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—of new ELCA worship resources begins in earnest

by Gracia Grindal (WordAlone board member)

News: July 26, 2006

The new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, is being pushed more and more every day. The resources of the church to promote this product are bountiful. photo of Gracia GrindalPeople are being trained to sell it locally while being asked not to respond to criticisms like they might hear from opponents, like WordAlone. They are simply to sell it.

If you like something on one page, you may not like what is on the next page, Michael Burk, the head of the project is reported to have said to a gathering recently.

Those of us in WordAlone and who are working on the Reclaim hymnal project have heard via the grapevine that the criticisms leveled at the ELCA project have had their effect, so it's better than it might have been. Instead of changing all the language in hymns that "offended," they drew back and used the old texts, or they are offering two versions of the hymns: one that is politically correct, along side a traditional text.

The Psalms, we're told, however, will remain in their new form, changed to avoid third person male pronouns for God. The translator, whose language skills are pretty good, has dealt with the issues of the "He" for God in many of the psalms, by changing the audience of the psalm so that instead of proclaiming to those around us what God has done for us, we now tell God what he has done for us. "You make me lie down in green pastures."

This is defended in very pious terms: so that people can "pray" the psalms. While it sounds nice, it is also a failure to correctly translate the language of the original. That should be a serious issue for those of us in WordAlone. The idea that the content is still the same, even if the audience is not, is a strange notion of language. The audience is a fundamental to all discourse. It's the first thing we want to know when we are judging a piece of writing to see if it is communicating. If the audience changes, the content and tone should and will change. Changing these simply to get rid of male pronouns is rather tricky, and we should watch closely things like that.

Will we then leave out other things in the Word that offend some? It's a slippery slope after that, I would say.

As I speak, however, an introductory version of the Reclaim Hymnal has come out with the Communion, Baptism, Marriage and Funeral services as well as the Small Catechism. We are working hard to prepare a hymnal of some 600 hymns and more helps and aids for family devotions.

We think you're going to like it, and ask for your help and support. Take our services and compare them to the Lutheran Book of Worship or the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship resources. When you see the differences you will understand how far the ELCA has strayed--from the simple and direct proclamations central to services in our heritage--to services in which our work, and our voices seem to be much more central to the service than God's.

The new services are about what I want to say to God, rather than what I need to hear from him.