Saturday, January 28, 2012


While I was in Rome, I had the chance to attend a Conference and Ecumenical Celebration of the Word, sponsored by the Franciscan Atonement Friars at the Centro Pro Unione. While there I learned of a new multi-lateral ecumenical document, The Reims Statement, entitled “Praying With One Voice.” It was published this past August 2011, under the auspices of the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC).

This document was produced by participants representing Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed traditions, among others; they come from England, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa; members are respected scholars and Church-people, some of whom I know personally. They make straightforward observations and recommendations under three headings: “Liturgy and Ecumenism,” “Common Texts,” and “The Revised Common Lectionary.”

But sadly, I think there is a fly in this ointment which so wants to be a “balm in Gilead.” It comes in section two of the statement. There, the participants write: For the first time in history, Christians in the English speaking world are using common liturgical texts….They are being experienced as a gift, a sign and a way to Christian unity in our diversity….Prayed together, shared common texts become a part of the fabric of our being. They unite the hearts of Christians in giving glory to God…
This is a noble vision, but it seems we Roman Catholics have taken a step away from it (this is the “fly”) by the promulgation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, 3rd Typical Edition. What has happened has been a change of what was the Catholics’ use of “common liturgical texts”—a change made unilaterally, seemingly without regard for the ecumenical implications. To give an example of this problem: when ICEL (the International Commission on English in the Liturgy) made the translation “And also with you” for the Latin Et cum spiritu tuo, this was not a rendering that necessarily sat well with Anglicans and Episcopalians (they were quite comfortable with “And with your/thy spirit” from their Book of Common Prayer), yet they did acceot this adaptation, along with the bulk of the other ICEL-proposed translations of the “Common” (ie, Gloria; Holy, Holy; Lamb of God). We were, then, “praying with one voice.”

How will we do so again? Will the Catholic Church renege on its new commitment to the translation principles of Liturgiam Authenticam and return to the older ICEL texts? It is not likely. Will other English-speaking Protestant denominations change to our new version? Especially in the case when to do so means a return to a preferred translation once given up for the sake of unity, it is not reasonable. So it seems we are at an impasse.

The "Princeton Proposal for Christian Unity," In One Body Through the Cross, makes the comment: …magisterial deliberations of the Roman Catholic Church should regularly involve non-Roman Catholic consultants. If the bishop of Rome is to teach for and to all the baptized, he must receive reliable counsel regarding the faith and life of the entire Christian community (no. 66). Though this comment refers specifically to the teaching office of the Church, yet the same suggestion can be made with regard to the sanctifying office in its worship. After all, we believe that the rule of worship is the rule of the faith (Lex orandi [est] lex credendi]. Much could be gained by such consultations, and much that is undesirable, like unnecessary divergence, might be avoided. We are proud to name our the Roman Catholic (Universal) Church; we should be proud also to have a truly “catholic” process of theological reflection and decision-making (which may fairly be distinguished from ‘decision-taking’).

The Reims Statement is a very short piece, fitting into a trifold. To see the statement and more information about the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), go to


  1. Rev. Randy JonesJanuary 28, 2012 7:33 PM

    As I said a couple of weeks ago, "It's gonna take a little revolution among the lay folks." Unless the folks sitting in the pews stand up and say "Enough!", nothing is going to change. Every communion's leadership has an institutional responsibility to maintain the status quo and denominational identity. Yes, we have some theological differences, but we all hold one person in common -- Jesus the crucified and risen Christ. How many more times are we going to wound Him? Kyrie eleison.

  2. As a lay person, baptized a Roman Catholic from birth, I surely would like to respond to an enactment of a little revolution. There is a quite sturdy foundation dug into one's mentality by the spiritual influences given to us by the hierarchy. I just heard about a 70-odd year old man from a tiny French town who had learned about free thinkers. He decided he liked this approach. He felt, to be completely honest, he should cancel his Catholic baptism before he left this earth. I believe he's been petitioning his church affiliation to remove his baptism from his church records.. So far, no luck. Yes, this is an extreme choice. To effect a more rational approach to a little revolution, how
    many lay people would one need? And without a staunch leader to influence interested individuals, how successfully could a change be
    elicited? Going back to the very early church, St. Paul could not be beaten as an enthusiastic teacher of principles. He was always clear about the level of authority of his teachings. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit. He learned from his own experience what worked and what didn't. After he gave instructions to his little communities, he
    had to pray that those God-given instructions would be followed.
    Here we are two thousand years later, and a "few little liturgical
    sentences" need to be affirmed by the church hierarchy. How to stimulate a peaceful change in the liturgy as a parishioner?