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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. 


George, you know, I'm looking at my collection of Psalter (Hymnals) and it sort of struck me that for the average person in the pew those books are a little more than just about singing, they are about "access" to knowledge also.

Since the earliest one, the "black one," the denomination has always included its "important papers."

At first you could find the Church Order, then that was dumped with the second "blue one." Now I can understand that from the stand point some would argue that our Church Order is revised more often now- wasn’t fashionable for a long time at first; but there is nothing in that document really that can’t be changed to meet our changing needs. Even the most conservative gatekeeper would have little argument with that.

However, no matter what edition: black-red-blue-gray (silver of course if you want to be more elegant:-), our denomination's important documents have always been just an arm length away, and no matter who was looking your fingers could eventually find what you were looking for.

I know we are becoming savvier electronically, and can just about find anything in a paperless environment. I am wondering if there is still merit to keeping those items in the new "rainbow colored" (perhaps) edition?

Sure the size of the book is important, the "gray one" is a monster compared to the others in terms of weight. I still chuckle at some of the folks who complained that when the "gray one" came out it took two hands to hold the book and not one. Still, perhaps we can beat the size problem.

Is making the book accommodating to other denominations such a plus financially that we cheapen the use in our own churches?

Change is not bad...I suppose I could get some argument on that; but will we be missing something, and will some churches just not fill the void? Face it- churches like most organizations often generally pick the "path of least resistance" when it comes to pocketbooks, and will not buy another book that supplies the "important" papers? 

Might Faith Alive consider publishing two versions of the new hymnal - one with and one without the creeds and confessions?

The grey hymnal did have multiple versions when it first came out.  It certainly seems like this could be considered now too. 

The Belgic Confessions and the Canons of Dordt do have a limited number of churches attached to them.  The Heidelberg Catechism has always had a much broader appeal.  It is included in the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s Book of Confessions.  Actually, it has been advocated as presenting the Christian faith in such an attractive fashion that it could be the basis for broader ecumenical relationships.  It certainly has had much more usage in the Christian Reformed Church than the others.  I'm concerned that dropping it from our songbook will only accelerate the decline in reference to it.  I would suggest that at least the ecumenical creeds and the Heidelberger ought to be in the new songbook.  Versions with and without the whole would also be a good option.

I would suggest that the creeds and liturgical resources that have always been in the Psalter have become more important than the rest of it.  As churches buy CCLI licenses, install projectors and screens, move away from organ/piano-based hymnody in general, hymnals as such are becoming obsolete.  Already the only time we take the Psalter out of the pew racks is when we're looking at one of the creeds or using one of the liturgical forms for baptism, communion, profession of faith, installation of office bearers, etc.

We would welcome publishing these separate from the hymnal - because we wouldn't buy the hymnal.

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