the greatest concentration of Social Gospel hymns.  I, being a skilled hair splitter, wonder if the authors of those remarks have distinguished between the Social Gospel and Neo-Orthodoxy, both of which prioritize addressing and correcting societal ills.  Yet my study of the 1935 book does reveal many hymns about societal responsibility–especially on a national level.  And my study of the 1904 and 1912 predecessors reveals that those volumes were Social Gospel (defined narrowly) publications.

The theological orientation of the 1935 Pilgrim Hymnal becomes clear before hymn #1, “Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God Almighty.”  Opposite that hymn one finds a text by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918), the great theologian of the Social Gospel:

In the castle of my soul

Is a little postern gate,

Whereat, when I enter,

I am in the presence of God,

In a moment, in the turning of a thought,

I am where God is.

This is a fact.

—–

The world of men is made of jangling noises.

With God is a great silence.

But that silence is a melody

Sweet as the contentment of love,

Thrilling as a touch of flame.

When I enter into God,

All life has a meaning.

Without asking I know;

My desires are even now fulfilled,

My fever is gone

In the great quiet of God.

My troubles are but pebbles on the road,

My joys are like the everlasting hills.

So it is when I step through the gate of prayer

From time into eternity.

When I am in the consciousness of God,

My fellowmen are not far off and forgotten,

But close and strangely dear.

Those whom I love

Have a mystic value.

They shine as if a light were glowing within them.

—–

So it is when my soul steps through the postern gate

Into the presence of God.

Big things become small, and small things become great.

The near becomes far, and the future is near.

The lowly and despised is shot through with glory.

God is the substance of all revolutions;

When I am in him, I am in the Kingdom of God

And in the Fatherland of my Soul.

Several aspects of that text perk up my theological ears.  The affirmation of the image of God in others is a timeless and sadly necessary message to repeat.  Today, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, is an especially appropriate time to do so.

The recognition of being in the Kingdom of God in the heightened state of awareness of being in the presence of God rings true with me.  To the writing and theology of Rauschenbusch I add the subsequent work and thought of C. H. (Charles Harold) Dodd, who explained Realized Eschatology in The Founder of Christianity (1970):

God, the Eternal, the omnipresent, can hardly be said to be nearer or farther off at this time or that.  If he is king at all, he is king always and everywhere.  In what sense his kingdom does not come; it is.  But human experience takes place within a framework of time and space.  There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized)  becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment in history is reflected in the gospels….

–pages 56 and 57 of the 1970 paperback edition

The contextualization of one’s circumstances in the presence of God, paired with due awestruck humility (the fear of God, in traditional language) is a healthy spiritual attitude.

And the attachment to others in God is a profoundly Biblical attitude.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we say you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”  And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

–Matthew 25:37-40, The New Revised Standard Version

The reverse situation is not happy, however:

Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

–Matthew 25:45, The New Revised Standard Version

There is also this from the Letter of James:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can that faith save him?  Suppose a fellow-Christian, whether man or woman, is in rages with not enough food for the day, and one of you says, “Goodbye, keep warm, and have a good meal,” but does nothing to supply that their bodily needs, what good is that?  So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14-17, The Revised English Bible

Rauschenbusch understood these lessons well in the context of his Baptist congregation in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, New York.  He knew that the fact that tenements were such substandard housing was a sin, one which required correction.  He grasped the communal roots of Christianity and lived accordingly.  He was, however, overly optimistic about how much people could do to change the world.  Yet Rauschenbusch, despite his insufficient theology of sin–which Reinhold Niebuhr corrected–did call necessary and proper attention to the fact that the church has societal duties.  To those who would rebuff this idea, I quote the late Reverend Sherwood Eliot Wirt, a long-time associate of Billy Graham:

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air was cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism  is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concerns be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.

The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (New York, NY:  Harper & Row, 1968), page 154

And is it not evidence of a changed life, for example, to oppose the exploitation and endangerment of people who have to live in substandard housing?  Should not all human housing meet certain basic standards?  Rauschenbusch understood this point well.

The unfortunate acceptance of the Roman social order–complete with slavery–which we find in much of the New Testament reflects the human authorship of those texts and the widespread expectation of the temporal proximity of the Second Coming of Jesus.  If one thinks that Christ will return soon and wipe away the social structures, problems, and injustices, focusing on individual spiritual preparation is a logical decision.  Yet nearly 2000 years have passed and many of my heroes of Christian faith have challenged and/or changed social systems for the better.  They have been salt and light, the hands and feet of Christ.

In contrast to those go-along-and-get-ready-for-Jesus parts of the New Testament I find others with a different message.  Revelation 18 and 19 come to mind immediately.  Babylon (read:  the Roman Empire, based on slavery, military conquest, and economic exploitation) has fallen.  Heaven rejoices.  Yet certain kings and merchants of the earth lament this change, for they have benefited from the vanquished political and economic arrangements.  Good news for the oppressed is bad news for the oppressors.  And God is the substance of that revolution.

So, O reader, are you one in a position to rejoice or to lament when contemporary Babylons–based on violence and/or economic and other forms of exploitation–fall?  And is your understanding of Christian responsibility overly individualistic?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS

Greater Dignity and Depth in Worship   9 comments

Hymnal 1941 Title Page

Above:  Part of the Title Page of The Hymnal (1941), of the Evangelical and Reformed Church

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Book from the Library of Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I like old hymnals.  In fact, I find them infinitely more interesting than contemporary ones.  Please do not misunderstand me, O reader; I am not a reactionary with regard to hymnody.  I do not assume that there has not been a good hymn or hymnal to come down the pike since an arbitrary year.  I am unlike a certain man who told me years ago that nobody had written good church music after 1900.  Rather, I am like the archaeologist of a joke I heard once; the older his wife became, the more interesting he found her.  In this case, the principle applies to hymnals.

Hymnals are like toys to me; they fascinate me, so I “play” with them.  Yesterday I received my copy of The Hymnal (1941), of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, a forerunner of the United Church of Christ.  The Hymnal (1941), like many other books of its sort from that era, is like a stately vessel, for it hails from a time before theologically shallow and extremely annoying praise choruses.  Nobody had thought of praise bands yet, mercifully.  The opening paragraph of the Preface is wonderful:

Christianity is constantly finding better forms of religious expression.  Symbolism, architecture, and ritual are leading the way to finer sanctuaries and more impressive worship services.  A positive theology is asserting itself anew and is greatly influencing religious thinking, thus paving the way for a revival of spiritual living.  Religious realism claims a place in the program of the Church and in the life of believers as a means of interpreting satisfactorily for modern man the social phenomena of an awakened world conscience.  Out of all this grows a demand for greater unity and strength, and greater dignity and depth in worship, the influence of which becomes apparent in the hymns we sing.  THE HYMNAL takes cognizance of this demand.

–page iii

New Forms of Worship (1971)

Above:  The Cover of New Forms of Worship (1971), by James F. White

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Book from the Library of Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Unfortunately, the period from the middle 1960s through the middle 1970s took a negative toll on hymnody and the language of worship.  The proper transition to addressing God as “you” instead of “Thee” was often an awkward one, with a few years required to sort out the proper tone of new liturgies.  The intersecting roads which led to The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) found the proper balance before they arrived at their destinations, fortunately.  Yet, as volumes from my large collection of hymnals, service books, and books about worship attest, some such books from the middle 1960s to the middle 1970s, both mainline and Evangelical, represent what I call, in mock 1950s B-movies style,

THE ATTACK OF THE 1970S.

Examples include The Worshipbook (Presbyterian, 1970/1972), The Hymnbook of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada (1971), Hymns for the Family of God (non-denominational, Gaither-influenced, 1976), Hymns for the Living Church (non-denominational, 1974), The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), and a number of immediately post-Vatican II Roman Catholic resources.  This was the time of The Living Bible (1971), in which Jesus says,

I am the A and the Z….

–Revelation 22:13a

The infiltration of shallow church music continues, unfortunately.  Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), the new hymnal of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church, is more about the heart than the head and leans toward contemporary music.  Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), contains some praise music, but at least the book leans toward a traditional hymnody.  The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) is of a decidedly Low Church mold, unlike its immediate predecessor, The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966), which tried to raise the bar, only to become unpopular in many corners of the denomination.  The 1989 book does, unfortunately, contain “seven-eleven” songs, with about seven words one sings eleven times, as the saying goes.  And, ironically, the official Baptist Hymnal (2008), of the Southern Baptist Convention, contains a less traditional hymnody, including more praise music, than the Celebrating Grace Hymnal (2010), of the Cooperative Baptists.  And I have yet to analyze certain contemporary non-denominational hymnals, which I have seen yet not studied for hours on end.  What I have seen, however, has troubled me, given the emphasis upon the informal, the repetitive, and the contemporary.

I have been reading so much about so many hymnals recently that I have forgotten where I read certain comments.  In one of these online places I read a cogent analysis of many contemporary hymnals:  they are more about the worshipers than the one whom the people worship.  I appreciate worship done well.  It elevates the human spirit.  It ought never to become entertainment.  Worship done well creates an atmosphere all about God and differs stylistically from the rest of one’s life, unless one lives in a cloister or a similar setting.  Churches should look like churches.  Hymn texts should be profound and wordy.  Worship should be dignified.  And Eucharist should be the frequent and central act of Christian worship.

Here I stand; I will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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