Texas bishop announces plan to navigate proposed blessings rite

By Carol E. Barnwell
Posted Apr 25, 2012

[Diocese of Texas] Diocese of Texas Bishop C. Andrew Doyle announced April 24 at a special meeting of diocesan clergy his response to the possible approval at this summer’s General Convention of an authorized rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships. Doyle outlined his plan to help unify the Diocese of Texas, addressing both liberal and traditional congregations’ positions at the gathering at Camp Allen.

Doyle began working with former Secretary of State James Baker in 2010 to develop the outline of his plan. He has since received support for his leadership from people in the diocese who represent the broad diversity of opinion on the blessing of same-gender covenants.

“My plan does not ask for further debate or require approval,” Doyle told the clergy gathered at Camp Allen. “I have not asked people to change their positions or even to like the plan that I am setting before us. It is my deepest desire to offer a generous breadth of pastoral care for our members throughout the diocese.”

The plan contains several options:

  1. Congregations may choose to take no action, one way or the other.
  2. Traditional congregations/rectors may state that they will not conduct or participate in rites for blessing persons of the same gender, sponsor for ordination anyone or employ any clergy who are in a non-celibate relationship outside holy matrimony.
  3. Following General Convention, one congregation in Houston and one congregation in Austin will be granted permission to bless same-gender covenants. Both the rector and the congregation must support such a liturgy and must complete the congregational education portion of the process. Additional congregations may request permission in the future. A provision for clergy who wish to do blessings of same-gender relationships outside the church is also included.

Current Texas law does not recognize unions of same-gender couples therefore no representation may be made that the blessing liturgy either creates or solemnizes any marriage, civil union or other legal relationship.

Noting the predominant traditional stance in the Diocese of Texas, the bishop said that he will vote against the resolution to approve rites for blessing a same-gender partnership and that he will abstain from voting on the election of bishops living in a same-gender partnership. Additionally, he stated that he personally will not bless any same-gender relationship.

In a 120-page document, Unity in Mission, with a foreword by Secretary Baker, the bishop provides his in-depth perspective on the unity of the church, his leadership, foundations in traditional marriage and a discussion of opposing views as well as what he believes is a proper response. A detailed description of his plan to provide different responses while maintaining the unity of the church provides several options. Also included in the paper is a letter of support from a broad and diverse group of clergy and lay leaders. They note that the real cost of the conflict over the last several decades has been “the mission of the gospel” and state their support of the bishop and acknowledge his plan as a way forward. Supporters say the plan is “an earnest offering to live into our Lord’s Prayer that ‘we all may be one’” while they acknowledge that not everyone will be happy with it.

Doyle has made provision for clergy and congregations to change their position at any time. Guidelines will be available in the fall of 2012 to help clergy and congregations respond pastorally.

“I hold our work for the Lord Jesus Christ to be paramount in who we are and in everything we do. Our mission and ministry have been dogged by our disagreements and conflict over the blessing of same-gender couples for too long at the expense of the mission of the gospel,” Doyle said. “I pray that this plan will help to guide us beyond conflict and give us the ability to refocus our attention on the hurting world around us. I am hopeful that we will learn from one another and deepen our respect and love for one another throughout this process.”

A copy of the full plan may be found at: www.epicenter.org/unity.

— Carol E. Barnwell is director of communications for the Diocese of Texas.


Comments (13)

  1. Mark James says:

    It’s shameful that some within even the Episcopal Church we continue to treat people as half-humans. Get over it! Gays and lesbians live next door to us and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

    1. David Yarbrough says:

      The Episcopal church is “salt that has lost its savour”. Instead of speaking God’s truth in love – including Biblical teachings on sexuality and lifestyle – it extols “radical welcome” but only welcomes visitors to a hollow shell.

      All persons – gay or straight – are children of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Speaking Biblical truth is not a breach of dignity or respect, it is an act of love.

      Every member of the Church is a sinner, continually redeemed and re-redeemed by God’s grace through repentance. Each of us has our sin of choice. That shouldn’t result in the Church denying the presence of sin and the need for repentance and redemption – although that seems to be the modus operandi of TECUSA.

      Compare the attitude toward Biblical teachings on morality with that toward Biblical teachings on stewardship – and the squirming in the pews during every sermon or lay talk on tithing. Way too many of us (yes, you and me) fall short of God’s standard – but we continue to teach the truth, and we don’t actively affirm falling short as virtuous. Why is our attitude toward addressing sexual sin any different?

      By all means open the doors of God’s church, and extend the right hand of Christian fellowship, to all persons. This does NOT mean to sanction non-Biblical relationships, or to offer ordination to those who are in such relationships.

      1. Brandon Coreale says:

        When you say “non-Biblical relationships” are you speaking of polygamy? Or just women as property in general?

  2. Benjamin Phillips says:

    I’m a life-long gay man and an Episcopalian all my adult life. I am encouraged by what I read here.

  3. Mike Losinger says:

    It finally has become clear to me: the Texas “answer” is just one more piece in the on-going and seemingly endless attempt to hold the Church together. Its audience is the shrinking, aging Church. Meanwhile, most gays and lesbians of all ages and all spiritualities have just moved on to a newer planet living out whatever gifts of hospitality, community and caring are given. The room reserved for this internal debate just keeps getting smaller and further off the main drag. Maybe we need to send out the Spirit-patrol to report back on how God is active in the non-church world, where so many of us gays and lesbians live now, with recommendations on how to find our way out of the fort onto the Emmaus road.
    Mike Losinger, Albany, New York (yes)

  4. Jessica Dye says:

    When did “Love your neighbor as yourself” become “Love your neighbor as yourself unless it’s socially awkward”?

    I have to say that I support Bishop Doyle in his effort to hold the church together. I pray that God continues to hold him up; as I can’t imagine how he’s not breaking in half due to the pressure being put on him by both sides of this argument.

    Not that long ago it was considered controversial, if not out-right “un-Christian”, to ordain an African-American, or a Native American; now the two men who were the firsts of their race are recognized as Anglican saints. Not that long ago it was considered controversial, if not out-right “un-Christian”, to bless an interracial marriage, and it certainly wasn’t legally binding even if you did.

    I pray that my children will see the day when they are able to say “Not that long ago our church was divided over same-gender marriages” in the same saddened tone as withholding ordainment from those called by God because of the color of their skin brings now. In the mean time it’s my place as an Episcopalian to teach my children Christ’s commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself…through sickness and in health, whether they are rich or poor, when it’s easy and most especially when it’s difficult – regardless of the color of their skin or who they fall in love with.

  5. Brent Was says:

    It is unfortunate that the same energy and attention to detail was not brought to bear on the liberal use of the death penalty in Texas, or the BP oil spill or the climate-change related tornadoes that recently pummelled his Diocese.

  6. Joye Brinkman Cawley says:

    Good for the Bishop! Please, people! Not everything is about sex! Even for “gay” people, it’s not all about sex. Sin isn’t about sex! Sin is that which separates us from being the stewards of all the earth, people included. People of my generation sometimes forget that “people” are of an amazing variety of type, and SIN is what separates us from each other and from the God which made every single one of every single type. Episcopalians say “We respect the dignity of every human being.” That would include even people we don’t understand or even like. Thanks be to God for this loving, understanding church.

  7. Bruce Green says:

    Good for the bishop in trying to give a thoughtful, prayerful, and pastoral preparation to this possible transition. He did not stick his head in the sand and he remembered we are talking about the lives of human beings. I hope we can get off our ideological band wagons and join in the celebration of reconciliation of all persons to God.

  8. Julian Malakar says:

    It seems to me Bishop C. Andrew Doyle tries to make a heterogeneous spiritual mixture to homogeneous mixture by placing a rule of conduct in rites of two different kind of matrimony.

    The matrimony with same gender which kicked off in 2003 by consecrating a bishop lived together of same gender with blessing from The American Psychological Association (APA), modern mass media and contemporary state politics. While the other marriage between opposite gender have been celebrating since the origin of life on earth. Blessing of God for marriage between man and women and disapproval of God for same gender have solid evidence in the words of God in the Bible.

    Believers of same gender marriage tried unsuccessfully justifying God’s blessing for same gender based on God’s commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, forgetting holistic love have no sexual attraction for personal pleasure. Technically APA’s direct blessing towards same sex is the main cause of today’s confusion about holy marriage. We should remember APA is earthly organization, whose endorsement has no effect on will of God.

    Bishop Doyle’s testimony in the plan indicates that he does not believe, for what he made the plan. He does not endorse for same sex marriage. He made the plan for the sake of unity only. In this sense, I wish Lord Jesus Christ would have commanded us to stand on two boats for the sake of making peace. It is natural truth that we cannot make homogeneous mixture out of oil and water. One always stays on top of the other, unless bottle is shaken well all the time to mix evenly. Is this plan feasible for permanent unity?

  9. Jim Stockton says:

    Brent W., I live and serve here in the DoT, and I assure you that great attention has been and is being given in this diocese to the the use of the death penalty, the effects of natural disaster both here and outside our diocese, and the accountability of corporate-government complex. These efforts don’t catch media attention as readily as does the matter of sex and sexuality, but this doesn’t negate the fact that these matters in fact receive more attention here than the controversy around sexual orientation and inclusion of LGBTQ persons in life and ministry of the Church. One easily lament this state of affairs, but the reality is that not all concerns are equally urgent for each person or even each diocese.

    IMHO, the controversy behind this controversy is the variant ways people in the Church are reading and appropriating scripture. Folks taking a text-literalist approach are rarely if ever going to be open to modifying their views. Often it is a struggle for them even to identify their opinions as such, rather than as objective God-spoken truths. But people with more flexible appreciation for scripture can come to see that discrimination and prejudice based on morally neutral circumstances or states of being are intellectually and spiritually indefensible. They are superstition; the opposite of true religion.

    Bp Doyle has recognized that the Church is moving in a direction that he, as bishop ordinary, must accommodate. Whether he is for or against same-sex unions personally is less a concern. In fact, if he is indeed opposed, then this policy is all the more sacrificial on his part. In any case, we can commend him for this step forward. Is this process perfect? One can argue that it is not. But no one can argue that it is less than significant progress. For its decisiveness, this action is almost unprecedented in the long history of this diocese.

    No process will ever satisfy those people who regard as unholy same-gender love and commitment. But other people both within and outside the Church will soon see the Episcopal Church take a mighty step in declaring its opposition to prejudice. People outside the Church will begin to give TEC a second look, on the possibility that we have named our hypocrisy and begun to eliminate it. At the same time, people will note that TEC is requiring no lock-step spirituality, is imposing no specious unanimity. People in the Church will continue to disagree around this controversy and others, some that haven’t yet emerged, no doubt. And TEC will, God willing, demonstrate a generous latitude on matters that are tangential, at least for some, to a vigorous and nurturing relationship with God in Christ Jesus.

    There is much to celebrate in Bp Doyle’s process and much in the Church’s expected actions at General Convention this summer. Thanks be to God.

  10. Jason Matthew says:

    So “loving your neighbor as you love yourself” has turned into “if you don’t accept and support gay marriage and same-sex blessings” then you are not fulfilling Christ’s command? Wow is about all I can say to that kind of belief! How do you explain the church’s teaching and the Christian understanding of marriage for the past 2000 years? God was wrong until 2003….I guess?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been open to the idea that God could have a different attitude about sexuality and marriage for committed same sex couples, however, I have yet to hear one half way decent theological argument for it. As far as love goes, as somebody else mentioned, love is shown, at times, by saying “no” and “that’s too far.” A parent who corrects their child when they are in error and shows them right from wrong is showing a lot more love than a parent who lets their child do whatever they want.

    Also, what kind of fruit has the church produced since passing legislation on these controversial sex issues? I don’t think fighting with fellow Christians over property and then selling it for way less to Muslims presents a very good Christian witness for TEC, do you? The actions of the national church has shown nothing but spite to anybody who dare disagrees with them. How about the weekly church closings? How about the free fall in membership and the losses of large dioceses? How about the decreases in plate and pledge? How about the dramatic fall of average Sunday attendance below 700,000? Is the church really doing God’s will or is it become a arm of extreme left wing party politics featuring a “hallow” Christianity? You can’t just sweep all of this under the rug and pretend that this church is doing “just fine.”

    Lastly, has the church become more exclusive in its quest to become inclusive? Seems that the Episcopal Church Welcomes You….so long as you’re either gay, a far left wing activist, or not even Christian at all. The only people drawn to this church now are a very small amount of gays, left wing activists, and guilty feeling white liberals. Seems like a pretty exclusive church to me. Meanwhile, the more traditional Christians in this church are often undermined and made to feel like they have no voice….some even suggest that we just leave. Not very inclusive at all…

  11. Bob Hawley says:

    Regarding church-blessed same sex marriage: What’s the point? Civil same sex marriage is now the law of the land; why involve the TEC or any other denomination in a divisive and ultimately fruitless internal controversy. My own parish has warmly welcomed gay individuals and couples as long as my family have been members, yet the idea of performing same sex weddings in our church will go down hard with many parishioners. Why? A.) There is absolutely no doctrinal/biblical support for such a notion, and B.) Same sex marriage has never before been practiced in the entire history of the human race.. If Caesar approves it -fine, but that should have no bearing on how we conduct church ritual.

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