Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bishops 'Soften' Burial Service

Googling around the Internet this morning, I came across a fascinating article in The New York Times published September 15, 1922. It's about actions of General Convention. I've reproduced much of it below (part of the first paragraph got cut out of the photocopy available on-line). I've also included some other parts of the article regarding divorce and remarriage, as well as a memorial calling for the Episcopal Church to work towards "conversion of the Jews." What a different world it was back then!


Cut Out References to "Worms" and "Beasts" in the Episcopal Ritual


Vote to Permit Reading of Service at Funerals of Suicides and Unbaptized Adults

Special to the New York Times.
PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 14. - The House of Bishops of the general convention of the Episcopal Church rescinded today the age-old law that the church's burial service cannot be read by an Episcopalian clergyman at the funeral of a suicide, an unbaptized adult ...

If the House of Deputies concurs, hereafter a suicide can be buried with the same ritual as the person who dies a natural death.

The rubric, eliminated by a vote of 47 to 43, reads:

"Here is to be noted that the office ensuing is not to be used for any unbaptized adult, any who die ex communicate or who have laid violent hands upon himself."

The chief argument in favor of the change was that the man who took his own life was out of his mind and God alone was his Judge.

Two prayers for the dead in the funeral service were agreed to almost unanimously. The only opposition expressed was that of Bishop Reese of Georgia, who said that some of the bishops did not want to have to pray for the dead. It was explained that the prayers were to be "permissive."

Reference to Worms Cut Out

On the ground that it was not a comforting thought, the phrase, "and though after my skin worms destroy this body" was omitted from the second sentence in the burial ritual. Some of the Bishops wanted to cut out the whole sentence, which begins, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," but it was finally voted, 54 to 34, to substitute the following:

"I know that my Redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and, though this body shall be destroyed, yet shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold."

It was voted to change the words, "Thou fool" in I Corinthians, xx., which is part of the service, to "Thou Foolish Man," which is the language of the American revised version.

All reference that it was "pleasing" to Almighty God to take any one out of this world was cut out of the burial service.

The verses in First Corinthians, Chapter XX., which mentions "Beasts," were eliminated.

The predominating aim throughout the burial service revision has been to soften what are considered harsh parts of the service and make it more comforting to the bereaved.

A memorial from the women's auxiliary of the diocese of Pennsylvania asking that the Episcopal Church inaugurate work for the conversion of the Jews was referred to the Council of the Episcopal Church. Suffragan Bishop Garland of Philadelphia said the Episcopal Church was the only one which did not do such works. ...

Bishops Adopt Divorce Canon

The House of Bishops adopted late this afternoon the canon prohibiting any divorced communicant of the Episcopal Church from remarrying, or any communicant from marrying a divorced person, the one exception being the innocent party where the divorce was granted for infidelity.

Bishop Mann of Southern Florida introduced a resolution which would deprive such persons as knowingly break this canon of the sacraments of the Episcopal Church, except in case of imminent death. The resolution was referred to the Committee on Canons.

At a great mass meeting this evening Bishop Rowe of Alaska, was presented with a purse $71,000, the income of which is to be used for missionary work in Alaska. The presentation was in honor of his silver anniversary as a missionary in the frozen North.

The House of Deputies adopted today a resolution condemning the Ku Klux Klan.

The deputies late this afternoon threw out the word "obey" in the marriage ceremony. This makes this resolution final, the House of Bishops having taken similar action yesterday. All women, however, who get married by Episcopal ministers in the next three years will have to take the vow of obedience to their husbands, as none of these changes in the Prayer Book becomes effective until the next triennial convention.

The Rev. Dr. Craig George Stewart of Evanston, Ill., reminded the deputies that this was the twentieth century, and that the idea of a wife obeying her husband had no place in life today. One deputy remarked that the Lord did not take a bone out of the man's head or his foot to make the first woman, but out of his side, thereby showing that the wife was to be a helpmate, with full equality.

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