According to reports, the Vatican has decided to copyright all papal documents, It’s none of my business what Vatican does, but some of my own denomination’s copyright rules disturb me greatly. I’m all for the publishing house making a buck, but certain products of the church should be made freely available to all, among them:

  • the official worship services of the church
  • the Discipline (an official public record of the church’s faith and law)
  • Judicial Council decisions (an official public record of the church’s court decisions)

When I say “freely available,” I don’t mean that the publishing house shouldn’t charge for the dead-tree editions of these resources. Paper, ink and labor all cost money. What I mean is that the publishing house should not treat these official documents as their own possession. The words are products of the general church. They should not be hidden from the world; they express our very being as a church.

The words of our worship services should bless the world. They are holy things and gifts from God; we do not own them in the same way that Paul McCartney owns the words to “Yesterday.” Sell the paper and ink, but the words belong to God and he offers them to the world freely. So, I would bless you today:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you [all]. Amen.

Alas, the words of my would-be blessing are on page 53 of the United Methodist Book of Worship (1992) and I don’t have permission to use them. As an elder in an extension ministry, I would use them outside a United Methodist congregation and the copyright doesn’t allow that. Isn’t it great that the first words that people read in our book of worship are those written by lawyers? So, instead, I’ll say “Have a nice day.” I don’t think that’s copyrighted.

Oh, and by the way, all the words published here are copyright by me. © 2006. All rights reserved. See you in court.