Will the new hymnal cooperatively published by our denomination and the Reformed Church in America (RCA) include the Heidelberg Catechism and the rest of our creeds and confessions? Initially, the answer was “yes.” Now Faith Alive Christian Resources is asking Synod 2011 to say “no.”
Faith Alive informed Synod 2008 that, as part of its preparation for a CRC/RCA hymnal approved by Synod 2007, it appointed a committee of CRC and RCA representatives to “develop common texts for our various creeds and confessions. Whether or not this committee is successful, the Heidelberg Catechism will be available in hymnals for the CRC in an approved CRC form” (Agenda for Synod 2008, p. 159). At Synod 2008 Faith Alive “reported that (CRC) synodically approved versions of the ecumenical creeds and the Reformed confessions will be included in the new hymnal…" (Acts of Synod 2008, p. 447). Now Faith Alive is asking Synod 2011 for approval not to include these documents in the hymnal because this would make the hymnal too large, would increase its potential to be an ecumenical hymnal and publishing them “in a separate volume allows for greater flexibility of use…and for ease of incorporating any changes or additions in the future" (Agenda for Synod 2011, p. 182).
As for the translations themselves, we’ll have to get accustomed to some of the changes. Because there are so many different versions of the Lord’s Prayer, I typically refer to a page number or print these out when using them in worship or in a funeral service. Now we must learn yet another version! Yet these new translations, to be adopted by the CRC and the RCA, and in the case of the Heidelberg Catechism also by the Presbyterian Church (USA), bring us a small step closer to our Savior’s desire that the Church be one.
The translation of I Corinthians 11:24 in Answer 77 of the Heidelberg Catechism does not use the New Revised Standard Version, the version used when making these new translations. (“This is my body that is for you.”) Instead it uses “This is my body that is broken for you” even though none of the three denominations currently uses that language because the word “broken” is in the original German (Agenda for Synod 2011, p. 278). John 19:31-37 tells us that, unlike those of the two criminals crucified with him, the body of Jesus was not broken “so that the Scripture (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12) would be fulfilled.” We lose a great deal when “broken” language is introduced at this point and repeated each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
The committee informs synod, “Since this is a joint translation from three denominations, each with their own polity and process for approval, it is not feasible to make any further changes.” Thus, the committee requests the “adoption of the translation with no further amendments” (Agenda, p. 181). The rationale for that is understandable but if “broken” language cannot be removed from Answer 77, synod serves the church best by not adopting these new translations.