Author: Deputy Kathryn Nishibayashi

For this General Convention, I was appointed to Committee 10: Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music. I am a self-proclaimed church geek (much like President Ayala Harris), and I am most passionate about issues related to liturgy and music, so it has been a joy to serve with others who are also passionate about these crucial aspects to our lives as Episcopalians. The committee divided itself into three subcommittees, modeled after the subcommittees the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) divided themselves into: Calendar, Book of Common Prayer, and Liturgical Music. We were asked by the committee chairs about our preferences and, while I would have been happy on any of the subcommittees, I was glad to be appointed to the music subcommittee where we were tasked with fine tuning three resolutions (a much smaller lift than either of the other two subcommittees!). I got most interested in Resolution A130. This resolution was submitted by the SCLM as a response to Resolution 2022-A126 which asked for a comprehensive review of the 1982 Hymnal, the Book of Common Prayer and other liturgical material.  In the hearing for A130 and A131, the committee heard testimony about the focus groups that three seminaries conducted testing out new hymn texts. As mentioned in the SCLM’s Blue Book report, for every hymn presented, at least 25% of participants felt the need for an alternate version, 31-50% indicated that they would use one or more of the alternate versions in their ministry settings and 75% articulated a general need for revision of problematic hymn texts. Thus, this convention is now presented with Resolution A130 calling for the development of alternative hymn texts and Resolution A131 which calls for the creation of a supplement to the 1982 Hymnal.

In addition to being a church geek, I am also a bit of a grammar nerd. And while wordsmithing (or “grammar-smithing” if that’s a word!) resolutions as a committee can sometimes get tedious, it often satisfies my grammar nerd heart. In A130, the use of the word “problematic” as in “problematic hymn texts” was rubbing me the wrong way as the subcommittee dealt with fine-tuning this resolution. We spent a little bit of time trying to come up with a different word choice. But then one of the subcommittee members pointed out that 2022-A126 specified the categories of colonialist, racist, white supremacist, imperialistic, and nationalistic language” so we as a subcommittee decided to amend Resolution A130 to name those specific categories. The resolution also calls for efforts to be made to add texts from worshipping communities who speak languages other than English.

The music subcommittee also decided to be more specific in the resolution about how to proceed with alternative hymn text proposals depending on what entity held the copyright. We added one resolved clause for hymns in the public domain and another separate resolved clause for hymns whose copyright is held by Church Publishing Inc. For the public domain hymns we are requesting that the website be the keeper of those alternate hymn texts, but that the SCLM be the keeper of the alternative text submissions for the hymns under Church Publishing Inc’s oversight.

With a very full agenda in the committee meetings leading up to being “on the ground” in Louisville, the subcommittee has only made passing reference to our proposed amendments, so it is not yet official that the resolution that comes before the floor of convention will have the subcommittee’s proposed amendments or not. I hope that the whole Committee 10 will agree with the music subcommittee that these amendments help clarify the intent of the originally proposed resolution and vote to recommend adoption by the whole house.  I look forward to our first in person committee meeting in Louisville where our committee will be able to take action on A130 and many others in order to bring perfected resolutions to the house on these important topics.

I have served on legislative committees at previous General Conventions and it is always rewarding to be part of the shepherding process for some of the many resolutions that are brought before the house. With so many resolutions, it is nearly impossible to grasp the full scope of the legislative process for each resolution. I know that when I read amended resolutions, I sometimes wonder how the committee came to the decisions they did in terms of amending it or proposing it as presented. Hopefully blogs like this will help other deputies get a little bit of a “behind the scenes” look at how some of the resolutions have come to be.

While certainly all the legislative committees focus on important issues, the resolutions that have come before Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music feel like some of the most impactful because they affect how dioceses, congregations, and individual Episcopalians around the world worship and pray. While we know that The Episcopal Church is a historically white denomination, we are also aware that the demographics are changing. By passing a resolution like A130 at the 81st General Convention, it will signal to everyone that we as a denomination are aware that some of the hymns we sing on Sundays could benefit from updating, because it directly or indirectly harms some of our fellow members of the body of Christ. If we want to truly live into our denominational tagline “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,” let us pass the resolution and diversify and enhance our church music.