Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As you are aware, the Women's Inter Church Council of Canada (WICC) based in Toronto distributes a World Day of Prayer (WDP) service which is written by the women of a different country each year. The service is held normally held on the first Friday in March. This year's theme is "Informed Prayer, Prayerful Action" and comes from the women of Samoa.
I think that we as Canadian Christians, who will likely attend or be invited to attend a World Day of Prayer Service, ought to know some interesting facts about this annual service.
I have obtained a copy of the original text, faxed to me from a woman in Samoa who was involved in its writing. You should know and make it known in your local community that the service written in Samoa differs greatly from the one which was edited and distributed by the WICC for use in Canada on this upcoming World Day of Prayer. The wording on the front of the WDP service booklet would lead one to believe that the service inside was "written by the women of Samoa." But, in truth it has been changed and re-written to the point that the new service is quite unlike the original upon which it is based. These revisions clearly reflect a significant change in the theology of the service. They reflect and seem motivated by a revisionist agenda. Here are some examples of these changes.
God language was changed throughout. Though the words Lord and Saviour appear in the original Samoan text, they have been completely removed from all prayers in the re-written one. The Word Father in reference to God, which appears several times in the prayers written by the Women of Samoa is not used in the WICC service except in the prayer of confession where the congregation is repeatedly asked to pray. "Loving God, father and mother of us all, we seek forgiveness and the empowerment to change our ways." Whereas the Samoan original reads; "Lord, forgive us" and concludes with, "Lord, please hear our prayer, as we offer it through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen."
The word Father was also removed by deleting the Lord's prayer which was replaced with the "Jesus Prayer" from the New Zealand Prayer Book. For those unfamiliar with this prayer (which is nonetheless introduced with the familiar words "And now let us pray as Jesus taught us") it begins "Eternal Spirit, Earth Maker, Pain-bearer, life giver, Source of all that is and that shall be. Father and Mother of us all, Loving God in whom is heaven...." As you can see, this bears no similarity to what is commonly known as the Jesus Prayer, i.e., "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."
All other references to God as Father in the prayers written by the women of Samoa were deleted by the Women's Inter Church Council of Canada. In the prayer of Intercession the congregational response "Loving Father, may your spirit empower us in informed Prayer" was modified by dropping the reference to God as Father. It now reads; "Loving God, may your spirit empower us in informed prayer."
The following phrases from the prayers of intercession were also modified. "O God our Father, we ask that you continue to call upon men and women of Samoa for your missionary work. We also need your blessings on all Theological Institutes for preparing our future ministers for Your work." was altered thus; "God of mercy, we commit the youth of today to your loving care. We ask your blessing on theological schools that prepare future ministers for your work."
In addition to all of the Trinitarian language of the Godhead being changed, other agenda driven amendments were also made. The following prayers were completely omitted by the revisers. "Give us wisdom to elect leaders who honour You truthfully, and are willing to serve others with humility." In the prayers for our church leaders this sentence was deleted; "May the Spirit of our Lord lead them as they proclaim Your Word throughout the world."
How is it that the women of Samoa view the word of God? In the prayer of thanksgiving we read. "We thank you for the Word of God that brought us the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We thank you for the men and women who dedicated their lives to bring the Gospel to the different parts of the world." This view of scripture is expressed quite differently in the modified prayer of thanksgiving which states; "The scriptures hold the mystery of God's word. They preserve for us the teachings of the great prophets and of Jesus. These holy writings have been lovingly kept by generations of faithful women and men as a source of inspiration for all those who seek its wisdom. Even today women and men continue to interpret the scriptures for our understanding."
All of these changes reflect a theologically divergent viewpoint that is
not in keeping with the manner in which the women of Samoa intended us
to pray. Moreover, Christians in Canada are being led to believe that
the service as it appears in the WDP booklets is in fact "written by the
women of Samoa." But such is not the case. Changes have been made to
nearly every aspect of the service. Changes which are a clear departure
from the faith. In the words of St. Jude, "I thought I had to write to
encourage you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted
to the saints." (Jude 3) To say the least, it is misleading to advertise
and promote this year's service as "written by the Women of Samoa" when
the service that was written by this year's host country has undergone
so many revisions that even the spirit of the original document is lost
from the new. We as Christians here in Canada need to be aware of what
has taken place and should not be accepting of such practice and
behaviour by the Women's Inter-Church Council of Canada, which is
heralding this service as authentically Samoan. It is unbelievably
arrogant that people should so deliberately and unapologetically revise
and change the original work done by the women of Samoa without any
disclaimer attached. While the new service is the one authorized by the
WICC for use in Canada, those involved in leading WDP services this year
might find the attached original document helpful in their planning of
this event and may even wish to use it instead. If you have any
questions or critiques on the World Day of Prayer Service it is
important that the WICC hear them. Direct your comments and questions to
The Women's Inter-Church Council of Canada at the following address:
201-394 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1X4
Phone: (416) 929-5184
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. David W.T. Thurlow
St. George's Anglican Church
1102 4th Street East
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan S6V 0L2
The Original Text
The text as provided by the WICC: I can supply a photocopy to anyone sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Tony Copple, 61 Highmont Court, Kanata, ON., K2T 1B2.