Tuesday, November 27, 2012

7000 White Men Singing

Over on his wall, my facebook friend Rev. Ligon Duncan announced the release of a new album of congregational singing.
On November 27, 2012 Sovereign Grace Music will release Together for the Gospel Live II, the second live recording of the singing at Together for the Gospel.
In April of 2010 and 2012, thousands gathered in Louisville, KY, to participate in the Together for the Gospel conference. This album contains 16 of the songs they sang, led by Bob Kauflin on piano.
Go here for ALBUM INFORMATION: http://sovereigngracemusic.org/Albums/Together_for_the_Gospel_Live_II

The Together for the Gospel conference is a gathering of conservative (mostly white) evangelical pastors. They are committed to all sorts of things. Its web site has eighteen articles of "Affirmations & Denials." Among them is the affirmation that, "the teaching office of the Church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings." If you want to know what this doctrinal position sounds like, listen to this YouTube clip.
The worship leader, Bob Kauflin, explains over on Sovereign Grace Music's website:
While we can glorify God through a variety of musical instruments, we’re commanded over 50 times in Scripture to sing God’s praise. So we left the electric guitars, drums, and basses at home for this project.
While I love this commitment to congregational singing, I can't help thinking that the guitars, drums and basses were not all that was left behind at home. 

I am not trying to score a cheap point here--this group of men make a remarkable sound and from the conference organizers' point of view, this is what seven thousand pastors should sound like. But when I listen to it as congregational singing, the absence of women's voices is deeply disturbing.

I have just finished mixing Red Team's new album and so I am perhaps particularly attuned to hearing all the voices. In the process of mixing the album I learned something new. On one track I had my children sing. They are just two small voices in a multi-tracked crowd of 50 voices. However, the timbre of children's voices cuts through the mix and completely changes the sound. The inclusion of just one voice can change the sound of a large group.

If congregational singing is "a sounding image of the unified church" as theologian Steven Guthrie claims, then I prefer my congregational singing to include everything that has breath praising the Lord. Perhaps it is a good exercise to listen out for the voices we can't hear singing in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. This musical concern might lead us to some significant ecclesial soul-searching.

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