Saturday, August 20, 2005

Gender-Neutral Hymnal

As if the TNIV Bible wasn't bad enough. Now, to go along with your man centered, purpose driven church service and your Message "Bible" you can have a hymnal that is also politically correct. Wouldn't want all us women folk to get offended by having to sing about God the Father, God the Son, or how Jesus is the Husband of the Church, or anything silly like that.

Lutherans Hope Updated Gender-Neutral Hymnal Will Have Diverse Appeal

By Jenni Parker
August 19, 2005

(AgapePress) - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has approved development of a new, more gender-neutral hymnal. At its 2005 national convention, the denomination gave the nod to the plan, already under way, for an update of the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, which will eliminate the "Father" terminology and male pronouns used in reference to God. The hymnal overhaul will include other gender-neutralizing and diversity-affirming changes to traditional Lutheran worship lyrics and liturgies as well.

The new hymnal's intentional use of gender-neutral language will encompass not only the lyrics of many songs, but also the proposed liturgical texts, in which there are options for prayers that refer to God and Jesus as "holy eternal majesty" and "holy incarnate word" instead of "father" and "son." Also, while some traditional songs have been left alone, others have undergone minor changes, such as exchanging male terms for humanity with terms that include both men and women. In some cases, both a traditional version and an alternate, gender-neutral version of certain songs have been included.

At the same time, 300 new worship songs have been proposed for inclusion in the revised Lutheran Book of Worship, while more than 200 traditional hymns likely will not make it into the new edition. In choosing new songs, the church is making a particular effort to span different cultures and worship styles. For example, along with some traditional hymns of European origin, proposed additions include songs with African and Asian roots. And many songs in the new hymnal were specifically chosen for their adaptability to varied musical settings, from churches with a choir and an organist to those with a contemporary praise and worship band.

The ELCA has actually been working on the new worship book for the past five years, consulting with hundreds of churches and worship leaders across America. Rev. Michael Burk, worship director for the denomination, says some Lutherans are anxious to see the traditional biblical references to God as male preserved in the hymnal, while other church members insist the denomination's worship songs should be free from gender language that many consider noninclusive.

Burk says compilers of the new hymnal are making every effort to "strike a balance" between those conflicting views. "We are a global church," he adds, "and our worship ought to reflect that."

According to a report in the Plain Dealer newspaper, the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly will not do a line-by-line edit of the Lutheran Book of Worship or vote the new hymnal up or down. What delegates are being asked to do is to direct the denomination to complete the liturgical review of the book and make final revisions.

Use of the new hymnal will not be mandated in local churches, but it is likely that it will gradually be adopted by most of the ELCA's approximately 10,600 congregations as they either purchase the book immediately or buy it when the time comes to replace their old hymnals.

No comments: