Assembly approves new directory for worship

Revision now goes to presbyteries for ratification

June 23, 2016

Mindy Douglas speaks during plenary.

Mindy Douglas speaks during plenary. —Danny Bolin


A slimmer, less restrictive Directory for Worship for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was overwhelming approved Wednesday by the 222nd General Assembly (2016).

The directory, which is part of The Book of Order, now goes to the denomination’s 171 presbyteries, a majority of which must ratify it to be adopted.

The new directory has been 10 years in development. Kristin Saldine, a consultant to the writing team, likened the directory to a compass. This is not a book of rules and regulations,” she told the assembly, “but gives us bearings and direction, pointing to the primary purpose of worship – to give glory to God – and navigating between form and freedom and encouraging a variety of styles.”

David Gambrell, associate for worship for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, earlier told the Theological Issues and Institutions Committee, which recommended approval, that seven principles guided the directory’s development:

  • Uphold essentials of Reformed faith, life and worship.
  • Respond to changing contexts and congregations.
  • Provide for more flexibility and more diverse expressions.
  • Use “we” vs. “they” language for the people of God.
  • Streamline contents and make organization more user-friendly.
  • Simplify language and make style more accessible.
  • Eliminate redundancy and reduce length.
  • Enhance the directory’s usefulness as a teaching document.

The Directory for Worship was last revised in 1989, after Presbyterian reunion. Saldine said it was too long, organized in too complicated a fashion – for instance, sections on the theology and practice of Reformed worship appeared in two different parts – and needed more flexibility, in keeping with the new Form of Government. Gambrell noted that the new directory has just 25 mandatory directions, as opposed to more than 120.

Moreover, Saldine said, the new directory encourages a  variety of styles of worship – a reflection of the explosion of new worshiping communities, immigrant fellowships and racial-ethnic congregations in recent years. In addition, the new directory reflects “ecumenical convergence” that has taken place since the last revision.

The new directory contains five chapters, versus seven, and comes in at 18,000 words – one-third shorter than the old directory.

Other assembly actions on the committee’s recommendations are available on PC-Biz at

  1. In order that we may have a full discussion and review of the proposed changes to the Directory for Worship, it is suggested that each church's Worship Committee and Session do a comprehensive study and review. The current edition of the Directory For Worship and the proposed Directory For Worship would be laid side by side and examined. Upon completion of the comprehensive examination, a final decision would be made.

    by robert wright

    July 23, 2016

  2. I will be eager to read the recommended document. When I began Seminary in 1968, Worship and all related topics was a BIG DEAL to which we were well-advised to give attention. Its forms and practice particulars give us unity not only as a denomination, but as a Faith. Of course the particulars must be made local, but this does not mean discarded when not understood. Unity in our diversity is always the operative guide; I can only hope local pastors and sessions will take this as seriously as it deserves!

    by Francis E. Beyea, HR pastor

    June 24, 2016

  3. Where might I find a full copy of the proposed new Directory for Worship (with or without any changes made at GA)?

    by Laurie Farquharson

    June 23, 2016

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