Monday, 22 October 2012

The evils of Contemporary Christian Music: Northside Baptist Church has its say

See link at

I was intrigued to discover that the Northside Baptist Church WA website teaches that "rock music is ungodly" and that some genres of soft rock Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) are totally opposed to sound Christian doctrine and practice.

For well intended youth ministers (e.g. Matt Maher) of several mainstream Churches, who have been dutifully slaving away trying to teach their demoralised, untutored congregations how to sing basic Biblical texts using popular music genres, this outright condemnation of soft rock from their fellow Christians may come as a bit of a shock. Yet even if you don't agree with the Northside Baptist stance, forbearance may be wise; it's worth reading and considering these detailed comments. The Baptists are trying to come to grips with how technical aspects (of rhythm, sound and delivery) embedded in Church music may support or weaken Church members' attempts to live as faithful Christians. And of course all Church musicians should try to work out roughly where they stand on at least some of the compositional and performance issues raised here.

Strangely, Northside Baptist Church's doubts about the validity of CCM for practising Christians are strongly reminiscent of the Tridentine Catholic Council that declared sung Gregorian chant the preferred form of Church music, excluding anything secular, profane or remotely lasvicious, and promoting public reverence and clear textual delivery. I can't help thinking that the Catholic canonists were fortunate not to encounter massive technological complexity, hard metal, and the internet, as we have. When parody Masses that included popular melodies, unintelligible multi-text songs, and virtuoso male cantors (who couldn't resist showing off by singing elaborate improvisations) appeared, Catholic lawmakers banned them. Goodbye all but a few sequences and tropes, hello polyphony, madrigals and grand opera. Protestant Reformation musicians promptly turned the chant into memorable metrical hymns (now called traditional), and Protestant Church oratorio composers made a mint. It may even be possible that, as a circuitous result of the Catholic crack-down, some Baptist hymn melodies are descended from Gregorian chant melodies. I have a feeling that it may be hard to keep a really good CCM down.

[N.B. I just read the warning against ecumenical Church music on the Northside Baptist site. Now I'm wondering if they've read John 17:14-23, or the 1982 "Baptism Eucharist and Ministry" agreed Statement of the World Council of Churches? But - sadly - the Australian Baptist Church Union is not a member of the WCC. Maybe the Catholic Church, which is also not yet a member of the World Council of Churches although in longterm dialogue with it, has more in common with Northside Baptist Church than I realised. Quite odd, considering all that was said to promote Church unity (and therefore ecumenical Church music) in Pope John Paul II's "Ut Unum Sint."]

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