The United Methodist Publishing House has finally made the Book of Worship available on-line through the General Board of Discipleship:
I am grateful.
UPDATE: The URL has changed.
I have publicly complained about UMPH’s copyright policies and the lack of public access to our church’s worship services since at least 2006. In one of my first on-line posts, I wrote:
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.
As of late as last year, I was still at it:
In January 2006 I complained about the United Methodist Church’s use of copyright. I haven’t changed my mind. The church’s ritual and worship resources, its Discipline and Book of Resolutions, its doctrinal texts and judicial decisions should all be made available to duplicate at will. They are our church’s word to the world. Why would we keep them to ourselves? Moreover, our prayers and liturgies should bless the world. To me, charging people to use our sacred texts is a form of simony.
I’m glad that UMPH eventually came to the same conclusion, at least with regard to the Book of Worship.