NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church could have a new hymnal by 2013 under plans endorsed by the denomination's General Board of Discipleship.

Directors of the board, meeting Aug. 22-25, voted to ask the 2008 General Conference to form a hymnal creation committee next year to begin developing a new hymnal.

If the committee's work is approved by the denomination's top legislative body in 2012, the new resource would replace The United Methodist Hymnal published in 1989. It would be the second official revision since the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches in 1968, not including new songbooks for specific racial/ethnic or language communities.

The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, chief staff executive of the Board of Discipleship, pointed out that the current hymnal would be almost 25 years old - "normally the life of a hymnal" - by the time a new one could be ready for distribution.

"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," Greenwaldt said.

The United Methodist Publishing House already has endorsed the project.

"Our 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," said Neil Alexander, president of the church's publishing agency.

Alexander suggested a new hymnal would include musical styles such as jazz, spirituals and contemporary harmonies and a greater variety of accompaniment settings for guitars, keyboards and percussion instruments. It also would draw more music from racial/ethnic communities and would better serve contemplative settings such as Taize worship and special services for baptism and communion.

The denomination recognized the need for new music amidst widening worship styles in 2004 when General Conference formed a committee to study:

  • Trends and measurement of congregational singing;

  • Psalter, services, ritual and service music;

  • Texts and tunes (including global and ethnic music);

  • Implications of digital and other emerging technologies for worship and congregational singing; and

  • The Wesley hymns.

The committee, with membership from the Board of Discipleship and the Publishing House, conducted research and listed 19 needs that include "new UM worship and music resources; … providing resources in a variety of ethnic and cultural styles; … (and) new UM resources for ethnic, global, praise, and contemporary music."

While the committee agreed on the needs, it opted not to make recommendations to the 2008 General Conference and instead referred its findings to Greenwaldt and Alexander, who then proposed the development of a new hymnal to their respective agencies.