One Thing on TREC

The TREC report is out.

That sentence means something to a certain sort of Episcopalian. If you’re one of them, this is likely old news and you’ve probably already read it. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, you probably won’t care…

People who know far more about this kind of thing than I do are already writing reactions, chief among them being Crusty Old Dean; I’m waiting to hear thoughts from Susan Snook and Scott Gunn too.

One of the recommendations is that all of General Convention’s Standing Commissions should be swept away but two: the Standing Commission on Constitution & Canons and the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music.

They recommend “Renaming the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music ‘Theology, Liturgy, and Music’ to enhance its role in evaluating and developing proposals related to the core Episcopal identity and Church life in aspects of Anglican tradition, worship, and
Christian life.”

I must confess to having a few concerns here… I have, in the past, been quite critical of the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music; I was punished for that by being appointed to it, and currently serve as Secretary as well as co-chair of the Calendar subcommittee and chair of the Digital Publications subcommittee.

One of the current issues is the status of the “music” part of the SCLM. There are already concerns that “music” is an afterthought in the current composition of the Commission. For instance, I can hold down a bass part in a choir pretty well, but that doesn’t make me a church musician by any stretch of the imagination. Too, I am one of the few advocates for “traditional” church music on the Commission. My fear is that adding “Theology” to the Commission’s title and purview will even further dilute musical representation on the Commission. If the “music” roles are headed by one or two people, then their perspectives—whether representative or not of what the church wants or needs—will be magnified in policy-making decisions.

Second, what will the selection criteria for the Commission look like going forward? Will the addition of “Theology” in the name mean a further shift in the composition and role of the Commission? Will we be looking for musicians, liturgists, sacramental theologians, dogmatic theologians, or people who are somehow all of the above? There are many gifted, well-trained, sacramental theologians who cannot be depended upon to draft a decent collect. There are skilled liturgists who would be clueless if directed to point the new EOW canticles for Anglican chant. Are too many roles being consolidated in one Commission?

Perhaps TREC’s idea is not necessarily to change anything about the Commission, only to underscore the relationship that liturgy and theology should have in the Episcopal Church. But look at what the SCLM has produced recently. How do we judge the theological content and implications of Holy Women, Holy Men and Daily Prayer For All Seasons? Have theological deliberations been done carefully and well here? I’d like to think that my subcommittee has been intentional in addressing and articulating issues of theology in the creation of “Great Cloud of Witnesses” (which you’ll get to take your potshots at when the Blue Book reports are made public), but there’s still quite a lot not said and not done here.

While I appreciate the weight placed on the Commission’s work, I find myself wondering if this is a good idea…

7 Replies to “One Thing on TREC”

  1. If “lex orandi, lex credendi” has any meaning, the Liturgy and Music already has the theology beat covered. Don’t the canons place the Book of Common Prayer as the definition of our faith and practice?

    The danger of officially adding theology to the name is that this one committee gets to define what we believe, ,rather than helping to shape the liturgy that leads us to belief. I think that is very dangerous.

  2. On the bright side, perhaps adding “Theology” will raise the bar for what L&M produces? As in, “Well, hell, now we have to really think about what this stuff MEANS.”

  3. Seriously? You’re one of the few advocates for traditional church music on the Commission? Things are worse than I feared. The proposal to add “Theology” to the SCLM’s portfolio gives me significant pause. I don’t think I want to leave it up to a CCAB to bring proposals to the floor to, say, declare the Virgin Birth a metaphor, or rewrite the Nicene Creed to be three innocuous sentences about love. Certainly theology should not be within the purview of the SCLM, which has enough to deal with (and does so, as you so delicately note, controversially). Anglican comprehensiveness allows theology to be developed organically and with significant respect for the theologies agreed by the ecumenical councils of the church – not by legislation. In the meantime, we need to stick to the essentials and not encourage a Commission to dream up theological innovations to be voted on by tired deputies who just want to put their feet up and call it a day. (PS – I will blog about the report, soon, I hope, but you know, it’s the week of 3 Advent and I’m a parish priest. Soon! Soon!)

  4. My presumption the addition of Theology to the new SCLM’s role is because of the changes to the House of Bishops. The (proposed former) House of Bishops has a Theology Committee. With the move to a unicameral structure, that Committee seems to go away.

    Hopefully this means that we can open up Theology beyond the House of Bishops and into the hands of the Laity and lesser clergy such as myself. There’s good intentions here (alongside the familiar lex credendi maxim) and I’ll be hoping for the best.

  5. There is presently a theology committee of any sort in the Episcopal Church? That, legitimately, surprises me.

  6. Yes, the Theology Committee is a subset of the House of Bishops. They are regularly called upon to produce papers relevant to the Bishops’ delibrations. Their current roster can be found here:

    Of everything in the TREC, I’m quite excited to see Theology take a greater prominence for the whole Church, rather than be an unknown bishops’ subcommittee.

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