Assembly approves new directory for worship
Revision now goes to presbyteries for ratification
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.