Mid-America's Position on Liturgical Drama


At the April 10, 1992 meeting of Mid-America Presbytery, the court voted to adopt the "Report of the Committee to Study the Propriety of Drama in Worship." The ad hoc committee had been formed a year earlier because of "some members of presbytery objecting to drama being used in public worship services in some churches of presbytery."
The committee defined drama in worship as "a scripted or improvised theatrical event of one or more persons conducted as an act of corporate worship." The group said, "It is possible to discuss 'drama' or 'theater' as something distinct from that which is 'dramatic' or 'theatrical'. While agreeing that there are similarities between drama and something dramatic, it is also held by the committee that there is enough of a line that can be drawn between drama proper and liturgical events (such as the sacraments) that are dramatic to make it possible to discuss one (drama) without discussing the other (anything that seems dramatic)."
The committee next found that "drama, as defined above, is neither a 'part' of worship, as defined in the Confession of Faith, XXI.5, nor an 'element' as defined in the Book of Church Order, 47-9. It is the opinion of the committee that any attempt to introduce drama or theater into a liturgy as a distinct element must be prohibited by church courts as a violation of the 2nd Commandment, which is dealt with by Larger Catechism Q.&A. 109."
Furthermore, "It is the finding of the committee that drama or theater is not a 'circumstance' of worship as defined in the Confession of Faith, I.6. The committee, in examining the Scriptures, did not find any examples of drama as illustrative of the spoken word in the context of corporate worship. Prophets did engage in dramatic gestures but not as a means of illustrating the Wrod being proclaimed. The Scriptures do, however, contain illustrations given by God which do illustrate or embody truth. Whether it is the smoking pot of Genesis 15 or the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, God does commend truth to the elect through these means."
The committee "was unable to come to a consensus on whether to recommend the absolute prohibition of drama in worship as an adjunct to the sermon. While none of the committee currently use [sic] drama in worship, some members of the committee wanted to leave the option of using drama as a method of illustration or emphasis in the sermon. Those members who wanted to leave open the option of using drama as illustration did want to make the following cautions to those who wold consider using drama in conjunction with the sermon: a. The use of drama carries a danger of turning worship of God into a performance for men; b. The use of drama increases the congregation's natural tendency to be man-centered instead of God-centered; c. The use of drama can become a prominent part of the proclamation of the Word, overshadowing the exposition of Scripture, i.e., they may remember the skit and not the sermon; d. Those who choose to use drama must be sure not to contribute to a cultural problem that parishioners cannot think, infer, or deduce without heavier and heavier doses of sensory stimulation. In other words, those who use drama must take extreme care that they are not re-enforcing the intellectual impotence that is endemic in our television age rather than helping free parishioners from that impotence by simply expouding the Word and so weaning them from their addiction to sensory stimuli; and e. The use of drama substitutes a more complex and ambiguous form of communication for a simpler, plainer verbal communication through the Word expounded and preached. The users of drama must not forget the blessings of God through the anointing of his Holy Spirit on the Word preached."
The continuing relevance of this document, adopted almost five years ago, is seen in that the court ordered "[c]opies of this report be sent to all Teaching Elders and Sessions of this presbytery, and to all candidates now and future of this presbytery for the gospel ministry."