When the 221st General Assembly (2014) voted to forward to the church the draft of the proposed Directory for Worship — the middle section of the Book of Order, Part II of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — it set into motion a yearlong, churchwide period of study and comment, which began on July 1, 2014.
“It’s important that you as a committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board be as equipped, informed, and as well prepared as possible as we seek and receive comments on the revised directory,” said the Rev. Charles Wiley, coordinator of the office of Theology and Worship in reviewing the process for members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board’s (PMA) Worshiping Communities Committee on Sept. 17.
To facilitate this study process, the Theology and Worship office of has already made available a number of initial resources, including an online shortcut to the full text of the directory in English, Korean, and Spanish; an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to receive feedback; and a blog which will provide commentary throughout the season of study.
Staff members from the office of Theology and Worship — and pastors, professors, and mid-council leaders who took part in a September 2013 consultation which figured prominently in the revision process — are available to discuss the proposed revisions at presbytery meetings and other events and conferences.
The process of revising the directory started in 2006 when the 217th General Assembly directed the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office of Theology and Worship and the Office of the General Assembly to update the directory to be more responsive to changing contexts and diverse cultural expressions, to meet the needs of new worshiping communities, and to allow congregations greater flexibility in ordering and designing worship while continuing to uphold the essentials of Reformed faith, life, and worship.
If the amended document is approved by the PMA at its February 2016 meeting, it would be presented to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) the following summer for approval to be sent to the presbyteries for inclusion in the Book of Order.
Several committee members voiced their concern that adequate resources — such as a study guide — be provided throughout the study process, and that diverse constituents and stakeholders be approached for feedback with greater intentionality.
“Consider this from the standpoint of a small church in a relatively rural state,” said committee member, Patsy Smith, a ruling elder from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City. “How does the information get to the little guy? These folks are very worship-loving people and would love to have their voices heard. They want to know what is coming before it is on the table.”
The Rev. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the office of Theology and Worship, provided assurance that plans are in place to communicate broadly with the whole church.
“We are developing a strategy to let people know about all of the available channels through which to provide feedback,” he said. To this end, the office of Theology and Worship has arranged to make presentations on the proposed revision to the Directory for Worship at the 2014 Polity Conference (Oct. 19–21) and Moderators’ Conference (Nov. 7–9), among other upcoming events.
Gambrell reminded the committee that the proposed revision to the directory would not change the section pertaining to marriage, which is in the process of receiving separate consideration by the presbyteries. Additionally the ordination and installation questions would not be changed, but moved back to their former location in the Form of Government.