By Calvin Lane
If you are an Episcopalian, you have an opinion about worship. It really is that simple. Therefore, you need to come to Jubilate, a conference on theological language and prayer book revision. Six theologians, representing very different perspectives, will be at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati on Saturday, November 2 to offer up a full day of rich conversations. The purpose is robust yet charitable theological dialogue, not forcing any particular revision. Register now!
Now, let me back up and set the stage and show why my rather direct advertisement of this conference is worth a post on Covenant. Prayer book revision, of some sort, is coming. But what those changes will look like is hardly a fait accompli.
General Convention 2018 “memorialized” the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and set the process in motion for change by instituting a body called the Task Force for Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision, known as TFLPBR (I imagine if you say it quickly enough it sounds like ordering a Mr. Pibb). The purpose of TFLPBR is to start gathering lots of resources which will eventually be used for liturgical revision.
Therefore, there is still an enormous amount left up in the air. Once more, this is no fait accompli. Now is the time for substantial conversations. Members of the Episcopal Church, lay and ordained, need to be gathering together to hear a range of opinions. Derek Olson summed up the state of things post GC 2018 quite well.
What makes the subject rather complex (and also fascinating) is that the matter is not clean-cut: there aren’t just two opinions floating around. There are a cadre of issues around language alone: gendered language, balanced language, inclusive language, expansive language, formulas for the Holy Trinity. Over the past generation we have also developed so many options for worship (not simply Rite I and Rite II) that some have questioned our rather iconic claims about “common prayer.” But is that a bad thing?
Then, there is the organizing role baptism has enjoyed (or was supposed to have enjoyed) in the 1979 BCP. Will that continue? Will it be strengthened? Or, for example, are advocates for communion without baptism right that the church’s primary vocation is hospitality?
And while we’re thinking about initiation, will the Episcopal Church finally clarify what exactly confirmation is and its role in the life of the individual and in the Christian community? These are just a few issues and they hardly track along stereotypical “liberal” and “conservative” lines.
Jubilate on November 2, then, is a gathering of truly diverse scholars, representing an undeniable spectrum of theological opinions. Katherine Sonderegger is a systematic theologian from Virginia Theological Seminary. Ruth Meyers teaches liturgics and serves as academic dean at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Ephraim Radner is professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. Jonathan Tan is a church musician and liturgical theologian at Case Western University. Liza Anderson, most recently of Claremont School of Theology and Episcopal Divinity School, teaches historical theology at the College of St. Scholastica. Tom Breidenthal, formerly professor of ethics at General Theological Seminary, is Bishop of Southern Ohio and chair of the House of Bishops Theology Committee.
These speakers represent a range of theological positions and disciplinary backgrounds. But what they share is a deep commitment to the life and prayer of the Episcopal Church. Don’t you want to be a part of this conversation? Don’t we need to have this conversation as a church? Prayer book revision is coming. Will you be part of the dialogue, or will you leave it to others?
This conference is remarkably affordable – $20 and that includes lunch – and Cincinnati is an accessible destination. Registration is at dsojubilate.org. All are welcome.
The Rev. Dr. Calvin Lane is associate rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Dayton, Ohio, affiliate professor of church history at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, and adjunct professor of history at Wright State University in Dayton.