GS 2013 art 189

GS 2013 Article 189 – Appeal of Grand Valley re: Proceeding with the Revised Psalms

Committee 2 presented a proposal. With a minor change, this was the result: 

1.         Material:

Letter of appeal from the church at Grand Valley (8.5.19)

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      Grand Valley appeals Article 121 of the Acts of Synod Burlington 2010 and requests that General Synod 2013 decide that Synod 2010 erred when it decided to restrict further input from the churches to “errors” in the APV and that the SCBP should yet interact with the churches in much more detail, providing a “synopsis of the revisions for each Psalm including grounds for the specific revisions in each song in comparison to the 1984 adopted version. The churches should then be provided with further opportunity to comment before the SCBP prepares a final version for possible adoption by a future synod.”
  • 2.2.      The church at Grand Valley submitted its concern about a lack of interaction with the churches on the proposed revisions of the Psalms to Synod Burlington 2010 (letter dated Mar.3, 2010) and to the SCBP (letter dated April 30, 2012). The SCBP responded to Grand Valley’s letter in its Report by stating that such detailed interaction went beyond their mandate (Section 1.3.3) and that “objections to the mandate adopted by GS 2007, or the procedures proposed and followed by the Committee, should have been brought before GS 2010.” Grand Valley argues that this is exactly what they did, but since nothing in the GS 2007 mandate to the SCBP indicated that GS 2010 would actually proceed to provisionally adopt the APV and restrict input to “errors” there was nothing for them to appeal. Since Article 148, Recommendation 4.1.6 of the Acts of Smithers 2007 anticipated that the SCBP would “report to GS 2010 on the progress of the work” Grand Valley interpreted this as an indication to the churches that “the work to revise the BOP would not be finished and adopted by GS 2010…” thus allowing more time for interaction.
  • 2.3.      Grand Valley argues that there is a contradiction in the decisions of Synod Burlington 2010. According to Grand Valley, “Consideration 3.3 of Article 143, Acts of Synod 2010, indicates the majority of churches wanted more time to consider the revisions. This contradicts Recommendation 4.1 of Article 121 which only allows ‘errors’ to be identified. ‘Consider’ is much broader in scope than the restriction of only identifying ‘errors.’ Synod has effectively limited any meaningful testing of the Psalms by the churches and interaction with the SCBP, by the very restrictive scope of the SCBP’s mandate in Article 121.”
  • 2.4.      Grand Valley points out that Synod Burlington 2010 was inaccurate when it observed that none of the churches which submitted letters about proceeding with the revised psalms were opposed to the notion of progressing (Acts, Article 171, Observation 2.4). It asserts that the inaccurate statement in Observation 2.4 “led to wrong decisions being made by Synod.”
  • 2.5.      In its Report (Section 1.3.3) to Synod Carman 2013, the SCBP notes the following: 1) how it interacted with feedback from the churches and 2) how it understands its mandate re: revisions in light of past synod decisions.
    • 2.5.1.   The SCBP states, “It is not possible nor is it our mandate to list all the comments and suggestions received from the churches.”
      •            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.”
      •            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.”
      •            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.
    • 2.5.2.   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.”

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      In regard to Grand Valley’s concern that there was not enough time for the churches to interact with the psalms:
    • 3.1.1.   Grand Valley mentions in its own appeal that draft revisions of the psalms were already being worked on as early as 2000, some of which were published in Clarion.
    • 3.1.2.   Though there was some confusion between 2007 and 2010 as to how the revised Psalms should be tested (during the worship services or in other ways), there was ample opportunity to test them as they were being published on the SCBP’s website.
    • 3.1.3.   Synod Burlington 2010 took special note of the wish of the majority of the churches who wanted more time for testing and therefore authorized a provisional edition to “allow a further time of testing and refining” and made clear that this should be done “in the worship services….” (Article 143, Consideration 3.5)
  • 3.2.      In regard to Grand Valley’s claim that the SCBP should interact with the churches in much more detail, providing a synopsis of the revisions for each Psalm including grounds for the specific revisions in each song:
    • 3.2.1.   Grand Valley does not provide any proof from Acts of previous synods for their demand instructing the SCBP to provide a detailed rationale to the churches for every change to the Book of Praise.
    • 3.2.2.   The SCBP notes in its Report to Synod Carman 2013 that it sent letters to the churches in May 2011 and in April 2012 alerting the churches that their input regarding the Book of Praise was to be received by 1 May 2012 to allow the Committee time to review the materials for consideration in the report to Synod. It then goes on to state, “Many churches availed themselves of this opportunity: Several submissions included detailed recommendations…others even went beyond what Synod requested by providing suggestions for the improvement of the text. Although many submissions were received well after the requested date, the Committee was able to review all the material submitted” (emphasis added). From the Report it is clear that the SCBP did its utmost to deal with all the letters from the churches, not only those that highlighted errors, but also those that offered suggestions for the improvement of the text.
    • 3.2.3.   Synod Burlington 2010 received letters from 13 churches (including Grand Valley) that provided input and suggestions for the improvement of the psalms, some of which were “very detailed.” Synod decided “to pass on the detailed material submitted by the churches to the SCBP for their consideration and review” (Article 122, Recommendation 4). Synod Burlington 2010 was not alarmed either by what it saw in the work of the SCBP or in 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, generally speaking 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.
    • 3.2.4.   The church at Grand Valley is not correct in its expectation that the SCBP must give an account to the 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 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.
  • 3.3.      In regard to Grand Valley’s concern that the churches’ input was arbitrarily and unexpectedly restricted to “errors”:
    • 3.3.1.   Although Article 121of the Acts of Burlington 2010 limits submissions to “errors”, the SCBP was instructed in Article 143 Recommendation 4.2.4 “To communicate with the CanRC, as well as the deputies of the FRCA and seek and consider further suggestions for improvements to the Book of Praise” (emphasis added). Grand Valley did not give due consideration to the entire decision taken by Synod Burlington 2010.
  • 3.4.      Grand Valley is correct that Observation 2.4 (Acts of Synod Burlington 2010, Article 171) is inaccurate. In its letter to Synod Burlington 2010, Grand Valley explicitly stated, “The SCBP proposed to General Synod Burlington 2010 to adopt for use in the worship service the proposed revised text of the 150 Psalms…we are not in favour of this recommendation.” Grand Valley, however, does not demonstrate how the inaccurate statement in Observation 2.4 “led to wrong decisions being made by Synod.”

4.         Recommendations

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1.      That Synod Burlington 2010 erred in observing that “no church….is opposed to the notion of progressing…”
  • 4.2.      To deny the appeal of the church at Grand Valley.