With the triennial convention of the Episcopal Church less than four months away, opposing forces are digging in for battle. The two main issues concern acceptance of women into the priesthood and approval of a new Book of Common Prayer. Whatever the outcome on the women’s issue, some congregations are expected to leave the denomination. And a number of congregations vow they will use only the old-version prayer book. Some conservatives are saying that structural machinery has been set up secretly to receive schismatic congregations.
The prayer book issue, primarily of interest only to Episcopalians, is not as volatile as the one on women, but it affects directly more people in the pews. The book, a guide to liturgy and worship dating from the sixteenth century, has been undergoing revision for the last twelve years. Opponents of change contend that the revisions not only damage the beauty and majesty of the old liturgical language and styles but also imperil doctrinal purity. Advocates of change say the updating is necessary to facilitate understanding and to help keep the church abreast of the times. The new book incorporates on an experimental basis all the changes thus far. It must be approved by this year’s convention and the next one in 1979 to be final.
The women’s issue is more complicated and has already brought a degree of upheaval to the denomination. A majority of the church’s bishops favor opening the priesthood to women, and they are expected to vote accordingly as they did in 1973. Their vote, however, was nullified by the other branch of the governing body of the church—the House of Deputies (four clergymen and four laypersons from each of the 113 dioceses). Whether that will happen again this year is the burning ...1
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