Friday, April 9, 2010

Save us from the time of trial

Apparently the Virginia Theological Seminary — a center-left seminary in the increasingly liberal TEC — is having a seminar series celebrating 30 years since the creation of the 1979 not-quite-a-Book-of-Common-Prayer. This week, one of the speakers was Prof Ruth Meyers of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

I don’t know Prof. Meyers, but here in California CSDP is known by Anglicans the Berkeley seminary that vies with its counterparts in NY and at Harvard to harbor the most extreme revisionist theologians in the TEC, if not American Protestantism. Prof. Meyers also heads the TEC’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. (Does that mean she’s blessing same sex marriage rites?)

As quoted by the Living Church, Prof. Meyers laments the ending of a brief period of English translations shared by Protestant and Catholic churches during the ascendance of the Revised Common Lectionary:
But the liturgical and ecumenical unity underpinning common texts — which flourished in the 20th century — is now losing strength, Meyers said. She cited two primary sources of weakening liturgical unity: widespread ethnic divergence in worship styles around the world, and the Vatican’s moving toward a more literal translation of the original Latin in its new Roman Missal, which is nearing completion.
The story talks about how the RCL banished the male pronoun and promoted dynamic equivalence for translation from the original Latin:
Dynamic equivalence meant that translators working with the ancient Latin texts were to use language familiar to the people. The new English translation of the Roman Missal, she said, uses the concept of “formal equivalence,” a more literal, authentic translation that places high value on the ancient Latin.
The report doesn’t seem to be inaccurate, but it shows the problems of a one-sided, single-source story. (Reporters who attend a public talk or event without doing background research are prone to these problems.)

The story doesn’t really explain the Catholic side of why they are moving away from the inaccuracies of the dynamic translations, such as “And also with you.” The new more authentic translations may be anathema to the TEC, but should be well received by Schism I, perhaps by Schism II and also other conservative Protestants — say those who favor the ESV over the political correctness of the NRSV or the dynamic translation of the NIV.

Like modern-day politicians, Prof. Meyers seems to think that change is inherently good:
Meyers said that the 1979 Book of Common Prayer offers different options for some familiar prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer. But, she said, “The Lord’s Prayer has been the most resistant to change.”

People develop a “deep familiar attachment to old forms of prayer,” she said, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the Lord’s Prayer. Thus, she said, some worshipers will always want to say the familiar “And lead us not into temptation” rather than the newer “Save us from the time of trial.”
I, for one, think the Lord’s Prayer being “resistant to change” is a really good thing: newer is not always better.

I am not tempted by this new liturgy. Instead, I pray for the Continuing Anglicans (particularly ACNA) to follow the lead of the RCC (and that of the late Peter Toon) to save us from the trial of theologically dubious translations.

No comments: