Liturgical Change in the Christian Reformed Church (1964-1985) — Part 6

Synods 1977-79 — A Lull in the Action

Very little happened in these years.  The revision of liturgical forms was ongoing, but we do not find substantial reports such as were presented in 1968 and 1973.  One item of note was that the Liturgical Committee recommended in 1977 that a liturgical education committee be appointed for the purpose of “motivating and instructing the membership of the Christian Reformed Church in the history, theology, and practice of Reformed liturgy and music.”  This recommendation was adopted.  However, by 1979 it was becoming clear that the work of this committee was redundant and it was disbanded.

Another item of interest at Synod 1977 was the movement towards a “Contemporary Testimony.”  The Three Forms of Unity were described as “historic creeds” which “do not adequately address themselves to certain facets of the church’s life today…”  This development may be related insofar as the Reformed confessions were sidelined in the earlier discussions concerning principles of worship.

Synod 1978 saw more proposed changes to the liturgical forms and also efforts to revise the Psalter Hymnal.  Otherwise there does not seem to have been anything substantial taking place with the Liturgical Committee at this time.

Synod 1979 was not much different, other than the fact that a form was introduced for the ordination of evangelists.  There was also a situation involving Rev. A. Hoksbergen.  He objected to the Form for Excommunication, since he believed that no single church or denomination may excommunicate from Christ’s kingdom.  He also maintained that excommunication ought to take place at a congregational meeting rather than before the eyes of the world in a public worship service.  In his view, excommunication would then consist solely of excommunication from the fellowship of the CRC.  From the Acts it would appear that Synod 1979 did not give much, if any, consideration to these objections of Rev. Hoksbergen.  The Form for Excommunication remained.

We can also take note of a remark in the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee report.  This committee was asked by Synod 1978 to report on principles for music in the church.   The report first reproduced the 1953 “Statement of Principle for Music in the Church.”  The report then proposed to modify this statement.  The modification began as follows:  “The music of the church should be appropriate for worship — that is, it should be liturgical and have aesthetic integrity.  The music of worship should serve the dialogue between God and his people.”  What’s noteworthy here is the mention of dialogue again — something which first appeared in 1968.  It comes back here in the Psalter Hymnal report and it will return again, as we shall see in the next instalment.

Next time:  Synod 1985 — Let’s Go Dancing

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

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