New revised Hymnal may be in the works

August 29, 2007

The UMC could have a new, revised hymnal by 2013 under plans endorsed by the denomination’s General Board of Discipleship (and supported in July by The United Methodist Publishing House). Directors of the board, meeting Aug. 22–25, voted to ask the 2008 General Conference to form a committee next year to begin developing proposals for a revised hymnal to be considered by the General Conference in 2012. If approved, the revised resource would replace The United Methodist Hymnal published in 1989. It would be the second official revision of the general hymnal since the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches in 1968.


“We need a new hymnal that picks up new hymns, new texts, new melodies, new words to old tunes that are being created and being sung in our churches. It is time to engage the General Conference in this question,” said the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, chief staff executive of the Board of Discipleship, in an interview with UM News Service. The UMC’s Publisher Neil Alexander affirms the plan and said, “Research shows that The United Methodist Hymnal is widely used in all membership-size churches, but that there is also the strong desire for additional and new hymns and tunes to augment worship in a variety of styles and settings.”


Alexander added: “We could expect the next hymnal to include new selections that are not only what is commonly referenced as ‘contemporary Christian music’ but also new hymnody that is rich in character and quality. This would include up-to-date texts and musical styles that reflect additional idioms including jazz, spirituals, contemporary harmonies, and a greater variety of accompaniment settings for guitars, keyboards, percussion instruments. Leaders are also asking for authentic traditional and contemporary music that emerges from African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and other cultural contexts and accurately presents texts, harmonies, and rhythms that are indigenous to all segments of the United Methodist family.”


Under the resolution endorsed by the Board of Discipleship, General Conference will be asked to create a committee to develop “a single volume hymn and worship book with provisions for supporting resources in multiple media for adoption as an official hymnal of The United Methodist Church and for congregational use in the United States of America.”


The board also is sending General Conference a separate resolution to establish a study committee to examine the need for “an official United Methodist hymnal for North American Christians of African descent in the Wesleyan heritage.”

— Adapted from Andrew Schleicher (UMNS) and Newscope reports