Expansive Language...It's Time
What words come to mind? Maybe something from Holy Scripture. God is love. Maybe a story from childhood. God is the Good Shepherd. Maybe a prayer from liturgy….God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For many of us, a visual comes to mind. And for many of us, that visual may be an older white man, the one from certain paintings and art. Lovely as those images may be, they are human created and not fully representative of God.
God is beyond those human limits. God is male and female and neither. God is Abba, Father and the Mother who gathers her chicks under her wings. God is the sound of still silence and the unquenchable fire that burns but does not consume.
God is the vastness of poetry and art and movement.
And yet, in the words of our liturgy, God is often held within the constraints of male pronouns and titles.
Among the most expressed sentiments leading up to this General Convention is that words matter and that we are in immediate need of more expansive language for God available for use in our worshipping communities. Prayer Book revision addresses this need and will be discerned and debated at this convention, yet the process of Prayer Book revision is rightly a long and extensive process.
The Church needs expansive language now.
How can we, as a Convention, address the immediate need and longing for expansive language in our churches while honoring the rubrics and canons of our Episcopal Church? How can we reflect what many churches are already doing by changing male pronouns to God or adding in the women after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
At this General Convention of the Episcopal Church, a proposed resolution offers a trial use of expansive language for the Holy Eucharist, Rite II. Yes, Enriching Our Worship offers expansive images of God in excellent liturgies, and we recognize some congregations seek the familiar words of the Eucharist found in the Book of Common Prayer and hope those words can capture the expansiveness of God. We should, as a Church, find expansive language in both newer liturgies and the familiar cadences and prayers of those that have been celebrated in the church for almost 50 years.
This resolution does not seek to usurp any future revision. It does hope to present a trial use of the familiar liturgies of Rite II used in many of our churches that reflect the expansiveness of God, the width and depth of God. Many churches are using this expansive language already in their worship; this provides a consistent liturgy approved by the General Convention.
This resolution invites us to worship the God…who is.
To read the resolution, visit https://www.dropbox.com/s/x8q960pgkjl5l1g/HE%20Rite%20II%20-%20Expansive%20-%20FINAL.pdf?dl=0
To read the accompanying liturgies, visit https://www.dropbox.com/s/38d73vuopt1eq0g/HERiteIIExpansive.pdf?dl=0
All of the Father language remains (I didn't see any Mother even listed as an optional alternative). All the Lord language (problematic for many reasons not just gender) remains.
And my qualm with this is that if it passes the argument down the road becomes "we gave you the expansive language you wanted, we aren't changing anything else."
I deeply appreciate the work. I know even this was likely a long hard slog. But as a priest serving in a place where even this would be considered deeply problematically patriarchal and imperialist I just find myself a little sad that this looks like progress to so much of the church. The Nones and Dones who are my mission would find nothing to celebrate.