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CCLI + Beyond Vetting Project Guidelines

By Diana Sanchez-Bushong and Nelson Cowan

Stock choir holding hands

Theological Categories for UMC/Wesleyan Song Vetting

1. “God’s nature and God's name is Love” (Love)

Calvinist theologies tend to focus on God's sovereignty (and justice as a subsidiary) as the primary attribute of God. Pentecostal theologies tend to focus on God's power. Wesleyan theology centers on love as the nature of God, love that expands into grace for all humanity. Awe arises in beholding signs of love encountering and saving us.

2. “The year of jubilee is come” (Time)

All of God's saving acts in Jesus Christ and the work of the Spirit evoke awe or confession in this moment, here and now. Christ acts in all his offices, not just in the past, but now, and not only to offer pardon, but release from the power of sin.

Other notes: Time is dynamic: past is not fixed in past; future is not fixed in the future. Jesus’ past can be applied in the present moment; the same is true with the future. There is an “eternal now.” There is an immediacy of Christ.

3. “Come, let us use the grace divine” (Practical Divinity, the Means of Grace, Justice)

God has given us means by which we may receive and be strengthened by God's grace. These include instituted and prudential means, sacraments, and spiritual disciplines in which we are at once buoyed and deepened in holiness of heart and life and in works of mercy and justice, in love of God and neighbor.

4. “‘Tis mystery all: th'Immortal dies” (Incarnation and atonement)

Atonement, being made at one with God, is not a past transaction or mere satisfaction, but a living, ongoing reality grounded in the mystery of God made flesh in Jesus. Reflecting on incarnation and atonement leads at once to ineffable and ecstatic praise.

5. “Refining fire, go through my heart” (the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and sanctification)

The Holy Spirit leads us to long for, to pray for, and to cooperate in our full salvation, growing in Christlikeness.

Language Guidelines for UMC/Wesleyan Song Vetting

All hymns, songs, and worship resources shall be compatible with the doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church and our social commitments as expressed in The Book of Discipline, The Social Principles and The Book of Resolutions. Texts should also, where appropriate, seek to be faithful to our ecumenical commitments.

In addition, the following are expected norms:

Inclusive language for God’s people

  • Where the intended references of nouns and pronouns in the texts are to all people, gender-neutral terms should be used or, where needed, substituted.
  • It is appropriate to retain gender-specific nouns and pronouns when the intended reference is to a specific gender or sex and when referencing Jesus, Mary, or other historical people of known gender or sex.
  • Language that stereotypes people according to categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, age, or disability is to be avoided.
  • The “generic masculine” (“man,” “mankind” or use of masculine singular pronouns to refer to both females and males) is no longer universally understood to include people of all genders and should generally be avoided.

Expansive language for God

  • The Bible contains a wide range of images for God and God’s gracious acts. Language for worship and singing should draw upon the full diversity of story, metaphor, and images of God found in scripture, tradition, and human experience. These include references to female and male human characteristics, as well as elements of God’s creation.

Songs and worship resources should reflect the diversity and breadth of the biblical, traditional, and poetic language for God from across Christian and human experience.

Performance Practice

We do not have denominational guidelines related to performance practice, so this evaluative section is intended to be helpful for worship leaders, planners, and musicians seeking to incorporate these songs into their worship services. “Performance practice” is a catch-all term referring to the song’s singability and instrumentation. We will feature various linked performances of each song that speak to the diverse ways the song may be contextualized for a particular worshiping community.

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