Marriage task force releases study guide, discussion resources

Posted Jun 25, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has released Dearly Beloved, resources for conversation and discussion.

The following is a report From the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.

We are pleased to offer to The Episcopal Church a resource for study and discussion about marriage. This topic is of historic and timeless significance for the church; practices of marriage are undergoing social change in our own day; and our church, acting through resolution A050 at General Convention in 2012, asked that we develop tools for discussion on this subject.

We enter this conversation – as we always do when discerning our way forward – by considering those three sources of Anglican authority on the subject: scripture, tradition (including theology, liturgy, canon law, and history), and reason (including our human experience).

We are 12 appointees: bishops, theologians, educators, and pastors. As the Task Force that was charged with providing resources for this reflection, we have deeply explored marriage through the lenses of scripture, tradition, and reason. We continue to study and we continue to consult as Resolution 2012-A050 directs.

While we will not complete this work until we make our Blue Book report to General Convention 2015, we are able, at this time, to share with the church a bit of our efforts to date. And more importantly, we are eager to invite the church into discussion at the local level.

Our hope is that many will take advantage of this moment in our history to be a part of discerning our way forward. In our day, what is God calling us to understand, to say, and perhaps to do in regards to marriage?

We can only answer this question if far more than 12 people get involved. Broad discussion will assist those deputies and bishops – representatives of us all – at General Convention 2015, when they receive our report and consider possible responses to our church’s call to deepen this conversation.

The resource may be used in a variety of settings, and it consists of three different formats, which may be used independently of each other: a 90-minute event (which can be divided into three 35-minute sessions); a variety of 45-minute forums; and a lengthy article for a study group. All three formats cover theology, history, scripture, current trends, and more, with guidelines for presentation and questions for group discussion.

The Tool-Kit “Dearly Beloved”  here

The PowerPoint for the “Carry-On Conversations” resource here

Access the complete public website for General Convention’s A050 Task Force on Marriage here. 

Task Force Facebook page here

The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage is enabled by Resolution A050 at the 2012 General Convention.

Resolution A050 is available in full here.


Comments (8)

  1. Doug Desper says:

    People in Jesus’ time had a history to look back on of failed and distorted relationships. “One flesh” relationships included those that were polygamous, contractual, convenient, wealth-producing, abusive, and any number of human creations. By the time of Jesus humanity had “blessed” itself into a corner of self-deception about how to live with one and many. Without the benefit of a marriage study guide, Jesus simply returned humanity’s attention to Genesis 2 when he states: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19).

    Since we Episcopalians love to study would it not have been nice if this marriage study guide would have included the words of Christ on the subject of marriage? As it is, the study seems to assume and promote the forgone conclusion that we — like Jesus’ listeners — have found something new to call “marriage” that God himself forgot to think of. Not only is our human gall on this scary, but so also is the assumption that just because the State allows a new distortion of marriage that we must run behind and bless it. “Haven’t you read….?” Yes, we did and we’re going it alone, Lord.

  2. Tobias Haller says:

    Doug, please note that this is an initial study resource. The original draft did indeed have a Bible Study on Genesis 1 and 2, but it was felt by the committee that we had more than enough to offer at this stage to get conversation started. There will be plenty of further reflection on Genesis (and Matthew) in subsequent material.

    As to Matthew 19, it is true that this passage was in the 1928 BCP as the appointed Gospel for use when there was a celebration of the Holy Communion as part of a marriage. However, it is no longer among the readings suggested in the 1979 BCP, and at this point the committee chose to focus on the texts that are in current use.

    The resource contains a Bible Study on Ephesians 5 on page 23, and I note that Ephesians also quotes the Genesis 2 text to which Jesus referred in Matthew. There is also a study guide for conversations about other Scriptural and liturgical elements that inform the theology of marriage, on page 19.

    1. Doug Desper says:

      Tobias: Thank-you for your reply. I, like so many, wish to express concern that no forgone conclusions be assumed that we as a Church are of one mind about changing the biblical and catholic meaning of marriage. That Matthew 19 (including the Genesis 2 reference) — by themselves the plain words of Christ — did not remain past a first draft begs the question as to whose experience should have primacy as we seek to know the mind of God.

    2. Rich Basta says:

      Rev Haller:

      First of all, thank you for your committee’s work on producing this document. Many hours went into it, I am sure. Of course, nothing is ever perfect the first draft., and you can’t include everything or you would have a 200 page study guide.

      Thank you for clarifying the initial nature of the study resource. Perhaps on page 6 of the resource it may have been wise to re-state that this an initial study kit, and that subsequent tool kits will have more Scriptural foundations in it.

      I beleive that Mr. Despar’s point is well taken that the Bible guide on pages 19 and 23 should have first started with a direct , full quote from Jesus Christ upon the nature of marriage from Matthew 19, since His words are probbaly the most important, and affirm God’s ideal in Genesis that marriage be exclusively between one man and one woman. The heading simply would have stated – “What did Jesus say?” . The other passages cited on pages 19 and 23 are completetly appropriate to discuss other aspects and qualities of marriage, but it does tend to lead a reasonable person to beleive that the Bible discussion is based upon an incomplete Scriptural foundation.

      I look forward to further study guides which delve into Matthew and Genesis as well.

      God belss you and the work ahead of you.

  3. Tobias Haller says:

    Thanks for the comments. There will indeed be further reflection on Jesus’ teaching on marriage, which, of course, includes other passages in addition to the one in Matthew 19, which lost its place in the marriage liturgy between 1928 and 1979. As I noted, we were, in this resource, focusing on the texts that people actually experience in weddings. And, of course, people are always encouraged to bring their own concerns and perspectives to any discussion. It is important to know that the range of study is broad, and time is short!

    Thanks as well for recognizing that this is hard work, especially so with a membership divided by many miles, and few opportunities actually to work face to face.

  4. cynthia reynolds says:

    So very much work here. My only wish is that when you expand your discussion you include senior citizens who live in domestic patnershhips because they cannot afford to get married. With a partnership(in most states) they do not lose benefits they would lose with a marriage because the stae sees it as a legal contract like a business so they take nothing. It is the only way many seniors survive, but it bothers many of them because they don’t know how the church sees their relationship. The two people are just as committed for all the right reasons, they just don’t want some of the paper work. They are right with God in that they have chosent each other, but they are not necessarily so publicly.

  5. Steve Colburn says:

    Dear All of Those Above, Beloved in Christ,
    Please let us remember what the Task Force was actually charged with at General Convention 2012. The charge was not to redefine or define the Church’s view of marriage, but to explore and clarify the many dimensions of our understanding of marriage, in all its many aspects, according to the three cornerstones that have always guided the Church’s understanding of spiritual matters. Many of the challenges that the body of the Church have faced during the past 125 years or so, including those mentioned in the comments above, make it clear that more than ever before, in our history as a faith community, there is a need to seek a better understanding of the basis of our beliefs about marriage as Sacrament, Covenant, and Civil Institution. Until we have a sound, clear theology of marriage to underpin our rituals and practices, how can we possibly teach others, as well as ourselves, what has been given to us by Christ Jesus? This will take time, as there is much work to be done before this is accomplished with the depth and breadth that will be necessary to meet this great Commission, this wonderful opportunity that the Task Force and the whole Body of the Church have been given. I pray every day for those who do this work on our behalf, and look forward with faith to what that future will bring for all of God’s children.
    Amen (May it be so!)

    1. Doug Desper says:

      Steve – Matthew 19, the current canons, ritual, and catechism already define marriage. That issue was settled. If clergy and catechists have neglected their duty to teach it, then therein is the problem rather than believing that there was ever any ambiguity. The new urge to “seek a better understanding” is mainly from those who don’t agree with it, primarily because human experience and reason is being elevated above the plain word of Scripture. To have one’s “reason” serve as the locus of wisdom can, in the end, make anything possible seem reasonable. I shudder to think of our place if we allow a Convention of delegates to alter God’s first institution as though we are called to improve upon it. The hutzpah and gall would be staggering on earth and certainly in heaven.

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