Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

My song of praise was dropped from a US hymn book ...all because of one word

IT'S one of the best loved hymns in the world – but it could be about to disappear suddenly from church services.

A new edition of a Presbyterian hymn book in America has dropped Northern Ireland composer Keith Getty's inspirational song In Christ Alone.

The 39-year-old, originally from Lisburn, saw the song axed after he objected to its words being changed.

Church authorities had asked for the line which declares 'on that cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied' to be softened.

The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song for the new version of the Glory To God hymnal (right) wanted to substitute this with the lyrics with 'the love of God was magnified'.

But Getty and his co-author, Englishman Stuart Townsend, objected and refused permission for the change.

So the committee voted to drop the favourite song from the book even though it is widely regarded as one of the most popular hymns globally.

It is sung in many churches across Northern Ireland and the world every Sunday without fail.

The controversial decision to drop the song has become the most hotly-debated religious topic for years in the US.

Getty is now based in Nashville with singer wife Kristyn and their two-year-old daughter, Liza Joy.

Speaking on a trip home to his native Northern Ireland, he told of his feelings on the row.

"This debate has been going on for years about the lyrics and I don't really want to get involved in it," he said.

"All I will say is that most people everywhere love the words as they were written and I am happy about that and so is Stuart, especially as the way we wrote the lyrics is the way most people are singing them.

"We will not be changing the words and will await the outcome of the controversy."

The claim has been made that Presbyterian liberals in America want to take any mention of God's wrath out of the hymn book.

But the committee argues there's plenty of wrath in the new hymnal. Instead, the problem, they insist, is the word "satisfied", which the members declare refers to a specific view of theology they reject.

Mary Louise Bringle, a religious professor and hymnwriter in Nashville who was involved in the decision to drop the hymn, insisted this is true and that references to God's wrath do appear elsewhere in lyrics in the publication.

"We didn't take this decision lightly," said Mary Louise, who chaired the committee.

"People think that we've taken the wrath of God out of the hymnal. That's not the case. It's all over the hymnal. The issue was the word 'satisfied'."

But Getty and Townsend are determined they will give Bringle and her committee no satisfaction.

Debate over In Christ Alone is a mix of Church politics, the touchy subject of updating hymn lyrics and rival views of what Jesus' death on the cross meant.

Capitol CMG Publishing, which manages the rights for In Christ Alone, said it is working with the hymnal's publisher to fix the problem.

"We respect our songwriters and the integrity of their lyrics, and the intent of our request was to ensure the song retains the original lyrics as written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend," it said in a statement.

Getty and his wife are based in Nashville, from where they tour all over the States to appear at packed religious rallies to preach and sing.

They will be here for the next couple of weeks meeting old friends and attending church services at which In Christ Alone, the way it was written, will be sung.

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