24 Jul GS 2013 art 183
GS 2013 Article 183 – Book of Praise – Psalms: Nature and Extent of Changes
- 1.1. Letters from the churches at Grand Valley (188.8.131.52) and Barrhead (184.108.40.206)
- 1.2. Report from the SCBP, Section 1.3.3 (8.2.4)
- 2.1. The church at Grand Valley approaches Synod Carman 2013 with the complaint that “the degree of written interaction by the SCBP with the churches has been insufficient with respect to the Psalm section of the Book of Praise.” Further, Grand Valley requests Synod 2013 to “mandate the SCBP to provide much more interaction with the churches than has occurred, to address the changes and the grounds for those revisions.” Grand Valley requests that this occur before Synod adopt and implement the recommendations of the SCBP.
- 2.2. More specifically, Grand Valley requests Synod 2013 to mandate the SCBP to address a number of points in detail:
- 2.2.1. Grand Valley cites a consideration of Synod Smithers 2007, where that Synod considered: “It is important to make a distinction between archaic language on the one hand and poetic language or biblical language on the other. Therefore the committee (SCBP) should be careful in changing language that is perceived to be archaic” (Article 148, Consideration 3.3). Grand Valley states: “it appears this direction given by Synod to the SCBP was largely ignored, or at least it is not addressed in their Reports.”
- 2.2.2. Grand Valley states, “Memorization should not be quickly discouraged through revisions that are insignificant and/or unnecessary.” Further: “We feel that memorization was not given any consideration.” And: “It is quite discouraging to have what was put to memory taken away, where there are no clear reasons for the changes or the degree of changes.”
- 2.2.3. Grand Valley cites an instance (although pertaining to confessions) in which the SCBP previously described how it understood its mandate for revision work: “the Committee assumes that the consistent viewpoint of our Synods occupied with revisions has been to restrict linguistic changes to those strictly necessary” (Acts of Synod Abbotsford 1995, Appendix IV.5.g). Grand Valley asks: “should this not likewise apply in a certain degree to the Psalm section” of the Book of Praise?
- 2.2.4. Citing a number of examples, Grand Valley argues that the SCBP did not follow its stated goal consistently, namely, to provide “a more faithful rendering of the Scripture text” (Report to Synod Smithers 2007, Section 15.2.8). Says Grand Valley: “We as churches need to know why that mandate was not followed at all times.”
- 2.3. The church at Barrhead also has a number of concerns pertaining to the revision process as a whole, along with concerns pertaining to particular Psalm and Hymn revisions:
- 2.3.1. Barrhead had sent a letter to the SCBP re: revised wording of the Psalms. However, Barrhead does not find its concerns addressed in the SCBP Report, which leads it to “feel that General Synod 2013 cannot consider the report of the SCBP to accurately portray the interests of the Churches.”
- 2.3.2. Barrhead has concern about the revised wording of the Psalms and believes that the “push” for changes has not come from the churches but from the SCBP. Barrhead cites Synod Chatham 2004 (Article 115, 5.3.2), which had concurred with the decision of Synod Fergus 1998 not to proceed with changes to the Psalms and Hymns. Barrhead then points out that it was the SCBP which approached Synod Smithers 2007 with the suggestion that the Psalms be reworded on the “new grounds” that a best possible metrical version of the Psalms be available for a Common Songbook with the URCNA. In response to the SCBP, Synod Smithers 2007 mandated the SCBP to “initiate a thorough review” of the Psalms (Acts of Synod Smithers 2007, Article 148). Churches which had written concerns about this to Synod Smithers 2007 were assured by Synod Smithers 2007 (as the SCBP had explained to Synod in its Report) “that this undertaking will not be such a major undertaking as was assumed by Synod Chatham 2004.” Synod Smithers 2007 had also noted: “It is important to make a distinction between archaic language on the one hand and poetic or biblical language on the other. Therefore the committee should be careful in changing language that is perceived to be archaic.”
- 2.3.3. In light of this assurance from Synod Smithers 2007, Barrhead believes Synod Smithers 2007 was misleading. Says Barrhead: “Many of the best-loved Psalms are now unrecognizable; this does not constitute a ‘minor revision.’” And, “too much has been lost in many of the revised Psalms.” Barrhead speaks of “how invasive the changes to our well-loved Psalms” has been; they “have not been revised, but rewritten.” Barrhead goes on to present a number of arguments to counter the arguments which the SCBP had presented to Synod Smithers 2007 to initiate the process of revision.
- 2.3.4. The church at Barrhead had requested the SCBP to review many of the revisions of the Psalms and Hymns. This request was not granted. Overall, in looking back to how the project of Psalm revision was initiated and then decided upon and carried out, Barrhead feels that it has been misled by Synod Smithers 2007 and the SCBP.
- 2.3.5. Barrhead concludes: “We … request that Synod
- [1.] direct the SCBP to revisit the changes that have been made” in the list of Psalms and Hymns which Barrhead had presented to the SCBP for review;
- [2.] advise the SCBP “to respect the text of these songs as we find them in the 2008 edition” of the Book of Praise;
- [3.] thereby live up “to the assurances made to the Churches that these changes would not be a ‘major undertaking.’”
- 2.4. In its Report (Section 1.3.3) to Synod Carman 2013, the SCBP notes the following about 1) how it interacted with feedback from the churches and 2) how it understands its mandate re: revisions in light of past synod decisions.
- 2.4.1. The SCBP states, “it is not possible nor is it our mandate to list all the comments and suggestions received from the churches.”
- 220.127.116.11. Summarizing the feedback from the churches, the SCBP notes: “Many expressed appreciation,” with several churches reflecting the sentiment that “the text of many of the psalms [is] closer to the actual wording in Scripture.” However, the SCBP “received critical comments as well,” among which is “disappointment at the loss of well-known phrases and expressions in well-known Psalms.”
- 18.104.22.168. Among the submissions of critical feedback, the SCBP highlights that one church had submitted to the SCBP “a detailed review of several Psalms.” This church had requested the SCBP to provide much more interaction with the churches on the proposed revisions, with the SCBP demonstrating how various changes/revisions are necessary or are a significant improvement and conforming to the meaning of the scriptural texts. The SCBP states, “The Committee judged that this request went beyond our current mandate.”
- 22.214.171.124. The SCBP reports that “In order to do justice to each submission,… we reviewed each letter (and additional documentation when included) carefully.” And: “Many comments and questions submitted by the churches could be addressed by the Committee. On several matters that were raised by the churches, we sought the input of the expert advisors.” Finally, the SCBP states, “we cannot possibly begin to include all the details of this review and revision process.” In its Report, the SCBP gives some examples to illustrate the process.
- 2.4.2. The SCBP describes how it understands its mandate and the various critical comments regarding its execution of the mandate:
- [1.] “General Synod Smithers 2007 gave the Committee the mandate to initiate a thorough review of the Psalms, to involve the churches by soliciting input and to publish a revised and updated Psalm version.”
- [2.] “General Synod Burlington approved the way the Committee fulfilled its mandate.”
- [3.] “Objections to the mandate adopted by GS 2007, or to the procedures proposed and followed by the Committee, should have been brought before GS 2010.”
- 2.4.1. The SCBP states, “it is not possible nor is it our mandate to list all the comments and suggestions received from the churches.”
- 3.1. The church at Grand Valley is not correct in its expectation that the SCBP account to individual churches for every change and revision to the Book of Praise. The SCBP is appointed and given a mandate by general synod and reports to general synod. This is due to the fact that the churches have together decided on a common songbook (Article 55 CO). The churches have given the task to their broadest assembly, which mandates a committee (the SCBP) to do much of the work for synod (between synods), which in turn benefits the churches together. This does not exclude the involvement of the local churches in the work of the SCBP, but it does determine the direction of accountability. The opportunity for churches to give input to the SCBP’s work on the way to a revision of the churches’ Book of Praise does not mean the SCBP is obligated to enter into discussion directly with a local church to explain and defend its work.
- 3.2. From the specific points which the church at Grand Valley raises, it is evident that Grand Valley sees that the SCBP has either gone too far with revisions to the Book of Praise (2.2.1 and 2.2.2) or has not worked consistently with particular principles in the revision process (2.2.3 and 2.2.4). It should be remembered that the SCBP receives its mandate from general synod and its work is subject to the scrutiny of general synod. Synod Smithers 2007 gave the SCBP its mandate and Synod Burlington 2010 approved the first phase of the revision work or the initial execution of the SCBP’s mandate. Synod Burlington 2010 endorsed the work of the SCBP and did not raise concerns about the direction, the extent, or the character of the revision work of the SCBP. It should also be remembered that by the time of Synod Burlington 2010 the churches had already had the opportunity to be engaged in the revision process via online access to the revision work of the SCBP as it was being produced. Further, at Synod Burlington 2010 the churches also had the opportunity to alert Synod to legitimate concerns in the work of the SCBP. Synod Burlington 2010 was not alarmed either by what it saw in the work of the SCBP or by the letters of concern from the churches on Synod’s table. Rather, Synod Burlington 2010 – having examined the work and the letters and making necessary changes and adjustments – saw good reason to make the bulk of the work of the SCBP its own and passed it on to the churches in the APV of the Book of Praise, recommending it for testing by the churches. When it comes to revision of the churches’ songbook, it is understandable that disappointments will be felt and adjustments may be difficult in and among the churches. This cannot be avoided entirely. Nevertheless, in general and in most specifics, the work of the SCBP did gain and receive the confidence of the churches gathered in their broadest assembly in 2010. Synod Carman 2013 has received the second phase of the revision work of the SCBP and can for the most part also endorse the further review and revision undertaken by the SCBP after the period of testing in the churches between 2010 and 2013.
- 3.3. Regarding the concerns of the church at Barrhead:
- 3.3.1. The church at Barrhead, after having submitted its concerns about revisions to the SCBP, does not find these concerns addressed in the SCBP Report to Synod Carman 2013. The SCBP Report itself does address this apparent omission. The SCBP reports that “In order to do justice to each submission,… we reviewed each letter (and additional documentation when included) carefully.” This should assure the church at Barrhead that its submission of concerns to the SCBP was duly considered. However, says the SCBP, “it is not possible nor is it our mandate to list all the comments and suggestions received from the churches.” And again: “we cannot possibly begin to include all the details of this review and revision process.” In light of the process (carefully reviewing all letters with necessary limitations in reporting) described by the SCBP, Synod Carman 2013 can consider the report of the SCBP to accurately portray the interests of the churches.
- 3.3.2. Barrhead is understandably concerned about the process by which the revision of the Book of Praise was initiated as well as the extent of the revisions. Barrhead argues that 1) the “push” for change did not come from the churches but from the SCBP and 2) the churches were misled by Synod Smithers 2007 as to the extent of the revision of the Book of Praise.
- 126.96.36.199. It is true that the request for the revision of the Book of Praise came from the SCBP and this after two Synods (Fergus 1998 and Chatham 2004) had decided not to make changes to the Psalms and Hymns. However, the context of the SCBP request to Synod Smithers 2007 made it reasonable as a request coming from the SCBP – that context being: the work of the SCBP on the combined committee working towards a Common Songbook with the URCNA – a project already underway. The SCBP, as part of that combined committee, wanted to contribute the “best possible metrical version” of the Psalms to that project. Although the initial context and grounds for the revision of the Book of Praise (for a Common Songbook with the URCNA) has since fallen by the wayside as the primary context for the revision of the Book of Praise, the churches, gathered at their broadest assembly in Synod Burlington 2010, did not see fit to abandon the project. This in spite of what Synod Fergus 1998 and Synod Chatham 2004 had decided previously. As Synod Burlington 2010 considered “The inclusion in a common songbook was not the sole reason for the revision of the Psalms. As well, the work on a common songbook basically came to a standstill after Synod Schererville 2007 of the URCNA. The SCBP did not see this as a valid reason to abandon its mandate to continue revising the Psalms as instructed by Synod Smithers” (Article 146, Consideration 3.2). Due consideration must be given to the fact that by Synod Burlington 2010 much good work had been done towards a revised Book of Praise.
- 188.8.131.52. Barrhead is correct that Synod Smithers 2007 gave the churches the expectation for a more modest revision to the Book of Praise than we have now. The words of the SCBP to Synod Smithers 2007, taken over by Synod Smithers 2007, “that this undertaking will not be such a major undertaking as was assumed by Synod Chatham 2004,” can legitimately be taken as an assurance for a modest revision. And although Synod Smithers 2007 did also mandate the SCBP to “initiate a thorough review,” a “thorough review” does not necessitate that the end product be a thorough revision. Looking at something closely does not need to lead to changing something extensively. Synod Smithers 2007 also cautioned the SCBP to “be careful in changing language that is perceived to be archaic.” Be this as it may, Synod Smithers 2007 did not mislead, but had a limited perspective of what a review process would all entail and what the product of such review would actually look like. Synod Burlington 2010 has since had a better view of things and, rather than express concern, indeed endorsed the revision work of the SCBP.
- 3.4. It is evident from the Report of the SCBP to Synod Carman 2013 that the SCBP did duly consider the input of the churches, even where such input did not result in what a local church asked for and even where such input was not reported on specifically. The SCBP correctly understood its mandate in this matter and sufficiently accounts to Synod Carman 2013 for its work of reviewing and interacting with the churches’ input. Synod Carman 2013, in adopting a finalized 2013 Book of Praise, also indicates that the SCBP is no longer mandated to receive input from the churches towards a revision of the Book of Praise, since that particular project is now completed.
That Synod decide:
- 4.1. Not to accede to the requests of Grand Valley and Barrhead;
- 4.2. To approve how the SCBP interacted with and reported on the feedback from the churches during the revision process;
- 4.3. That where churches wish to pursue concerns re: the Book of Praise to direct these churches to Article 125, Recommendation 4.5 of the Acts of this Synod.