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A place for conversations about worship in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), including the proposed revisions to the Directory for Worship. 

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September 15, 2014

Directory for Worship FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the proposed revision to the PC(USA) Directory for Worship:

Why are we revising the Directory for Worship? The 217th General Assembly (2006) directed the Office of Theology and Worship and the Office of the General Assembly to draft a revised version of the Directory for Worship that would be "authentically Reformed," "culturally appropriate," "more accessible and helpful," and "shorter and better organized." This action was influenced in part by a 2005 Presbyterian Panel study on the Directory for Worship. The revision is part of a larger process to revise the PC(USA) Book of Order, the same initiative that brought us a new Form of Government in 2011. 

Who is responsible for this revision? As directed by the General Assembly, staff from the Office of Theology and Worship and Office of the General Assembly prepared the first draft. In September 2013, a consultation with a diverse group of pastors, professors, and mid-council leaders provided valuable feedback on the proposed revision. After further work, a new draft was presented to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board in February 2014, which voted to send the document to the 221st General Assembly (2014) with the recommendation of a year-long period for study and comment. The General Assembly approved this recommendation, calling for a season of study from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015.  

Is this a whole new Directory for Worship? No. The proposed revision seeks to carry forward the essential spirit, shape, and content of the current Directory for Worship, but in a way that is more accessible, user-friendly, and attentive to the needs of existing and emerging communities of faith. In reading the proposed revision, you'll discover that it covers the same terrain as our current Directory for Worship, but follows a different path in some places in order to streamline the contents.

Then what's different about this revision? The language in this draft has been completely reworked in order to speak in a way that is simple, clear, and direct-- hopefully enhancing the usefulness of this document as a resource for understanding and planning worship in the Presbyterian / Reformed tradition. The proposed revision makes some important structural changes: consolidating information on Sunday worship and the sacraments, currently spread across two chapters, into a single chapter organized around the order of worship; and combining the final three chapters into a shorter, streamlined one, addressing Christian life in its personal, congregational, and missional dimensions. The revision also seeks to account for new directions in mission and ministry-- from contemporary and multicultural approaches to worship to ongoing liturgical and sacramental renewal.

What else is important to know? The proposed revision seeks to emphasize the strengths of our Reformed tradition: giving glory to God, focusing on Jesus Christ, highlighting the work of the Spirit, insisting on the centrality of Scripture, strengthening the unity of Word and Sacrament, developing leadership through ordered ministries, and lifting up the classic themes of grace and gratitude. It was rewritten with diverse contexts, communities, and worship styles in mind, and introduces a distinct section on worship and culture. It seeks to be a resource for teaching, facilitating the instruction of new members, deacons, ruling elders, and seminary students preparing for ordination. And it's significantly shorter-- down from approximately 27,000 words to 17,000. 

What does the proposed revision do with marriage? Nothing. Because overtures on the definition of marriage were being considered by a different committee at the 221st General Assembly (2014), the proposed revision left the entire section on marriage untouched. Should a majority of presbyteries ratify the actions of the General Assembly-- changing W-4.9000 in the current Directory for Worship-- the section on marriage will be updated accordingly in future versions.

Where are the constitutional questions for ordination? The proposed revision recommends moving the constitutional questions for ordination, installation, and commissioning (currently W-4.4003 ff) back to their former home in the Form of Government (to become G-2.12). There are two reasons for this recommendation. First, having a long litany of questions is out of character for the Directory for Worship, which provides broad directions but doesn't spell out liturgical texts. Second, it is believed that these questions will have more authority and relevance in the context of the section on qualifications for ordination in the Form of Government. 

What does the revision say about "open communion"? Currently, the PC(USA) Directory for Worship states that "all the baptized faithful are to be welcomed to the Table" (W-2.4006) and "the invitation to the Lord's Supper is to be extended to all who have been baptized" (W-2.4011). The corresponding section in the proposed revision seeks to maintain and strengthen the relationship between the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, while making a place at the table for seekers: "All who come to the table are offered the bread and cup, regardless of their age or understanding. If some of those who come have not yet been baptized, an invitation to baptismal preparation and baptism should be graciously extended" (W-3.0409 in the proposed revision). 

Why are the Book of Order section numbers different? There are two reasons why the section numbers in the proposed revision don't correspond to those in the current Directory for Worship. First, the revision involved significant structural changes-- the reordering and consolidation of whole chapters, as described above. Second, the section numbers in the proposed revision have been reconfigured to correspond with the simpler, more flexible numbering system of the new PC(USA) Form of Government.

Where can I read the proposed revision? The entire text of the proposed revision to the Directory for Worship is available to read online at (this link redirects to a longer address). You may also download a copy of the full text in English, Korean, or Spanish.  If you'd like to see a chart with a detailed, side-by-side comparison of the structures of the current Directory for Worship and the proposed revision, that's available here.  

How do I comment on the revision? To comment on the proposed revision, send an email to For consideration in further revisions, all comments must be received in writing at this address. 

Where do we go from here? When this season of study ends on July 1, 2015, the Office of Theology and Worship will compile and review all the comments we have received. Another consultation of pastors, professors, and mid-council leaders will discuss the feedback and propose further revisions. A new and improved draft of the Directory for Worship will be presented to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board at its fall 2015 meeting; with the blessing of that body, the revised Directory for Worship will go to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) for consideration to be included in the Book of Order.  

Tags: directory for worship, faq, presbyterian