Proposed New Hymnal Will Go to 2012 Assembly
by the Rev. Kathy Noble
United Methodist congregations in the United States could have a new United Methodist Hymnal within five years.
Delegates to the 2008 General Conference set part of the agenda for the 2012 assembly late in the evening of April 28 as they approved creation of a hymnal revision committee. The committee will bring a proposed hymnal to the next session of the denomination's top legislative body. Delegates from around the world also approved a four-year study of issues around developing an Africana hymnal with findings to be reported to the 2012 session.
Authorization of a committee to develop the new hymnal came 20 years after adoption of the first official United Methodist Hymnal. The final vote of 450-336 to create the committee came after debate in which younger delegates both supported and spoke against a new book of hymns and other worship resources. While the hymnal to be developed during the next four years is primarily for U.S. congregations, the work is to be a "prologue" to future work in other regions of the worldwide United Methodist Church.
The benefits of a new hymnal will include the incorporation of "new expressions of worship ... to engage all persons, including new, younger and diverse people," according to the petition to create the committee.
Shannon Meister, a delegate from Missouri, countered that a "new book isn't going to make more young people come to our church. Relationships will." Stating that young people prefer to sing from words on a screen rather than in print, she added that a book that is supposed to contain new music would be "outdated" when it was produced.
Supporting creation of the hymnal revision committee, Matt Kuzma, another young adult and reserve delegate from Northern Illinois, agreed that "new technology is very important in music ministry, but nothing (about a new hymnal) precludes the church from using new technology."
A four-year joint music study by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship and the United Methodist Publishing House led to the request to create the hymnal revision committee.
"United Methodists teach our faith as we sing our hymns," said the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, chief executive of the discipleship agency and a General Conference delegate. She added that while a new hymn book will be brought for adoption to the 2012 General Conference, "the hymnal revision committee will bring additional plans for ways the new hymnal can be delivered through electronic and visual means."
If a future General Conference approves developing it, an Africana hymnal would incorporate music and liturgy from African as well as Caribbean, African-American and other traditions with African roots.
Neil Alexander, top executive for the Publishing House, said the study "is a way to solicit and learn from the opinions of a cross-section of persons whose life experiences and ministries we want to serve faithfully now and in the future."
*Noble is editor of Interpreter magazine and Interpreter OnLine, publications of United Methodist Communications, serving on the newsroom team during General Conference 2008. Jeanette Pinkston, director of media relations for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, contributed to this report.
Date posted: Apr 30, 2008