Convention approves use of expansive-language version of Rite II Eucharistic prayers

By Mary Frances Schjonberg and Melodie Woerman
Posted Jul 12, 2018

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Both houses of General Convention on July 12 adopted a resolution that allows all congregations in the Episcopal Church to use optional, expansive-language versions of three Rite II Eucharistic prayers in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Resolution D078 provides alternative language for Prayer A, Prayer B and Prayer D. The changes are available for trial use until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Prayer book revision has been the subject of great debate during this convention, which eventually agreed to the creation of new liturgical texts to respond to the needs of Episcopalians across the church while continuing to use the 1979 book. No specific date was set to begin such a comprehensive revision.

Deputies overwhelmingly adopted the resolution on a vote by orders, which is required to authorize liturgies for trial use. The results were:

Clergy: 78 yes, 19 no, 12 divided
Lay: 89 yes, 14 no, 6 divided

Fifty-five votes in each order were required for passage. Divided votes are recorded when the clergy or lay members of a deputation split their votes between yes and no.

After passage, the resolution quickly was sent to the House of Bishops, which passed it on a voice vote after little debate.

The Rev. Laurie Brock, deputy from Lexington, proposed D078. Official endorsers were the Rev. Beth Scriven of Missouri and the Rev. Scott Gunn of Southern Ohio.

Brock told the deputies that the larger plan for liturgical and prayer book revision doesn’t change the fact that every Sunday worshippers hear the words in the current prayer book that are “mostly masculine.” She said that offering the revised versions of existing Eucharistic prayers is “an immediate way to take the longing we have heard in this convention back to our pews, so God can be celebrated in all genders.”

In a more practical vein, she said the resolution “recognizes the reality that many of us are doing this on Sundays and would like to not get hauled up on Title IV for doing it,” referring to the canons for clergy discipline.

Here are some examples of the optional language included in the trial-use rites:

  • Priests may begin any of the three rites by saying, “Blessed be God: most holy, glorious and undivided Trinity.” The current opening acclamation of “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit” is also an option. In either case, the people’s response is “And blessed be God’s reign, now and for ever. Amen.”
  • At the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving in all three rites, the priest may say, “God be with you,” instead of “The Lord be with you.”
  • The Sanctus can now be said using “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” in addition to “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
  • In Eucharistic Prayer A, celebrants now have the option of saying, “…you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and maker of all.” In the original version, that sentence ends with “…the God and Father of all.”
  • Eucharistic Prayer B contains an optional wording for the sentence “Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” The option reads, “Unite us in the sacrifice of Christ, through whom we are made acceptable to you, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
  • Eucharistic Prayer D offers the option of adding the word “matriarchs” after “patriarchs” in this sentence: “And grant that we may find our inheritance with [the Blessed Virgin Mary, with patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, (with ____) and all the saints who have found favor with you in ages past.”

The options offered in D078 are to be provided to the church at no cost via electronic distribution, the resolution says.

The resolution asks the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, or SCLM, to consider revising Eucharistic Prayer C, sometimes called the “Star Wars” prayer for its reference to “the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.”

The SCLM is told to both monitor the use of the expansive-language rites and begin a dynamic-equivalence translation of the rites into Spanish, French and Haitian Creole languages.

D078 asks for $12,500 for the work involved. The 2019-2021 budget has already been passed, so that the portion of the resolution becomes what is known as an unfunded mandate and is left to Executive Council to determine a funding source.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter. Melodie Woerman is director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas and is a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.


Comments (43)

  1. Matt Ouellette says:

    It’s a nice alternative to the standard Rite II prayers, but some of the language is problematic in my opinion. Avoiding using kingdom language and titles like Lord are misguided in my opinion. There’s nothing wrong with referring to the “kingdom of God.” Why the change to “reign?”

    1. Frank Harrision says:

      I agree with Matt. OR consider this. Perhaps we could say not “the kingdom of heaven” but rather “the republic of heaven” or “the democracy of heaven.” Then we could think of God as a CEO sitting at the head of the table with The Select around the table. Now God says something to the effect, “I feel that fornication is morally wrong. What do you think about it? Perhaps we should have a discussion and then a vote. Let’s have a show of hands.” Dear Fellow Episcopalians, Heaven is not a democracy, God does not ask for a vote. He dictates. Yes, Matt, “kingdom of God'”.

      1. Judith Jones says:

        “Reign” does not suggest a democracy. It accurately reflects the Greek basileia, which as a verbal noun emphasizes that God rules or reigns, without suggesting that God is male.

        1. Susan Lee Hauser says:

          Yes! Thank you!

        2. Matt Ouellette says:

          I don’t think the word kingdom implies male rulership either (a kingdom can be ruled by either a King or a Queen, and therefore the ruler of the kingdom is not necessarily male).

        3. Fr Ian Wetmore says:

          Reign is not a better translation of basileia. Think of Queen Elizabeth as living in the United Reign, or referring to the Commonwealth of Nations as her reign, or of Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the reign.” I suggest that ‘dominion’ or ‘realm’.

        4. Fr Ian Wetmore says:

          Reign is not a better translation of basileia in this context. Think of Queen Elizabeth as living in the United Reign, or referring to the Commonwealth of Nations as her reign, or of Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the reign.” I suggest that ‘dominion’ or ‘realm’ are better words, but best to keep kingdom really. Also, “Unite us in the sacrifice of Christ” deletes the central reality of the original statement. In Holy Communion we are united *to* Jesus in his sacrifice primarily, and to one another consequently. The change negates the main thing.

    2. Jewels Wolf says:

      I agree Matt.

  2. The Rev. Lucretia Jevne says:

    I would wish for a revision of the Psalter as masculine pronouns and expressions abound and re increasingly jarring in today’s usage. The Order of St. Helena has developed such a Psalter that retains all the original meaning and the poetry without the use of extreme masculinity. Perhaps the church could simply adopt their Psalter as an allowed alternative option.

    1. Jack Zamboni says:

      Both houses also passed a resolution allowing use of several expansive language psalters. However, because the proposer (that would be me) didn’t think to reference the Trial Use canon, they fell under a different canon that requires they be reviewed by the SCLM before approval (I trust) at the next GC.

      1. SJ Hussey says:

        Jack Zamboni! Now, that’s a name I haven’t seen for a long time! Thanks for your work on this issue.

        1. David McMannes says:

          Jack Zamboni – are you of the ice resurfacer fame… your grandpa, maybe?

  3. It’s a start, a small gesture but significant. The familiar words are dear to many, and needn’t be discarded. Adding new terms can remind us that God is way beyond any human terms, certainly including yet also far beyond our notions of gender and family roles. And who of us can really know how Christ will appear next time? There’s some truth in the old joke, “I saw God, and guess what? She’s Black!”

    1. Susan Lee Hauser says:

      Beautifully said. (And I have that t-shirt!)

    2. Karen Burr McKee says:

      Well said. Many of us do not care to have the traditional language changed, just as we feel that Shakespeare would be lessened by being “modernized.” I’ve spent my life understanding clearly that in many circumstances he clearly included me and never felt excluded by it.

      1. Donald Caron says:

        Admittedly, the beauty of language is an important consideration. Modern language versions of Shakespeare fall flat no matter how well they follow the original plot. The difference as I see it is that when I go to a Shakespearean play I am not a participant. The dialogue is not the expression of my self. My hope is that the final form of any new liturgies will place emphasis on the Anglican precedents of beautiful language, yet give words for expression that is meaningful to contemporary worshipers.

  4. Dennis Wisnom says:

    The 1979 BCP is the only book I know as I was born in 1983. I think the above examples provide clarity about what options and portions of the liturgy where different words can be used. I’ve thought for a long time that Eucharistic Prayer C needs revision or optional wording. The two examples are that in the line read by the celebrant could be the optional word change that instead of saying “You made us the rulers of creation.” I think can be switched to “You made us the stewards of creation.” And lastly, instead of “Lord God of our fathers, I believe you could put “Lord God of our ancestors” so as to be gender neutral and all inclusive without leaving anyone group out

  5. Steph Wills says:

    I’m a little confused, and I hope one more knowledgeable (shouldn’t be difficult to find) can help with a question about this. Put simply, do we now have two Nicene Creeds (sounds odd to say)–one with the filioque and one without? When one reads the Creed in the resolution (which both Houses passed), it is quite different. Take a look. Any help on understanding this would be helpful; I’m not looking for a debate.

  6. PJ Cabbiness says:

    The so called “expansive language” is simply one more component of the leftist deconstruction of our faith in order to allow a false, mythological “reconstruction” to occur wherein a new and false, progressive Jesus emerges created in the left’s own theo-political image. This path, unchecked simply leads to yet another type, brand or version of cultism. Ultimately, this view will allow each individual to create “God” in our own relativistic image. Heretical.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      Expansive language is not necessarily deconstructionist or heretical. I think that is too cynical a take. When done carefully and properly (with care to maintain important theological doctrines), there is nothing wrong with using expansive language and it can even be an improvement in our worship (since it promotes more diverse imagery).

    2. Charlene R Cook says:

      PJ Cabbiness I agree with you. It seems that with all these ridiculous changes in the beautiful Book of Common Prayer that many churches will see established members leaving the Episcopal Church. The ‘left’ is trying to destroy the ‘traditional Episcopalian’ beliefs. Sadly, not all people agree with these changes and will simply stop attending their churches……

      1. Matt Ouellette says:

        It’s not “leftist” to want to use more inclusive language in our worship. Sure, there are ways inclusive language can be used in revision that is wrong and removes core doctrines from our worship, but there are also ways that it can be done carefully. Again, I think it is cynical for conservatives to blame “the left” for everything they don’t like about the church.

    3. Michael Airhart says:

      So now it’s “leftist” to return to the original intent of the authors of holy Scripture, “reconstruction” to remove political corruption and misogyny from sacred tradition, and “cultism” to worship Jesus instead of the politics of gender and empire.

      The self-described “right” is no longer conservative, it is now consumed by the trappings of secular kingdom.

    4. Brian Kline says:

      PJ– I agree and am getting very tired and frustrated with the constant attacks from the left to change things including history to their demented way of thinking If you don’t like the way things are done or have been done Go elsewhere!

      1. Donald Caron says:

        Brian, if you want to experience how things WERE done, visit a museum. Common prayer is the expression of the relationship with God experienced by the living church.

        1. Jewels Wolf says:

          Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

  7. Julianne Ture says:

    Jesus was unequivocally male. Let’s not be fudging that, please. Also, you’ll tear my Coverdale Psalter from my cold, dead hands!

  8. Catharine Langmuir says:

    From the above comments it appears that there are still some faithful Episcopalians who have that rare gift: common sense. For the rest: it’s a terrible shame that Jesus was not as “woke” as the Episcopal leadership in the 21st century. Thank heaven we have superior people who can “correct” his “inadequacy”. Are you people crazy?? When you insist that women be excluded from the generic “he” you are cutting us off from all the great literature of the past. If male persons were to tell us we were no longer part of “mankind”, we’d be rightly hopping mad. That misguided feminists insist on it is no better. In an era when “poet”, “author”, “actor” etc. have all become gender neutral, and young girls call “Hey you guys” to their female friends, the prissy prohibition of what is truly inclusive language–generic “he” etc–is a huge step backward for gender equity. No common sense here at all!

  9. Larry Waters says:

    I would like to say “thank you” to the various reporters who labored to summarize various topics and report them in this forum. Their task was not an easy one. If the commenters in these various forums represent the majority of Episcopalians, then I think the EC is doomed, since these comments illustrate how divided the membership of the EC is. As many others have said, I do not care to have the traditional language of the PB changed. And as female commenters have pointed out, they have no problem with “He” , meaning God, and never felt excluded. If this “gender equality” language is the topic of so much discussion at the GC rather than seeking ways to make our EC relevant to as many folks as possible, then I have grave concerns about the so-called leadership in the EC. As for me, I will likely leave the EC, even though my mother spent 20 years working in the nursery of the church I still attend and I spent 10 years as an acolyte and working in the nursery [same church]. Perhaps if all the white, conservative, heterosexual males leave the EC, then the congregants who remain will have less angst in their lives.

    1. Jewels Wolf says:

      The revision of the BCP being discussed at convention is about much more than the prayer book, it is about the very nature of God and our relationship to him. It is about who Jesus is and what the scriptures tell us about him. The Gospel of John for example probably gives us the clearest understanding that Jesus is the Son of God sent from God the Father ( see John 8:34-38, John 10:35-30) Not only that but this Gospel also gives us the clearest understanding that the Trinity is indeed composed of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit ( John 14:15-21). The Gospels clearly gives us the understanding of who Jesus is and his relationship to God the Father. This may not be how some would like it to be (and that is very sad) but as they say, it is what it is. To tamper with the truth of this relationship through modifying how we address God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit goes far beyond any superficial conveniences, it changes the truth of who God is and our relationship to him. Romans 8:15 tells us this “15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.[a] Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Not Abba mother or Abba sister, but Abba Father. And why is that my friends? It is that way because that is who God is to us, for those who follow Christ and believe in his name, God is our Father, Jesus is his son. These proposed changes concerning the so called gender neutrality fly in the face of the facts presented to us in the Gospels. The Episcopal Church for me is fast becoming a church I no longer recognize and one which I feel is now playing with fire in terms of altering the Gospel to fit peoples own wants and desires (see 2 Timothy 4:3).

      1. cynthia seddon says:

        Jewels Thank you for bringing this back to its Biblical roots. Perhaps sometime the TEC will get back to its prime task the making of disciples, and seeking to save the lost which is what Jesus says He came to do. Luke 19v2

        1. Jewels Wolf says:

          You are very welcome. I feel it is my responsibility as a Christian to speak out.

    2. Please don’t conclude that many women in TEC don’t feel marginalized and “less than” by centuries of church as patriarchal. It doesn’t mean we love God any less, or deny any male aspects of God. If we’re truly made in God’s image, then God is female as well as male, mother as well as father, and much more than we can even comprehend from here.

  10. Robert Nagy says:

    I don’t know what year the next BCP will be authorized; however, I would like to propose that we now create the Society for the Preservation of the 2030 (or whatever the year actually turns out to be) Book of Common Prayer. Best to avoid the rush at a later date.

  11. cynthia seddon says:

    Amen Ms Wolf! God is my Father,Jesus is His Son. Those who are bent on pushing for neutrality must be very insecure in themselves. I have never felt the prayerbook to be in need of revision, and I fear that since many women want to become priests there will be yet more objections to masculine nouns. The Episcopal church has changed beyond recognition,and after 40 yrs in it, I am “out of there”.

    1. Gender neutrality implies a sort of impotence, whereas God can be male, female, and much much more. “Oh Holy One” refreshes me, and I like to hear it (and say it) as well as “Father.” I’m sorry you have felt excluded by changes in the church, and I applaud your search for a church where you feel supported in your spiritual journey. No one church can be right for everyone, all the time.

      1. Jewels Wolf says:

        “O Holy One” is non-specific. O Holy One who? Heavenly Father, Almighty God… these are terms that specifically address God. When someone visits their earthly father do they say greetings fellow human or hello father how nice to see you? This insistence on finding any other way to address God the Father as anything but God the Father perplexes me. For crying out Abba Father! implies an intimate and close relationship in which we humble ourselves. before God. Why do people want to use what seem to me very impersonal terms for God, who desires a very personal relationship with his children?

    2. Matt Ouellette says:

      Wait, why is the problem women wanting to be priests?

  12. John Stuemky says:

    Thank you, Thank you,Jewels, and others. It gives me hope that our Prayer Book has some
    hope of survival. I am very distressed and concerned by what I see as a “leftist” take-over of our
    church. I hate to use that term because I dislike immensely the political implications of that term but I don’t know what other word to use.

  13. Leslie Decker says:

    As usual, the Episcopal church tries to please everyone, and pleases no one.

  14. Bob Woodson says:

    Why not just God our “heavenly parent” thereby pleasing everyone and offending no one!
    What’s wrong with leaving things the way they are????

  15. Glen Francis Michaels says:

    A number of articles about D078, including one in the Living Church, state that “allows all congregations in the Episcopal Church to use optional, expansive-language versions of three Rite II Eucharistic prayers… .” Does this mean that Diocesan Bishops cannot (or at least are not supposed to) prevent usage of this expansive language?

  16. Hamilton Jones says:

    In the meantime another several hundred thousand people leave the church. We become a denomination with 500,000 active members with an ASA of around 166,000. What are numbers when we’re pushing an agenda. What is this Episcopal Church that we read about in the history books.

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