The Gloria Patri, or “Glory Be” hymn is an English translation of the Latin text, “Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.” This short prayer has been used by the Latin-speaking church since its inception as a way to declare in unison its primary convictions. It expresses a trinitatian theology, which was an essential piece of early European thought, the eternal presence of this Christian understanding, and a hopeful declaration of its lasting presence.
Sometimes known as the “Short Doxology”, this chant is used in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches (often translated into a local language) and is a familiar component to people who come from more traditional church communities. Yet despite the breadth that this piece of worship spans, it also has problematic implications for use in our community.
Even the presence of a creed that is spoken or sung would not have been supported by our church’s founders and leaders throughout our Movement. These were seen as divisive and barriers to Christian unity as they would not leave room for people who held different interpretations or opinions on issues that were not seen as essential to the faith.
More specific to our context, however, is the initial statement, “Glory be to the Father”, which assumes a particular gendered description of God, which we know is not consistent with the full tradition of scripture. Additionally, the default use of malegod language perpetuates attitudes that prioritize the place of male members over and above women. It is a metaphor that is used by the early church (Ephesians 5:20, for example), though it had its limitations then and continues to today.*
So what do we do when an element of our liturgy, which is meant to bring us closer together and closer to God, has the opposite effect?
If liturgy really is the “work of/for the people”, we have to understand who is in our community, what is beneficial or troublesome for them, and how we can support one another to be fully included in a spiritual family.
What is special about the liturgy within the Disciples of Christ is that it is entirely determined by the participation of its members, which we choose to do through a committee governance and weekly feedback. What is radical is that we can use this power structure to find ways to support and include people who have been marginalized or dismissed, rather than imposing the will of a 51% majority. This fulfills the spirit of Ephesians 5:19-21, where Paul concludes his precepts for community life as to “submit to each other out of respect for Christ”.
As you participate in worship, try to imagine how our words and actions would appear to someone from different life circumstances. How do your life circumstances affect what is meaningful to you in worship?
*There are also concerns regarding theological, linguistic, and imperial connotations.