URC to collaborate with OPC on songbook

Participants and observers say that one of the best things about Synod is the singing. Hearing hundreds of men wholeheartedly praising God fills hearts with grateful awe.

The URCNA loves singing aesthetically pleasing arrangements of biblically articulate hymns and psalms. And over the next few years, the URCNA will be cooperating with the OPC toward the publication of a songbook containing hymns and psalms to be used by both federations.

In a surprisingly speedy decision, Synod accepted the OPC invitation to work together on this project. In God’s providence, the URCNA has already accomplished much work on the hymn portion while the OPC has done a great deal of work on the psalm section.

As an OPC fraternal delegate, Rev. Alan Strange of Mid-America Reformed Seminary sat in on advisory committee meetings and contributed to the discussion. At one point, he said, “Brothers, this is the ecumenical opportunity of a generation.”

The other OPC fraternal delegate was Rev. Danny E. Olinger, General Secretary of the Committee on Christian Education of the OPC, which oversees the songbook project. He said in response to the decision, “We are very happy that Synod Nyack accepted the invitation of the Seventy-Eight (2011) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to work together on a proposed psalter-hymnal. There is a deep bond of fellowship that exists between the OPC and the URCNA. This fellowship flows not only from a shared Reformed doctrinal commitment, but also the willingness to separate from error for the sake of God and his glory.”

Three overtures from Classis Southwest US, suggesting many specific changes to the URCNA’s Hymnal Proposal, never made it to the floor of Synod or even to an advisory committee meeting. The convening consistory suggested these overtures be sent directly to the Songbook Committee for its consideration, and delegates approved that action when they approved the convening consistory’s report.

Although Synod originally adopted a greatly edited version of an overture from Classis Western Canada, which made specific requests regarding the Songbook Committee’s work, that decision was rescinded the next day due to the lateness of the hour and possible delegate confusion regarding the initial decision. Synod then voted to refer “matters of concern” expressed in this overture to the Psalter Hymnal Committee for its careful consideration.

Since delegates had already voted to cooperate with the OPC on the production of a songbook, Synod 2012 did not accede to an overture requesting the publication of a songbook based on the 1976 edition of the blue CRC Psalter Hymnal.

The proposed joint project between the URC and OPC will contain the same songs, but will have different covers and different liturgical sections that are specfic to either the URCNA or the OPC.

The URCNA has a committee doing extensive liturgical work and Synod approved many of its recommended forms and prayers for provisional use. It was stressed that churches are under no obligation to use any forms they may find objectionable. It was also noted that the provisional use period is the time to address any specific concerns about the forms by contacting the Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee.

Once the most recent version of the proposed forms is distributed to the churches via email, communications regarding any parts of it are to be directed via email to the committee’s chair, Rev. Danny Hyde.

Commenting on the number of forms being proposed, Rev. John Bouwers said, “I’m not convinced that we need multiple versions of every form.” Committee member Rev. William Van der Woerd responded, “If it’s the will of the churches that we provide fewer forms, we’d be happy to do that.”

At 16, Michael Kearney was the youngest observer and a talented organist who accompanied the singing.

Synod did not adopt Overture #3, which suggested changing the phrase “a complete remission of all our sins” to “the complete forgiveness of all our sins” in liturgical forms for administration of the Lord’s Supper. The language of the overture was considered “potentially misleading” and incomplete. Additionally, the guiding principles established by the Liturgical Forms Committee rendered this overture unnecessary (see p. 225 of the provisional agenda or pp. 481-482 of the Acts of Synod 2010). Synod 2012 encouraged the Liturgical Forms Committee to remain consistent with its guiding principles and to consider substituting the word “forgiveness” for “remission.” Several delegates expressed support for the substitution and their desire that the language of our forms be understood by the increasing number of young people within the federation.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-11 of the July 11, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.

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