GS 2013 art 173

GS 2013 Article 173 – Book of Praise – Hymn Mandate

Committee 5 presented its proposal. With a minor change, this was the result:

1.1.      Material:

  • 1.1.      Report from the SCBP Section 1.6 (8.2.4)
  • 1.2.      Letters from the churches at Attercliffe (, Carman-West (, Willoughby Heights (, Fergus-Maranatha (, Grand Rapids (, Grassie (, Guelph-Emmaunel (, Lynden (, Burlington-Rehoboth (, Spring Creek (, Calgary (, Burlington-Fellowship (, Hamilton-Cornerstone (; London (, Calgary ( and Edmonton-Immanuel (
  • 1.3.      Letter of appeal from the church at Coaldale (8.5.16)

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      Synod Burlington 2010 gave the SCBP the following mandate with respect to the hymns (Acts, Article 142, Recommendation 4):
    • [4.1.]    To instruct the SCBP to seek, receive, evaluate and recommend additional             hymns to be compiled and proposed at a future date for testing by the churches and for possible recommendation to a future synod;
    • [4.2.]    To instruct the SCBP upon request to make available to churches the songs which have previously been reviewed.
  • 2.2.      The SCBP states that, due to the heavy workload of the publication of the APV and dealing with the material for the 2013 edition of the Book of Praise, it was “unable to engage meaningfully with this part of its mandate.” The SCBP “wishes to stress that, once the 2013 edition of the Book of Praise is complete, it looks forward to be able to devote more time and energy on this part of the mandate in the future.”
  • 2.3.      The SCBP also wishes “to stress that the proposed hymns must adhere to the Principles and Guidelines for the Selection of Music in the Church adopted by General Synod Chatham 2004” (Acts, Article 115, Section 6).
  • 2.4.      A number of churches have addressed Synod Carman 2013 with various suggestions about the mandate concerning hymns. Carman-West and Willoughby Heights propose a re-evaluation of current hymns in order to delete unused hymns and possibly to replace them in time with “time-tested favourites.” Willoughby Heights also asks synod to re-affirm the limit of hymns to be a maximum of 100 as decided upon by Synod Chatham 2004.
  • 2.5.      The churches at Carman-West, Fergus-Maranatha, Grassie, Grand Rapids, Lynden, Burlington-Rehoboth, Spring Creek and Calgary all urge synod not to repeat the mandate to add new hymns at this time. Among the reasons given are that it causes a certain amount of unrest in the congregation, it takes a great deal of council’s time and energy to evaluate the proposed hymns, the current hymn selection is more than suitable to sing about the redeeming work of the Lord, and publishing supplements or adding hymns to the existing Book of Praise adds unnecessarily increased costs to church members (some of whom struggle financially).
  • 2.6.      The church at Coaldale has launched a formal appeal against Article 142 of Synod Burlington 2010, requesting Synod Carman 2013 to “rescind the decision of Article 142, section 4.1 and to judge that the matter of reviewing and updating the hymn section of the Book of Praise to be concluded for the time being.” Coaldale argues that while there are no “principial reasons why more hymns could not be included…there are also no principial reasons why more hymns should be included. The decision whether or not to include more hymns is not a matter of principle but of wisdom.” Coaldale suggests that it would be wise to let the present hymn section (with its recent additions) be left in place for “at least one generation (25 years)” so that the congregations can learn them and “grow to use them as a deep and meaningful way to praise God.”
  • 2.7.      The church at Burlington-Fellowship and Hamilton-Cornerstone support the desire of the SCBP to carry on with the mandate of Article 142. Hamilton-Cornerstone believes that a church songbook “should constantly be open to revision.”

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      Given the heavy workload of the SCBP over the last three years in preparing both the APV and the new Book of Praise material, it is understandable that the Committee did not engage meaningfully with this portion of its mandate during this time frame.
  • 3.2.      At the same time, the SCBP and the churches have been busy since 2001 reviewing and suggesting hymns. The Committee could report already to Synod Smithers 2007 that it had “reviewed in excess of 500 hymns from various sources, many of which were suggested by the churches” (Report to Synod Smithers 2007, p.156). This led to the recommended 28 hymns for testing in the churches which Synod Smithers adopted. It is clear that both the SCBP and the churches have been amply and actively engaged for some 12 years in the consideration of new hymns.
  • 3.3.      While the SCBP would like to pursue the mandate received in 2010 and two churches support that, nine churches have requested some form of temporary moratorium on adding new hymns. The arguments raised by some of those churches do have merit. Hymn evaluation, testing and learning does take much time from the SCBP, church councils and congregations themselves, has at times created upset in the churches and does come with a certain financial cost. These factors need to be borne in mind as a new mandate is formulated.
  • 3.4.      The church at Coaldale is correct that the adding or not adding of additional hymns is not a matter of principle but a matter of wisdom. It is not desirable to have a constantly-changing hymn section nor is it desirable to close the door entirely to additional suitable hymns at some point in the future. A mechanism must be found where the churches can give expression to their desire for more hymns and where the churches can also assess together the wisdom of adding more hymns at a certain time.
  • 3.5.      The mechanism of following the ecclesiastical route of bringing overtures for new hymns to the minor assemblies (consistory to classis to regional synod to general synod) is well-suited for this. If the churches, through their delegates at the minor assemblies, agree that the time is right to consider adding more hymns and general synod agrees too, then a general consensus will have been reached as to the wisdom of adding new hymns. At that point, general synod can pass along to the SCBP any hymns it has received in this manner from the churches for its own internal evaluation and recommendation. This mechanism can also be used by the churches at Carman-West and Willoughby-Heights (and others) if they have a proposal for the deletion of certain existing hymns.
  • 3.6.      In considering new hymns, both individual churches as well as the minor assemblies must bear in mind the Principles and Guidelines for the Selection of Music in the Church adopted by General Synod Chatham 2004. The decision to limit the hymns to a maximum of 100 remains in place since no arguments have been brought against it. However, even more important to keep in mind is the reason for this restriction, “…since Psalms have a predominant place in the liturgy of the Reformed churches” (Acts of Synod Chatham 2004, Article 115, Section 6).
  • 3.7.      Since Coaldale admits it is a question of wisdom (and not justice) as to when to adopt more hymns, it has not proven that Synod Burlington 2010 wronged them or the churches (according to Article 31 CO) when deciding at that time to mandate the SCBP to, “seek, receive, evaluate and recommend additional hymns to be compiled and proposed at a future date for testing by the churches.”

4.         Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1.      To thank the SCBP for its efforts over the years in reviewing, evaluating and suggesting to the churches new hymns;
  • 4.2.      Not to renew the mandate of the SCBP given in Article 142 of Synod Burlington 2010 but to direct the churches which desire the addition of new hymns to take their proposals through the ecclesiastical route (see Consideration 3.3-3.6);
  • 4.3.      To deny Coaldale’s appeal.