The BCP falls short of the call “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” which is clear in our baptismal covenant, by making maleness and whiteness normative. (BCP, p. 305) Maleness and gender binary normativity are exemplified as follows:
Strengthen, O Lord, your servant N. with your Holy Spirit;
empower him for your service; and sustain him all the days
of his life. Amen. (BCP, p. 309)
And certainly in the marriage service as well.
Whiteness is exemplified and made normative by the way language is used. An obvious example is this:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy
great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this
night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Amen. (BCP, p. 70)
While it is true that we also have supplemental materials with more expansive language for God and broader theological scope around marriage, the BCP is what is in our pews, and is the canonical, practical representation of who we are as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. What folks see when they come to visit on a Sunday morning, or drop by the church in search of a quiet place to pray, may be the first and formative impression received.
The notion of “common prayer” is that it is a unifying device. I am exhausted by the constant translation and transliteration in my head that is required when leading worship with text based on scripture translations designed to uphold the power of the English monarchy, and theology that supported the subordinate role of women and the holding of African-Americans as chattel property. It’s hard to evangelize or even talk about reconciliation with folks whose ears are attuned to the language of oppression. We can do better.
The Reverend Kit Wang
Episcopal Diocese of Maine and TransEpiscopal Steering Committee Member