GS 2013 art 184

GS 2013 Article 184 – SCBP – General Matters

1.         Material:

  • 1.1.      Report from the SCBP, Section 1.1, 1.5.5, 1.5.6, 1.8, 1.8.1, 1.9, 5.0, 5.1, 11.0 (8.2.4)
  • 1.2.      Letters from the churches at Carman-West (, Cloverdale (, Flamborough (8.4.18), Grand Rapids (8.3.20), Grassie (, Burlington-Rehoboth (, Toronto (, Smithers (, Cloverdale (, Flamborough (, Burlington-Ebenezer (, Spring Creek (, Langley (, Grand Rapids (, Grassie (, Lincoln ( and London (

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      The “Core Directive” of the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise, as mandated by Synod Burlington 2010 is quoted on p. 2 of the SCBP report: “to present a final version of the Book of Praise to Synod [Carman] 2013 for approval and prepared for publication” (Acts, Article 142, 4.2.5).
  • 2.2.      The SCBP noted in its report that “The Committee spent most of its energies on finalizing the text of the psalms and the text and melodies of the hymns. In addition to carefully reviewing the material received by General Synod [Burlington] 2010, the Committee also engaged the churches by inviting them to send feedback on the psalms and hymns published in the Authorized Provisional Version at the direction of General Synod [Burlington] 2010.”
  • 2.3.      There has been significant feedback to this report. The SCBP noted, “The Committee is very grateful for the tremendous response it has received from the churches.” In addition to the 43 pages of the SCBP report, Synod Carman 2013 received 48 letters from the churches.
  • 2.4.      Concerning rests and breath marks:
    • 2.4.1.   A number of churches commented on the approach to the matter of rests and breath marks:
      •            The SCBP noted that in a number of cases, rests were reinstated after hearing feedback from the churches.
      •            Carman-West asserts that breath marks and/or rests are better for singing joyfully;
      •            Cloverdale agreed with the removal of breath marks but requested an explanation in “lay-person’s language” why they have been removed.
      •            Flamborough feels strongly that the removal of rests and breath marks has removed the flow of the songs and negated the authors’ intent; as well as reducing the focus on the words being sung;
      •            Grand Rapids feels that the removal of the rests and breath marks has left the congregation out of breath at the end of the hymn;
      •            Burlington-Rehoboth noted that the elderly would have some difficulty with the lack of rests and is grateful that the rests were restored to some songs;
      •            Toronto feels that “the congregants are not professional singers and need more time to breathe.”
      •            Smithers asserts that while the removal of rests might be technically more accurate, it comes at the cost of “ease of singing” for so many church members who are untrained singers. Between the lack of rests and the high/low notes, the tunes are not as easy to sing.
    • 2.4.2.   The SCBP (1.5.1) makes a number of comments regarding the removal of rests/breath marks: “As a Committee, we have always understood that, as a rule, General Synods do not concern themselves with technical matters and details related to musical notation as such (GS Winnipeg 1989, Article 146); yet we wanted the synod to be informed. …it was explained to synod that [the SCBP] intended to make changes. …these changes included the removal of breath marks, the deletions of most fermatas, etc….”
    • 2.4.3.   The SCBP (1.5.6) also noted that some churches asked for the reinstatement of breath marks, but upon advice from musical experts, the SCBP decided it was opposed to these requests because breath marks can be interpreted in varying ways. It also notes that modern North American hymnals do not have breath marks.
  • 2.5.      Concerning capitalization of pronouns referring to God:
    • 2.5.1.   The matter of employing capitalization for all pronouns referring to God has had the attention of the churches for many years. Bible translations have mixed policies. The NIV, ESV, KJV, among others, do not capitalize pronoun references to God; the NKJV and NASB do.
    • 2.5.2.   The 1984 Book of Praise made use of the RSV when quoting the Bible and despite the fact that the RSV does not have this practice, the Book of Praise capitalized pronouns referring to God.
    • 2.5.3.   When Synod Fergus 1998 mandated the SCBP to change references from the RSV to the newly adopted NIV, it noted that keeping the capital pronouns (e.g., You and Your, etc) would be consistent with past practice, as well as in line with the sentiments expressed in sister churches in Australia.
    • 2.5.4.   Synod Chatham 2004 directed the SCBP to review the request of the church at Chatham to keep the pronouns capitalized.
    • 2.5.5.   The SCBP studied the matter and subsequently proposed to Synod Smithers 2007 that pronouns be capitalized; two churches objected, saying that the NIV does not use capitals referring to pronoun references to God, the original languages don’t support this practice and there are no clear biblical grounds.
    • 2.5.6.   Synod Smithers 2007 supported the SCBP proposal, noting in its considerations (3.3, 3.4), “While the points [raised by the two churches] have merit, to capitalize is consistent with how the pronouns have been capitalized in our forms in the past.”
    • 2.5.7.   Synod Burlington 2010 upheld an appeal from the church at Surrey and overturned the previous synods’ decisions, listing their considerations as follows (Acts, Article 109, Consideration 3):
      • [3.1.]    “…To base capitalization on what is done in the Forms in the Book of Praise instead of sound principles of biblical interpretation constitutes a very weak ground or consideration.
      • [3.3.]    Surrey is correct when it states that ‘the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic text of the Bible have no such practice, current rules of English usage avoid this, the NIV does not use this and there are no known biblical arguments for this convention.’
      • [3.4.]    Surrey also rightly comments, ‘using an uppercase initial letter may obscure the immediate Old Testament referent.’ As well, it mentions ‘in some texts of the Old Testament it is not clear who is in view when pronouns or metaphors are used that have God as their referent.’ This shows that capitalization is not just a matter of translation but can so easily become a matter of interpretation and a wrong interpretation at that.”
    • 2.5.8.   Synod Armadale 2012 of the FRCA decided to study the matter of capitalization of pronoun references to God, as “a number of churches had questioned these changes in the APV.”
    • 2.5.9.   A number of churches have reacted to this matter as follows:
      •            Grassie is concerned that the Lord’s pronouns are not capitalized. They posit that while we have no control over the rules that various Bible translations employ in terms of capitalization, we do have control over the Book of Praise. Out of respect for the Lord’s name we ought to capitalize His pronouns.
      •            Lincoln speaks in favour of capitalizing the Lord’s pronouns.
      •            Burlington-Rehoboth argues in favour of capitalizing the Lord’s pronouns.
    • 2.5.10. The SCBP noted in its report to Synod Carman 2013 (1.1) that in “the entire text of the APV all pronouns for God are in conformity with the NIV…”
  • 2.6.      Concerning difficult melodies:
    • 2.6.1.   A number of churches expressed concern that too many melodies (primarily psalm tunes) are too difficult to sing:
      •            Cloverdale supports having a complete collection of all Genevan tunes for the150 psalms, but would like to see additional, alternative melodies and rhyming for the more difficult psalms;
      •            Burlington-Rehoboth and Spring Creek both assert that supplying alternative tunes to “more difficult” psalms is unnecessary, especially as the term “difficult” is subjective;
      •            Langley notes that some tunes “have fallen into disuse among the churches,” due to their “unsingability.” It asks that churches be polled and that other (perhaps Genevan) tunes could be sought;
      •            Grassie expresses concern that the changes are too broad and too late to give congregations sufficient time to deal with the myriad of alterations;
    • 2.6.2.   The SCBP notes (1.9) that Synod Burlington 2010 did not give the SCBP a specific mandate in regard to solving the matter of the difficult tunes. The SCBP feels that more study and discussion is warranted, i.e., what constitutes “difficult” and would new melodies result in new rhymings, etc.
  • 2.7.      Concerning use of archaisms (i.e., thee, thou, etc.):
    • 2.7.1.   Grand Rapids expressed the view that eliminating terms such as thee and thou “makes the new versions of those psalms less than ideal for congregational use.”

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      The SCBP has done a great deal of work to fulfil its mandate to present a fully-prepared Book of Praise for publication. The number of letters/comments/appeals from churches, however, would imply that theSCBP Report needed a number of corrections prior to its approval for publication. Moreover, the synodically recommended Bible translation (ESV) would undoubtedly need to be incorporated.
  • 3.2.      The SCBP has expended much energy in its mandate, notably in the areas of psalm texts and hymn texts and melodies. The SCBP was correct in noting that its mandate did not include the psalm melodies.
  • 3.3.      The number and extent of responses from churches clearly demonstrates that they are deeply interested in the Book of Praise and its contents. These responses offer sufficiently compelling evidence to determine that the majority of the SCBP recommendations could be implemented; other SCBP recommendations needed to be challenged.
  • 3.4.      The matter of rests and breath stops is challenging. Many churches felt very strongly that the lack of rests/breath stops added to the frustration. The SCBP was correct in going away from breath marks, due to the varying interpretations of rests. Moreover, it is unnecessary to insist that every accompanist in the federation interpret rests in the same way. Rather, it is more important that each congregation develops its own consistency and thereby enable the congregation to focus more on the words of praise to God.
  • 3.5.      The matter of capitalization of pronouns referring to God has a long history in our federation of churches. This matter has been reviewed by various synods and Synod Burlington 2010 decided to follow the practice of employing the recommended Bible version’s rules re: capitalizing pronouns referring to God (See also Acts of Synod Carman 2013, Article 178).
  • 3.6.      It is difficult, if not impossible, to assess the various churches’ claims that a number of melodies are too difficult. The SCBP is correct in asking the question “What is difficult?” Some of the perceived difficulties are due to a lack of practice; some due to a lack of skill; some due to technical elements contained in the melodies. Again, the SCBP is right to note that the matter of difficult psalm melodies is outside its mandate. If any churches are troubled by this they should follow the ecclesiastical way (consistory-classis-regional synod-general synod) of raising these concerns.
  • 3.7.      The SCBP correctly followed the instructions of Synod Smithers 2007 to update the language by eliminating archaisms (e.g., thee, thou). There are no scriptural or confessional reasons justifying the retention of these archaisms. Thus the reasons offered by the church at Grand Rapids (“less than ideal”) are not sufficient to conclude that these archaisms need to be reinstated.

4.         Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1.      To thank the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise (SCBP) for its efforts in pursuit of a final edition of the Book of Praise;
  • 4.2.      To send the preceding Considerations as a response to these churches;
  • 4.3.      To direct the churches seeking changes other than minor corrections to follow the ecclesiastical way (Acts 2013, Article 125, Recommendation 4.5).