17 May GS 2001 art 97
GS 2001 Article 97 – Book of Praise: Overture re: Hymns
Committee 3 presented its proposal on the overture from Regional Synod East of Nov.8,2000 regarding the addition of hymns. The following was adopted:
- 1.1. Overture of Regional Synod East, November 8,2000.
- 1.2. Letter from the Church at London.
The overture has come via the minor assemblies and is therefore admissible. The letter from the Church at London is admissible because it deals with this overture.
- 3.1. Regional Synod East, via Classis Central Ontario, requests General Synod to broaden the mandate of the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise.
- 3.2. The request is to add to the mandate of the Standing Committee the task of evaluating hymns, which are submitted by the churches for inclusion into the Book of Praise.
- 3.3. Submissions from the churches for additional hymns should be supported with reasons for their suitability. The Standing Committee is to evaluate them in accordance with the requirements set out by General Synod Edmonton,1965.
- 3.4. The hymns, which are selected, should be sent to the churches prior to subsequent General Synods with the recommendation that such hymns should be included in the Hymn Section of the Book of Praise.
- 3.5. The grounds given by Regional Synod East for granting the request of Classis are:
- 1. The Book of Praise is a matter of the churches in common (CO Article 30).
- 2. The mandate of the Book of Praise Committee is not clear (Article 140,Acts Fergus). It would be beneficial for the churches to know what process to follow in order to propose the addition of suitable hymns to the Book of Praise.
- 3.6. The overture originated with the Church at Toronto. Classis made clear to Regional Synod that it was presenting the overture from Toronto “with all the observations, considerations and recommendations.” In this overture the Church at Toronto offered two observations:
- 1. From the Preface to the Book of Praise, that “Although in Reformed liturgy the Psalms have a predominant place, our Churches have not excluded the use of Scriptural hymns. They, too, constitute a thank offering of praise when we sing of the facts of redemption by God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- 2. From the Acts of General Synod Smithville, 1980, that “room is to be left open for changes, deletions and additions in future editions” (Art.122,III,1,p.88).
- 3.7. The Church at London requests Synod not to accede to the request of Regional Synod East to broaden the mandate of the Standing Committee of the Book of Praise for the purpose of adding more hymns.
- 3.8. London refers to the report of the CRCA regarding the GKN, which stated in connection with Synod Leusden’s decision to add about 120 hymns for use in the churches, “while there is no principal objection to the use of hymns in the worship service, historically the proliferation of hymns has come at the expense of the singing of Psalms” (188.8.131.52, p15). London warns against creating a double standard where we warn the GKN on this matter while we consider augmenting the hymn section of the Book of Praise.
- 3.9. London points out that it is false dilemma to say more hymns are needed based on NT writings because their content is more fully and directly about the work of Christ. The OT Psalms already testify of Christ, his suffering and subsequent glory.
- 3.10. London disagrees with the first ground of Regional Synod East. London sees this ground expressing the logic that since the Book of Praise is a matter of the churches in common, “therefore Synod should consider the request to mandate the Standing Committee to receive submissions for additional hymns.”
- 4.1. London is correct that the CRCA report expressed caution with respect to Synod Leusden’s decision to add 120 hymns. Synod Neerlandia, however, expressed regret that the CRCA did not give evidence to show that the changes taking place in the GKN are wrong (Neerlandia Article 80, 4.7). Synod decided to mandate the CRCA to make a thorough study of the concerns mentioned in its report (5.5). Therefore, while there are concerns about adding a large number of hymns, it cannot be said without further investigation that the increase of hymns in the GKN comes at the expense of singing Psalms.
- 4.2. London’s contention that it is a false dilemma to seek hymns based on NT writings because the OT Psalms already testify to Christ does not really present a convincing argument for not adding hymns. The Psalms of course speak about Christ. At the same time, the CanRC have already adopted many hymns based on NT passages, and these hymns are valued for reflecting NT revelation. It is possible and desirable to sing the OT Psalms and the hymns based on both OT and NT passages.
- 4.3. London appears to misread the decision of Regional Synod East. The overture from Regional Synod began with the Church at Toronto and made its way through the proper broader assemblies: church, classis, regional synod and now general synod. We read in the letter of Regional Synod East to General Synod regarding the overture from Classis that, “Regional Synod considers this admissible on the basis of article 30, CO.” Then we read that Regional Synod accedes to the request of Classis Central Ontario, with the first ground being that the Book of Praise is a matter of the churches in common (CO Article 30).This simply says that the overture is legitimately on the table of a broader assembly and is therefore to be considered. The overture itself still has to stand or fall based on its own merits.
- 4.4. Synod agrees that submissions from the churches regarding the Book of Praise should be sent to the Standing Committee (see the Committee Mandate).
- 4.5. It is the Standing Committee’s task to evaluate and scrutinize the material received (see the new Committee Mandate).
- 4.6. The evaluation of new hymns should be reported to General Synod and sent to the churches six months prior to the next Synod.
- 4.7. The above considerations should clear up the confusion about the proper procedure to follow with respect to the addition of suitable hymns to the Book of Praise.
- 5.1. To deny the request of the Church at London.
- 5.2. To give the Standing Committee of the Book of Praise the following mandate:
That this Committee receive submissions and proposals for additional hymns from the churches with the reasons for their suitability, evaluate them in accordance with the requirements set out by General Synod Edmonton,1965,and submit a selection to the churches prior to subsequent General Synods.