The Lord's Prayer, one of the cornerstones of Christianity, has become the focus of a religious donnybrook pitting traditionalists against modernists in Britain's official Church of England.
Should prayer use powerful rhetorical language, or should it be simple, direct and accessible?That is the question facing leaders of the Church of England and being echoed in other Christian denominations around the world also seeking ecumenical agreement and a common Lord's Prayer for the new millennium.
Judging it an investment in the future, a synod of British bishops meeting in London this month voted 272-68 to accept a modern version for new church prayer books.
"It is important that we agree on a Lord's Prayer that can be taught to children. It embodies the values that bind society," said Canon Stephen Oliver at St. Paul's Cathedral here. A recent poll showed that 80 percent of Britons could recite the traditional version of the prayer but that among those aged 16-25, only half knew it.
The prayer, which Christians believe is the only one that Christ himself taught, is taken from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Eng-lish translations derived across the centuries from the original Greek are open to reinterpretation, the overwhelming majority of bishops agreed.
Out then, with "and lead us not into temptation," used in Anglican churches since the 16th-century days of church-splitter Henry VIII. The 21st-century replacement is "save us from the time of trial."
New Age Anglicans will no longer forgive those "who trespass against us." Rather, they will forgive "those who sin against us."
Our Father no longer art in heaven. He is just there, verb-lessly, in a translation originally produced in 1975. The biblical "thy" and "thine" are swapped for the more colloquial "you" and "yours."
Supporters say that the changes not only make the prayer more approachable but make clearer the meaning of the original Greek texts.
"The key word `trial,' for example, is much closer than `temptation,' " said Oliver. "Today's bread" is also better than "this day our daily bread," according to the majority of the English bishops, who represent 26 million British members of the 70-million-strong Anglican communion.