Episco-Fact #141
May 23, 2019

Where did you get Sunday's readings from? I couldn't find them in the Prayer Book.

This question from a pretty well-formed Episcopalian and church leader begs for some attention. It was wonderful to hear from someone who knows how to find the Sunday readings. The skill is not intuitive.

So, some grounding on lectionaries, Prayer Books, and decisions of the General Convention.

Deacons, Priests, and Bishops are all members of Holy Orders, which means they are not free agents. Even if it does not always look like it, these ministers are ordered. One of the key aspects of that ordering for the Episcopal Church is that they have vowed to follow the Prayer Book, which includes an addendum called the Lectionary. The Lectionary details readings for Principal Feasts, Sundays, and Holy Days, essentially, public worship days, and for Daily Office. Lectionaries tell worship leaders which Bible readings are to be used on any given day (this is not a choice, though some have treated it that way).

The Lectionaries begin on page 888 of the BCP. Lectionaries in the book are treated as addendums and though integral to the book, to change the lectionary does not take the same amount of work and does not reach the same standard of voting requirements that it takes to change the core of the BCP. Why? Because the core of the BCP contains dogma and beliefs that are accepted as official by Episcopalians. Public reading choices are a bit less so. In fact, the Lectionary found on page 888, and following, in our pews, was based on the Roman Catholic Lectionary adopted by Vatican 2 in the 1960's. By 1983, denominations like the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalians in conversation with the Roman Catholics had already begun working on the Common Lectionary. It was to be a common set of readings for all of these churches. That lectionary was being revised again in 1996. In 2006 the Episcopal Church approved the adoption of the Revised Common Lectionary at its General Convention.

Now, if you turn to page 888 in the Prayer Book, the reader will find the title, Lectionary has been changed to The Revised Common Lectionary. The implications of this change are explained in the introduction to the section called Concerning the Lectionary and in the body of the Lectionary as noted by italicized letters. To find the difference that was noted by our curious parishioner, one would turn to page 916 in the BCP, in both pre-2006 and post 2006 books. In the books in our pews, the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C, are Acts 13:44-52 or Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Revelation 19:1, 4-9 or Acts 13:44-52; John13:31-35, and Psalm 145. In post 2006 Prayer Books the readings would be as follows: Acts 11:1-18 (no OT choice—therefore creeping Marcionism); Revelation 21:1-6; and John 13:31-35.

Got all that? No. Here is a link if you ever want to know our choices for any given day.  http://lectionarypage.net/