TEC endorses temporary local option on gay blessings: The Church of England Newspaper, July 22, 2012 p 6. July 22, 2012Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
Tags: same-sex blessings
The Episcopal Church has approved provisional local rites for the blessings of same-sex unions. By a 3 to 1 margin in its House of Deputies and a 2 to 1 margin in its House of Bishops, the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Indianapolis from 5-12 July 2012 endorsed the resolution entitled “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships.”
Supporters of the resolution have hailed the vote as a victory for “justice” and “inclusion” while critics charge the church has turned its back on the undivided witness of the universal church. However, one deputy noted the vote was more symbolic than practical.
The Archdeacon of Albany (New York) the Ven. David Collum told the convention that the “resolution would not change what is happening on the ground.” Those who support gay blessings and gay marriage are already using these rites, while those who opposed gay blessings as un-Scriptural will never use these rites.”
“What will happen is that more will leave the Episcopal Church,” he said, adding that “this really is about the majority wielding power – saying ‘we don’t care’ to the minority,”
Crafted by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Church Music, the resolution underwent extensive revision before it was first presented to the House of Bishops for action. Language calling the liturgy “trial rites” was withdrawn and the texts were renamed “provisional rites.” The change was made committee chairmen Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont and the Assistant Bishop of Maryland Joe Burnett said, so as to avoid the provisions of Article X of the church’s constitution, which requires a supermajority of bishops to pass the resolution. While the resolution for “provisional rites” was adopted by the bishops on a vote of 111 to 41 with 3 abstaining, a vote for “trial rites” would have required 153 yes votes.
A second change made in the resolution was the addition of a conscience clause, a conservative member of the committee, the Very Rev. David Thurlow told CEN that stated no member of the clergy shall “be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support” for the resolution. Language was also introduced allowing bishops to opt out of the liturgy.
The effect is that for the next three years, same-sex blessings are lawful in dioceses where the bishop permits their use, and unlawful where the bishop has forbidden their use.
The Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. Marianne Budde urged adoption of the resolution saying gays and lesbians “only want the church to honor their relationships.” she said.
Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina argued the concept of gay marriage was theologically incoherent. “I do not want to lose the symbolism of the holy marriage feast of Christ and his bride” by wrenching marriage from its traditional moorings.
The day after the bishops endorsed the resolution, the House of Deputies – consisting of four lay and four clergy deputies from each of the church’s 111 dioceses – took up the resolution.
Before debate began, President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson recognized Dean Thurlow of South Carolina who was given permission to read a minority report that “takes issue with the theology” being introduced.
For “2000 years the one holy catholic and apostolic church — the undivided church — has had clear teachings on marriage,” he said, which were now being repudiated. This was a slap in the face to the church’s ecumenical and Anglican partners and a repudiation of the pledge not to take action on gay blessings “until the Anglican Communion had reached a consensus” on this issue. It was also a “clear departure from the doctrine and discipline” of the church and propounded a “new theology of marriage” that was “inconsistent with Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution and Canons” of the church.
“Consider what is at stake,” Dean Thurlow said.
Debate proceeded for a half hour, with each side taking turns at three minute intervals. Conservatives raised technical objections to the resolution in addition to the theological concerns voiced by Dean Thurlow.
Canon Neal Michell of Dallas asked the resolution be returned to the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Church Music as it had “not done all the work” assigned to it by the 2006 General Convention. The committee had been “asked for theology. Preparation of the rite is only one part” of their mandate, he argued, and “theology must be addressed” before the resolution is adopted.
A deputy from Dallas, stated that “no question was more important” to the convention than the gay-blessings resolution. “However this implies an additional obligation to follow our own procedures,” he said, adding there had been “gamesmanship all round” this resolution.
He objected to the substitution of “trial” for “provisional” rites so as to avoid the super-majority voting threshold, noting there was no such thing as a “provisional” rite according to the canons. “If we are going to do this, let’s do it right,” he said.
However the Rev. Ernesto Medina of Nebraska stated that he believed gay blessings were an appropriate “pastoral response” to the needs of same-sex couples who sought the validation for their lifestyle from the church. “There is never anything wrong with celebrating love,” he said, and nothing wrong with “celebrating a blessing.”
Deputy Ian Hallas of Chicago also rose and spoke in favor of the resolution. He said he “will be part of my sister’s civil ceremony.” As emotion welled in his throat, he said his sister’s same-sex relationship “speaks to the ideal relationship that all of us ought to have.”
“I want to return home from this convention with this gift for my sister,” and ensure that she has “the same rights, the same privileges as myself.”
After further debate and a number of amendments proffered by conservatives to delay a vote, a vote by deputations, with the four deputies from each diocese voting amongst themselves to set the diocese’s vote.
The vote in the lay order was 86 yes, 19 no, 5 divided, with 78 per cent in favor. In the clergy order the vote was 85 yes, 22 no, 4 divided, with 76 per cent in favor. The resolution takes legal effect on the first day of Advent.
The day after the vote, the Diocese of South Carolina deputation announced that six of its eight deputies and its bishop, Mark Lawrence, would be withdrawing from the convention. While they were not leaving the Episcopal Church, their disquiet over the outcome of the vote necessitated their withdrawal to think through the consequences of the vote.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.