GS 2019 art 23

GS 2019 Article 23 – Overture RSE Nov. 2018 regarding Lord’s Supper forms

1.   Material

  • 1.1    Overture from Regional Synod East (RSE) Nov. 2018 (8.4.5)
  • 1.2    Letters from the following churches: Willoughby Heights (8.5.1), Barrhead (8.5.10), Winnipeg-Grace (8.5.23)

2.   Observations

  • 2.1    RSE Nov. 2018 overtures GS 2019 “to revise the Forms for Celebration of the Lord’s Supper by replacing gender specific pronouns intended to include both genders with pronouns that overtly include both genders where it is appropriate.”
    • 2.1.1 RSE Nov. 2018 observes:
      •   The English language has changed, and the use of the masculine pronoun to refer to both genders has become linguistically inaccurate;
      •   The masculine pronouns in the forms for the Lord’s Supper make them liable to misinterpretation, given the current usage of the English language.
    • 2.1.2 RSE Nov. 2018 gives the following rationale:
      •   Historically the Reformed Church since the Reformation has insisted that the language of the worship services be in the vernacular. For example, the Reformation Bible translators insisted on using the common language of the people.
      •   For Canadian Reformed worship services to speak meaningfully and with unambiguous clarity to our society, it is necessary to eschew all possible misinterpretation and misunderstanding. For example, many of our contemporaries would understand masculine pronouns to exclude women. If a minister were to begin his sermon with “Brothers in the Lord Jesus…” this would be considered inappropriate.
  • 2.2    The churches make the following points:
    • 2.2.1    The Willoughby Heights CanRC supports the intent of the overture and suggests appointing a committee to present GS 2022 with revised texts for the Lord’s Supper forms. Willoughby Heights notes that it does not consider it proper for General Synod to adopt revised texts for liturgical forms without the input of the churches.
    • 2.2.2    The Barrhead CanRC finds “that the adjustment of pronouns would be an improvement which would more clearly relay the sense of the content in the Forms as applying equally to all.” Barrhead questions the timing of making such a change, as the newest version of the Book of Praise is only five years old and the urgency of such an update is disputable. They suggest that the SCBP be mandated to study this matter and come with a recommendation to the churches in its report to a subsequent General Synod.
    • 2.2.3    The Winnipeg-Grace CanRC writes “as churches we need to be on guard that if we do change the pronouns that we do not do it from a standpoint that accepts the tenets of the modern feminist worldview or undermines Biblical teaching in any way. We are not necessarily against the recommendation of this overture from RSE. However, we propose that General Synod appoint the Standing Committee for the Publication of the Book of Praise to study this matter and come with recommendations to a future General Synod with specific wording in line with the overture. This will allow the churches to know exactly what it will be accepting if changes are made.” Winnipeg-Grace further states that “If we do change the pronouns, then we need to keep them singular to keep the self-examination part of the form as personal as possible.”

3.   Considerations

  • 3.1    RSE Nov. 2018 makes a valid point that the English language has changed and therefore the use of masculine pronouns in the forms for Lord’s Supper could make them liable to misinterpretation.
  • 3.2    General Synod has been served by SCBP in matters of linguistic changes to the liturgical forms (see GS 2013 Art. 101). It would be advisable to ask the committee to study this and propose appropriate changes to the Lord’s Supper forms giving special attention to the personal nature of self-examination. In this process the churches would have opportunity to interact with any proposed changes.

4. Recommendation

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1    To mandate the SCBP to study and propose appropriate changes as per Considerations 3.1, 3.2.