"To consider changing the language of the traditional hymns or carols can only cause other denominations to snicker at our foolishness, and rightly so," wrote Kathryn C. Duncan of Dillonvale, Ohio, in a letter to the editor of the United Methodist Reporter.
In fact, however, a number of other denominations are undergoing or have recently completed the same kind of process.
Episcopalians in January began using "Hymnal 1982," dated for the year of the General Convention that approved it, after a series of intense hearings. They wrestled with many of the same questions of outmoded theology, sexism, racism and even anti-Semitism in making the final selection of more than 700 hymns.
Three strands of Lutheranism, scheduled to merge into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988, produced a new joint hymnal in 1978. A fourth, more conservative group, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, withdrew from the undertaking a year before it was completed, on the grounds that it was not compatible with Lutheran theology.
Last year delegates to the annual Synod of the Christian Reformed Church took eight hours to sing every hymn proposed for inclusion in their new book.
A new hymnal is planned by the Presbyterian Church as soon as the denomination can mesh the ecclesiastical machinery of the North and South branches of the church, formally reunited three years ago after more than a century of separation.
Even the government got into the act in 1974 with publication of a new Book of Worship for United States Armed Forces. Then a group spearheaded by some congressional wives forced the Armed Forces Chaplains Board to scissor out two pages containing modern hymns to which they took strong exception.