Monday, August 22, 2005

Renewing Worship

As many of you know, the ELCA has recently approved the (unfinished) Renewing Worship project by a 3 to 1 margin. Unfortunately, as Jim Culver points out, there is a large attempt at revisionist hymnody throughout the project:

I printed out the complete set of hymn texts posted on
the Renewing Worship website, then went through with a red pen and
marked language changes that reflected a feminist ideological agenda.
The statistics alone are revealing. Feminist censorship was most
ruthless with masculine pronouns. I counted 70 hymns where masculine
pronouns for God or Christ were eliminated. In a few instances a
pronoun survived in a verse or two, but others were changed. In 13
instances masculine pronouns for Christ / Jesus were eliminated. In
one instance (5105) a masculine pronoun for the Holy Spirit was
eliminated. That leaves about 56 instances where the pronoun was
eliminated for God the Father or God generically. I counted only 7
hymns where pronouns referring to deity survived. There may be others
that I missed, particularly to refer to the human Jesus, but masculine
pronouns are very rare indeed in this collection of hymns. That
damned pronoun (he) has to go! I should mention that my statistics
include only those hymn texts that were included on the website.
Those that could not be posted because of copyright restrictions are
not included, unless the list of “corrections” included pronouns.
Various strategies were used to eliminate pronouns.
Sometimes he or his was replaced with God or God’s. Sometimes his
was replaced with a, the, or this. An article in place of a pronoun.
There is a strong tendency to refer to Jesus as “the Son” rather
than “his son” in a line that follows a reference to God the Father.
(5002, 5504, etc.)

There is much, much more if you're interested, including altered theology in the revised hymns. I find this tendency toward revisionism disturbing. At the very least, the subject of revising hymns should be debated openly, rather than handed down from on high. Many of these changes are accomplishing little or nothing theologically, while serving to forward a particular social agenda and antagonize traditionalists, like myself, who like to refer to God and Jesus with the traditional (scripturally based) masculine pronouns and dislike traditional hymns being summarily edited. Let the church decide whether this is a path worth taking rather than just assuming the laity wants this.


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At 3/16/2008 12:32 PM, Blogger jeff biebighauser said...

Enough time has passed on this issue that it can be discussed more reasonably. The key points, from my perspective:

1) 'Feminist ideological agenda' is an unhelpful and unfair characterization. I know that's Jim Culver's problem and not yours, but in a blog that frequently and rightly points out unnecessarily inflammatory rhetoric, you missed one.

2) The scriptural basis for male pronoun usage is ambiguous.

3) The ELCA, like any reasonable church body, is not structured as a democracy. I've got my reservations about a number of things within it, but I have no doubt that the leaders of the ELCA are trying to be faithful to God and to the Church. This goes doubly for the people we've known directly who worked hard on Renewing Worship - e.g. Dr Brugh.

And all of that from me, who doesn't particularly care for revised hymnody!


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