Grace Communion International has informed its members across the board that it is moving into a liturgical style of worship. Many congregations have been doing this for some time, others not so much so. Liturgical worship is geared towards the seasons of the church year and also involves using a standard set of Bible readings for each day of the year. The GCI is now using the Revised Common Lectionary, which is standard for Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, some Methodists and in recent years, many Evangelical churches. In the course of three years, the entire Bible is read if a person follows it on a daily basis.
Many people find liturgical worship to be richly rewarding, but this is going to be a heavy cross for many GCI congregations to bear, as some are still steeped in the belief that anything connected to the Catholic Church is wholly pagan. However, many will adjust to this once they realize that it has a purpose. Fitting in good liturgical worship music will be a challenge for many GCI congregations.
Music to fit the liturgical calendar follows hymns that have been traditional for hundreds of years. COG members have been ingrained to avoid those hymns as being too Protestant. Thus the assumed need to sing Dwight Armstrong hymnody. For many in the GCI, having to listen to modern day hymnody that borders on songs that sound like someone is making love to Jesus or that he is some long lost boyfriend that someone has been panting for and never quite finds him, is not the best worship mood setter. There certainly are some great modern worship songs out there, but spending a lifetime trying to sound like Hillsong singers is NOT a good thing!
For those that have a strong avoidance to Easter and Christmas, this new liturgical practice will drive the nail in the coffin even faster for some. Liturgy is all geared around Christmas and Easter. Those still uncomfortable with Christmas and Easter will now have full in the face.
The other issue this will present for some is that weekly communion will now be a recommended practice. For those that like to leave Jesus on the High School gym floor after Passover each year and never mention him much after that, it will be a struggle to have Jesus as a weekly reminder.
Here is the GCI stance on liturgical worship:
The worship of God is central to the church. Through its worship services, GCI seeks to glorify God and edify those who attend by proclaiming the gospel through Scripture reading, preaching and singing; the administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper); praise and intercession in prayer; and the giving of offerings.
Gospel-focused worship patternAlong with many others in the body of Christ, worship in GCI follows the Christ-centered and gospel-shaped pattern of the Western Christian calendar as detailed in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). This pattern of worship is organized around a weekly celebration of the gospel (see the recommended order of services below) that is typically held on Sunday, the day the risen Lord Jesus was first encountered. As shown in the diagram and list below, the worship pattern then includes several annual celebrations that highlight key aspects of our Lord’s life and ministry along with other key aspects of the gospel.
- Advent (four Sundays preceding Christmas)
- Christmas eve and Christmas day
- The season of Christmas (Christmas through January 5)
- Epiphany Sunday
- Transfiguration Sunday
- Ash Wednesday
- Lent (Ash Wednesday through Palm Sunday)
- Holy Week services:
- Palm Sunday (celebrated as Passion Sunday when there are no Maundy Thursday and/or Good Friday services)
- Maundy Thursday
- Good Friday
- Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil)
- Easter Sunday
- Easter season (Easter through Pentecost)
- Ascension Sunday
- Pentecost Sunday
- Trinity Sunday
- All Saints’ Sunday (Sunday after All Saints’ Day)
- Christ the King Sunday
Liturgies for church services & ceremoniesTo assist congregations in following its standard worship pattern and content, GCI publishes RCL-synced sermons in GCI Equipper (click here to access) and the liturgies linked below for worship services and church ceremonies.
- Weekly worship service (and see the diagram below)
- Communion (The Lord’s Supper)
- Baptism of an infant
- Blessing of a child
- Renewal of marriage vows
- Anointing the sick
- Commissioning of a ministry leader
- Ordination of an elder
- Installation of a pastor
Flexibility grantedGCI congregations may adapt the denomination’s standard liturgies to accommodate local customs and needs (though the basic formats and content should be followed). Congregations may also adapt GCI’s standard pattern of worship, though all should provide services that celebrate Jesus’ birth during the Christmas season and his resurrection during the Easter season. It is then recommended that the other key events in Christ’s life (see the list above) be celebrated in a weekly worship service at the designated time of year.GCI congregations may hold their primary weekly worship service on any day of the week, though Sunday is the norm. Also, congregations may determine how often to offer the Lord’s Supper, though it should be offered no less than quarterly, and at least once during Holy Week. Offering the Lord’s Supper every week is recommended.In making decisions concerning adaptations to GCI’s standard worship pattern and liturgies, congregational leaders should seek divine guidance, understanding that worship is the divinely created response to the glory of the triune God revealed in Jesus Christ.