General Convention will again grapple with same-sex marriage questions

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Apr 4, 2018

“Liturgical Resources 1: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing” was one of the rites General Convention authorized in 2015 for trial use. Photo: Church Publishing Inc.

[Episcopal News Service] On June 26, 2015, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the 78th General Convention was in its second day.

A few days later, convention authorized two new marriage rites for trial use (Resolution A054) by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The bishops and deputies also made the canonical definition (via Resolution A036) of marriage gender-neutral.

Indie Pereira asked her priest, who was at convention in Salt Lake City, if this meant she and her then-fiancée could finally get married at their parish in Tennessee.

It wasn’t until November 2015 that the answer to Pereira’s question became clear. Diocese of Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt told the diocese that he would not allow the use of the rites and that only marriages between men and women could be performed in the diocese. He said that same-sex couples could work with Diocese of Kentucky clergy, whose bishops said they could use the rites.

“From my perspective, I don’t really want to have a destination wedding in Kentucky, not to insult Kentucky,” Pereira told Episcopal News Service.

Thus, “almost three years later, we still haven’t had access to a church wedding, which we had been hoping for,” said Pereira, who attends St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Nashville. She and her partner had a civil marriage but, she added, “I still hope that I can have my marriage blessed in my parish.” And blessed by the priest who, she said, “has walked with me through some of the most difficult moments of my life.”

When convention authorized the liturgies in 2015, bishops and deputies said individual diocesan bishops had to approve their use. And convention directed diocesan bishops to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.”

General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage has since monitored the use of the trial liturgies and is aware of concern about unequal access to the trial use liturgies. Its Blue Book Report, released April 3, says it found that eight diocesan bishops in the church’s 101 domestic dioceses have not authorized the trial liturgies.

The Episcopal Church includes 10 dioceses in civil legal jurisdictions that do not allow marriage for same-sex couples. Since church canons require compliance with both civil and canonical requirements for marriage, convention did not authorize the trial liturgies for use in those dioceses. The task force received a statement that was signed by five Province IX diocesan bishops and one retired bishop representing the dioceses of Ecuador Litoral, Ecuador Central, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Honduras. Their statement criticized the task force’s recommendations and threatened that approval would “greatly deepen the breach, the division and the Ninth Province will have to learn to walk alone.” The bishops of Colombia and Puerto Rico did not sign the statement.

The task force is proposing that convention require bishops in authority to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial rites.” It also would have convention say that bishops will “continue the work of leading the church in comprehensive engagement with these materials and continue to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.” The reference to “generous pastoral response” echoes Resolution 2009-C056, which forms part of the history of the church’s move toward marriage equality.

In the General Convention worship hall before the daily Eucharist on June 26, 2015, the Rev. Susan Russell, a longtime advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, past president of Integrity, and senior associate at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, celebrates that day’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. With her is the Rev. Michael Sniffen, now the dean of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York, and a self-described “straight ally.” Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Essentially, the task force is saying that, in the words of the Rev. Susan Russell, a task force member who helped research the acceptance and use of the trial liturgies, “it shouldn’t depend on your ZIP code to have access to the rites.”

The eight bishops who have prohibited same-gender marriage in their dioceses are Albany Bishop William Love, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, Dallas Bishop George Sumner, Florida Bishop John Howard, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, Tennessee’s Bauerschmidt and Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs, according to the task force.

Love, Brewer, Sumner, Martins and Bauerschmidt prohibit clergy canonically resident in those dioceses to use the liturgies inside or outside of the diocese, the report said.

“At this point it’s very unclear whether canonically resident clergy could actually use the liturgies [anywhere] without the permission of their own bishop,” Bauerschmidt told ENS before the report was released. “So, that’s not so much my idea, but I think it’s implied by the 2015 resolution.”

The bishops in Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida and Tennessee have told same-sex couples who wish to be married to go to a neighboring diocese, according to the report. Smith has provided Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) for a parish that asked to use the liturgies. The task force said it could not determine whether Gumbs has made provisions for Virgin Islands couples to access the liturgies.

“I was honestly quite surprised to find that the liturgies were being so overwhelmingly received and overwhelmingly authorized with so few restrictions,” Russell, a longtime advocate for the full inclusion of LBGTQI people in the life of the church, told Episcopal News Service.

“I couldn’t have imagined those numbers 10 years ago,” she added.

Task Force Chair Joan Geiszler-Ludlum agreed. She told ENS that the group found that the restrictions some bishops have placed on their use are “fairly innocuous” and include such things as approval of both the rector and the vestry or use after a congregational discernment process.

The overwhelming majority of task force members agreed to call for the whole church to have equal access to the rites, Geiszler-Ludlum and Russell said.

The proposed new requirement of “reasonable and convenient access” is not the only recommendation on marriage that the task force is making to General Convention. The group is calling for continued trial use of the liturgies as additions to the Book of Common Prayer, as well as amendments to the prayer book’s other marriage rites, prefaces and sections of the Catechism to make language gender-neutral.

The task force would also have convention authorize two liturgies for blessing the relationships of couples who choose not to marry for legal or financial reasons. It also recommends that the church ponder new ways to minister to the growing number of people who cohabitate in committed and monogamous relationships rather than marry. ENS coverage of those recommendations can be found here.

Meanwhile back in Tennessee

Episcopalians who live in the eight dioceses and want access to same-sex marriage worry that the rest of the church does not grasp their situation. Connally Davies Penley, who helped form the advocacy group All Sacraments for All People, or ASAP, in the Diocese of Tennessee, says that when she travels to other dioceses and tells her diocese’s story “people are just astonished. They have no idea that this is happening. I think if people know, we can get somewhere, but they just don’t know.”

ASAP and five congregations submitted a diocesan convention resolution to have the diocese ask General Convention to allow clergy and churches to decide on access to the same-sex marriage rites, instead of bishops.

“I think the work before us is to learn how to speak to each other in a gracious way, not to engage in legislation. The trouble with legislative fixes is that in making them we create winners and losers,” Bauerschmidt said in his address to diocese convention.

In the end, the convention passed a substitute resolution to send a so-called “memorial” to General Convention asking that its 2018 deliberations “take into account the exclusions, competing convictions, and loss of community experienced by the members of this diocese under the current terms of authorization for these texts.”

ASAP supported the substitute resolution “because we thought it could pass and it did almost unanimously, and so to have something from the whole diocese with an almost unanimous vote seemed powerful,” said Davies Penley.

Pereira agreed. “It said that the way things are currently are not working well for our diocese, so we thought that was a good start,” she said.

“It was wonderful occasion of a diocese coming together in the face of the prospect of challenges to our unity,” Bauerschmidt told ENS.

Davies Penley and Pereira said their and ASAP’s goal is “to draw the circle bigger,” in Davies Penley’s words. “This has been drawn here as this black-and-white, either-or issue,” she said. “I’m not going to change Bishop Bauerschmidt’s mind, and that’s not my job. I just want room for all of us.”

“And while I disagree with priests in this diocese who say it’s wrong, I’m not trying to change their minds and I trust their hearts. They’re trying to do their best but leave space for us, too.”

Geiszler-Ludlum and Russell said the resolution was a compromise that “was still a win for them.” Russell added that the history of the effort to allow all Episcopalians access to the sacrament of marriage has included other compromises along the way.

A push for equal access in Central Florida

The Rev. Alison Harrity, rector of St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park, said some priests in the Diocese of Central Florida have considered what one called “a public act of canonical disobedience” after which they would face the consequences in order to draw attention to the disparity.

Harrity and others from St. Richard’s and elsewhere in the diocese attempted in late January to have their diocesan convention change a canon that restricts marriage to heterosexual couples and denies clergy the ability to solemnize same-sex marriages. They also asked the diocese to commit to “ending institutional and other forms of discrimination for LGBTQ+ people” and form a task force to study the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the sacramental life of the church.

Both resolutions were ruled out of order weeks before the Jan. 26-27 convention because, Brewer said in his convention address, they failed to measure up in what he called his grid for decision-making. The grid is based on the text of the examination (page 517 of the Book of Common Prayer) of a bishop-elect during his or her ordination and consecration. Brewer said it helps him balance coherence with the faith of the apostles with the impact of any action on the faith, unity and discipline of the church, and what he called “my global responsibility as a leader who shares that leadership with other bishops throughout the world.”

He called, instead, for a task force to reflect on the 2015 actions of General Convention on marriage, and their canonical and pastoral implications for diocesan congregations. The task force will also consider the biblical, theological and pastoral implications of convention’s actions.

Brewer’s remarks on the resolutions begin at the 27:03 mark in this video.

Geiszler-Ludlum called the proposed task force “a big step” because it means that there will be “some discussion within that diocese.”

However, Jim Christoph, St. Richard’s senior warden, told ENS that the goal of the proposed task force “is not to research how this diocese is treating gay people. It’s to react to the national church and their error.” Christoph also objected to what he called Brewer’s “denunciation” by name of the St. Richard’s vestry during his address.

“I felt very belittled,” said Stephen O’Connell, who is the secretary of St. Richard’s vestry. “I felt like I was a child being reprimanded in front of a whole group of people and shamed for something we felt was important.”

Brewer has not been available for comment.

Harrity said she “naively believed” that advocates of marriage equality would not have to resort to performing an act of canonical disobedience because they had a process available to them at diocesan convention to attempt to change the restrictive canon.

“But, the truth of the matter is, this church allows bishops to make up rules along the margins of canon law, both national canon law and local canon law, that circumvent any process,” she said. “The only way that we are going to get anything done in regard to canonical rights for gay people in the church is to be disobedient to our bishops? I am not interested in getting spit on or having anybody that we’re connected to getting spit on when we have a process that would work for us if it was allowed to work.”

Touching on larger issues of authority

The question of access to marriage is part of a larger one about where a diocesan bishop’s authority ends.

“There is the question of whether or not the bishop actually has the authority, canonically, to prohibit clergy under their licensure from functioning outside the diocese with liturgies approved by the General Convention,” Russell said. “There are those who argue it is not within their authority to do that. That is, for many in the church, not a settled point.”

“There’s a wide divergence of opinion about how much control bishops have, and the bishops themselves have different views of that, too,” Geiszler-Ludlum said.

There are other questions about authority. Can a bishop deny a sacrament to a group of people based on their sexual orientation? And can dioceses enact canons that restrict access to sacraments in ways that conflict with the canons of the wider church? Albany, Central Florida and Dallas have canons that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

Bauerschmidt hopes that the Episcopal Church will “find a way to make room for those who hold the traditional teaching of the church on marriage,” and to acknowledge that those people are “loyal members of the Episcopal Church.” He hopes for a “robust” solution that lasts over time and doesn’t need to be renewed every three years.

“I think it’s going to require the creativity of a lot of people,” he said.

Bauerschmidt added that he hopes convention will also “preserve the traditional and canonical responsibilities of bishops,” adding, “I really don’t know what that looks like, but I think that’s important, too.”

The task force’s suggested solution to the access question is part of a proposed resolution outlining how convention might make “permanent additions and revisions to the Book of Common Prayer” of four marriage liturgies and specific gender-neutralizing word changes about marriage.

Those proposals could run in tandem with convention’s consideration of whether and how to begin a process for revising the prayer book. Convention’s legislative committee that will review all prayer book revision resolutions will handle the task force’s proposals. The task force is not proposing that the prayer book would need to be reprinted but that the additional rites be published separately at first.

The task force also is proposing to change Book of Common Prayer’s “An Outline of the Faith,” also known as the Catechism, to state that Christian marriage involves “two people,” not “the woman and the man,” as it now says on page 861. It would also add a question about marriage to explain the canonical requirements for marriage, including instruction in the purposes of Christian marriage.

The task force’s report was summarized during a side gathering at the March 6-9 House of Bishops retreat. Bauerschmidt said any proposal to change the Catechism’s definition of marriage “would be of great concern to those who hold to the traditional teaching” about marriage both inside and outside the Episcopal Church.

Although the March HOB meeting is traditionally largely private, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins blogged about each day’s sessions. On March 8, he wrote that he attended the gathering and rejected the proposal to consider the trial use liturgies to be part of the prayer book.

Martins noted that while a diocesan bishop can refuse to permit use of a trial liturgy, he or she cannot prevent clergy from using material deemed to be part of the Book of Common Prayer. He said the proposal “deserved a lot more consideration than it is getting at this meeting of the house.”

He added that it was “borderline dereliction of duty” not to have the entire house discuss the proposal. If the convention’s decision in 2003 to allow the Diocese of New Hampshire to have Gene Robinson, an openly gay partnered man, as its bishop was “an earthquake,” Martins wrote, “approval of anything like the Task Force on Marriage’s proposal would be a catastrophic aftershock.”

Gieszler-Ludlum and Russell said the task force members reached their conclusions by consensus. However, the Rev. Jordan Hylden, canon theologian of the Diocese of Dallas, filed a minority report, which begins on page 116 of the report, objecting to the makeup of the task force and its process, conclusions and their implications.

The task force has written a FAQ document outlining its work. It is available here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (32)

  1. Doug Desper says:

    I knew It! All that “all may, none must” lingo in 2015 has led to the pressure activists to show their teeth and intolerance and now demand that the whole Church obey their novel marriage theology. Their soft sell in 2015 was a tactic to move everyone to their ultimate goal of shaming the very people that differ from them and hold to traditional marriage as seen in Genesis 2/Matthew 17. Well played Integrity.

  2. Letizia Modena says:

    I’m not shaming anyone. I understand the Bible has a long history of exegesis, I understand deeply held beliefs and organic changes. I’m asking that a minority of dioceses stop shaming my wife and I (21 years) for how God made us. I’m asking that these dioceses stop shaming God for the creativity of his own… creation. I’m sorry that you feel shamed. I know what’s like and do not intend to ever inflict it on anyone, ever, in any way. I live by this. Every single day, in every context, with anyone who differs from me. Because I know what it means, and I wish I still had the priviledge of confusing “shaming” with “asking to reflect on a profound difference in opinion.” The second is irritating, ennerving, it can go as far as making one furious, if one chooses to. The first hurts human dignity. Peace.

  3. Joe Barker says:

    The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. I respect the gays of the church, however I cannot condone marriage between two men or two woman. This is the reason we left the church after over 45 years and this is one of the reasons that the Episcopal church is continuing to die.

  4. Robert Walker says:

    At age 76, change in the Diocese of Dallas will be far too late for me, but I must always have hope for the future so that members of a parish Church which is their “home” will be able to be married or have their civil marriage blessed in their own Church in the presence of their “family”. Our present Bishop is a lost cause. He will never change his opinion since that opinion was a prerequisite for being elected Bishop of this diocese. I transferred my letter to a parish that is known by many in the national Church as a haven for gay Episcopalians in Dallas, St. Thomas the Apostle. The 30 years I have been a member of this parish has been a wonderful gift from God and has given me the opportunity to give what talent I have in many areas of work for the parish. Only action by the General Convention will let members of this diocese become equal members of the Episcopal Church.

  5. Bertram Thompson says:

    I don’t believe Bishop David Reed of West Texas authorizes the trial rites, although his predecessor, Bishop Gary Lillibridge did. Last I checked, Bishop Reed is a Communion Partner bishop. I’m not from the Diocese of West Texas, so I have no way to check references on the use of the rites there. Could anyone shine some light of this matter?

  6. Doug Desper says:

    “All sacraments for all people” is catchy but a non-starter. To begin with the 2 great Sacraments are available to all. So, we’re taught that Marriage is a sacramental rite. Those rites are not for all. We don’t ordain babies. We don’t offer confession/reconciliation to toddlers. Some sacramental rites are for stages or events of a person’s life. No matter how hard it has been tried and no matter how many excuses are made by tantrums, demonstrations, and bullhorn bullying there is no justification for Christian Marriage for same gender couples found in the New Testament or in the traditions and Councils of the Church whose Catholic nature we claim to value every Sunday on the Creed. It is a novelty made up by activists by proof-texting their viewpoint. Nothing more. The only real fall-back argument often used is good old American egalitarianism where people just say that if they don’t get what they want that “its just not fair”.

  7. Bruce Garner says:

    After decades of engagement over the issues of the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the Episcopal Church, it still baffles me how threatened and fearful straight white men are of us. Use of Scripture to support denying marriage to same sex couples is ludicrous. Scripture does NOT uphold our so-called model of marriage as being “one man and one woman.” How many wives did Abraham have? How many did Jacob/Israel have? The model was one man and as many wives (and concubines) as he could support. Even in the Christian testament, only bishops and deacons are forbidden from having more than one wife. Polygamy is not forbidden for anyone else. Paul’s view was that no one should marry and had his view won out, the new church would have died out in one or two generations.

    So what is the real issue here? We pray regularly that we will respect the dignity of every human being and that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Do we mean those promises? Are they just lip service? Or have we tacked on our own little exceptions to them to support our individual prejudices? Is denying a loving, monogamous and committed couple the ability to marry in the church they love respecting their dignity? Is such a position seeking and serving Christ in them? Remember, Jesus’ remarks about marriage were essentially in the context of a discussion about divorce!

    People want to blame the loss of membership on the Episcopal Church’s support of LGBTQ persons. The more accurate reasons are: our low birth rates resulting in more funerals than baptisms; our failure to engage with the communities around us and making “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” a reality without exceptions; the meanness and hypocrisy perceived by young people about how the church treats minorities. Why would anyone want to come to a church where they will be denigrated and treated less than a full child of God?

    I grew up in the fifties when the “ideal” was dad at work, mom at home cooking and cleaning and all the world so wonderfully perfect. That was all hogwash and we knew it. We stereotyped people into roles without regard to their gifts and abilities. We had an abysmal track record with race relations. The fifties were never the picture perfect world of Ozzie and Harriet! It’s time we stopped clinging to those lies and dealt with reality. Marriages fail. The work force has changed. There is some degree of equality among us now, but that is constantly under threat.

    If you don’t want to marry someone of your same sex, fine. Such is your right and privilege. But stop imposing your inability to conceive that God might be doing something different on everyone else. The Holy Spirit works in strange and mysterious ways….or have we forgotten that possibility?

    Bruce Garner
    L4, Atlanta

  8. Terry Francis says:

    Bruce, there are good people on both sides of this issue. Ridiculing and being condescending to those who disagree with you does not help your cause. All it does is cause anger and resentment from the people you’re criticizing. I’m assuming that’s not what you want. And here’s a news flash Bruce: It isn’t only straight white men who have a problem with same-sex marriage. Amazing how progressives like to categorize people on a given issue. Accusing people of paying “lip service” to being a Christian because they believe same-sex marriage goes against Biblical teachings is a very self-righteous, judgmental and unchristian attitude on your part. And using the number of wives Abraham had to prove your point is a total red herring. Has nothing to do with the issue. And I hate to inform you of this Bruce, but Scripture absolutely DOES uphold marriage between a man and a woman. Starting with Eve joining Adam in Genesis. It’s not a so-called model Bruce and it’s not ludicrous, it’s THE model the Bible uses. I know this may be hard for you and others in the LGBTQ community (btw, how many more letters are you going to add to this?) to believe, but our Lord loves those who disagree with you just as much as he loves you. Perhaps if you didn’t look down on good sincere Episcopalians and Christians in general who don’t believe in same-sex marriage, perhaps if you didn’t look upon them with contempt, then maybe more people would take you and your opinions seriously.

  9. Steve Williams says:

    The bishops of Tennessee and Central Florida suggest that accepting same-sex marriage blessings poses a threat to the unity of their dioceses, but at least the issue has been discussed in their conventions. Stark differences were openly acknowledged, and no agreement was reached, but the Tennessee convention established some unity in adopting a “memorial” to the General Convention, and the Diocese of Central Florida was able to establish a task force to study the marriage issue.

    In contrast to the discord apparent in Tennessee and Central Florida conventions, the Diocese of Florida, another of the eight dioceses that do not permit use of the trial rites for blessing same-sex relationships, appears to have maintained relative peace and unity, with the avoidance of diocesan discussions or public statements on controversial issues, including those affecting LGBT and racial minorities. In fact, curious worshippers in the Diocese of Florida have not been able to point to any scriptural argument from their Diocese for withholding use of the trial rites, with the only known justification of the Diocesan policy being that the rites are not incorporated in the Prayer Book. It remains to be seen whether the Diocese of Florida’s policy of unity in silence or the more confrontational policy is the more loving and effective way to ultimately reconcile our differences.

  10. Doug Desper says:

    Bruce has forgotten the Lord’s own view on marriage; a subject for which He quoted from Genesis 2 to provide incontrovertible clarity. On reading that it becomes clear that Bruce and others are wrong that Scripture doesn’t uphold 1 man/1woman as the model. The Lord said in Matthew 17, “haven’t you read where in the beginning God created them make and female…” and He finishes by quoting what is found in Genesis 2 as the basis for bonding. The errors of humanity have clouded that as Bruce observed about the patriarchs. Notwithstanding, Jesus returned the model to Genesis 2 where it has always been until humanity created the errors. This error of the patriarchs has been compounded by our so-called Marriage Study which totally left out Jesus’ teaching on marriage from Matthew/Genesis 2. It is truly sad that voices in our Church want to drown out the voice of Christ who brought clarity beyond dispute to this issue.

  11. Doug Desper says:

    Speaking of “fear”, what I truly shudder about is not gay folks. What I shudder about is the ease with which His teaching was left out of the Marriage Study in deference to many verbose pages of human philosophy as the guide. I shudder that bishops are saying that ignoring Christ in Matthew 17/Genesis 2 does not rise to the same as denying an article of faith even though such undermines His lordship that we affirm. I shudder and fear that our Vestry oaths and ordination oaths become pointless in that we really must not mean that we believe that “Scripture contains all things necessary…” while elevating human experience as the authority over Christ to understand marriage. I shudder that the Jesus Movement doesn’t want to hear from Jesus on this important matter. You won’t find His clear teaching in our Marriage Study or Task Force documents. I fear that “respecting the dignity of all” has devolved to mean “give me what I demand”. Having disconnected from Matthew/Genesis 2 this Church will have no choice in the future than to bless what humanity calls a marriage… 3 people? What would be the reason to exclude them in 150 years given the proposed standard of human experience and demand as the norm over Scripture? Those are the things that we should fear.

  12. Gretchen R Chateau says:

    It is hard to avoid being perceived as condescending when one is nearly 60 years old, scheduled to marry her partner next Fall, and bone weary of explaining something that has been explained ad nauseam, ad infinitum, subjected to grueling exegesis, studied to death, and still those in favor of “the way it’s always been done” remain intransigently mired in the same tired objections. I am with retired Bishop Spong in that I will not engage in this debate any longer. He articulates it better than I. I am sorry if this wounds your conscience. The wedding is going forward on November 10, 2018. Pax, Gretchen

  13. The Rev. Thomas Jackson says:

    Why is it “All that “all may, none must” always means “All may (except when I disagree with them, in which case they can’t)?” Seems to me the way to a church that truly lives well with diversity (if this diversity is to be more than skin deep and include diversity of opinion) is to allow congregations that believe in marriage equality to marry people regardless of sexual orientation. Instead we have some who wish to continue a form of spiritual apartheid against same sex couples who wish to be married. You forcing me to live by your rules/theology in ‘your’ church is what’s at stake. No one is demanding that every parish in the church perform same sex marriages. No one is asking that clergy who decline to marry same sex couples be disciplined. All we seek is a church where those who believe “all are welcome” includes LGBT people are able to offer all of the sacraments to all of God’s people. It is that simple.
    And why do you think that allowing congregations to marry same sex couples means you personally approve of those marriages? I mean, do you get to approve every marriage in the church that is between a man and a woman? Do I? Of course not! But when it comes to this issue, some folks seem to think allowing same sex marriages in ‘their’ diocese means ‘they personally approve’ of same sex marriage. Why not just say you disagree and leave it at that?
    The answer seems to still be because some people can’t uncouple their personal theology from an unreasonable desire to force others to live by personal theology. Barring all churches in a diocese from marrying same sex coup les is just one example of forcing others to live by your personal theology. Allowing those churches who feel called to bless same sex marriage to do so doesn’t force those who oppose same sex marriage to do anything.
    As for folks whose actions seem to reflect “very self-righteous, judgmental and unchristian attitude[s],” a look at the recent history of our church suggests that those who have long excelled at deserving this criticism include those who opposed the Freedom Riders, opposing the war in Vietnam, opposing the ordination of women, opposed the baptism of LGBT people, opposed ordination of LGBTG people, oppose marriage equality, and oppose treating transgender people as real human beings who are worthy of our love, acceptance and support. IF you need to “proof text” this consider: “No matter how hard it has been tried and no matter how many excuses are made by tantrums, demonstrations, and bullhorn bullying there is no justification for Christian Marriage for same gender couples found in the New Testament or in the traditions and Councils of the Church whose Catholic nature we claim to value every Sunday on the Creed. It is a novelty made up by activists by proof-texting their viewpoint.” Interesting how so often people accuse others of the weaknesses they see in their own arguments.

    Frankly, this process has dragged on far too long. We have been back and forth over this ground time and again. Some people think marriage is only for a man and a woman. I disagree. As Episcopalians, we are called to embrace a diversity of opinions. But that is only possible when people agree to speak and act with respect. Demanding that marriage equality vary by zip code enables one group to force their theology on others who disagree with their theology. Allowing marriage equality throughout the church simply allows every parish the freedom to respond to same sex couples as they believe they are called by God to respond. I hope and pray that will not be too much to ask.

  14. Susan Russell says:

    Good people of deep faith can and do read the same Scriptures and come to a variety of conclusions on a whole host of issues — and what God’s best intentions are for God’s beloved LGBTQ people is definitely on that list. In the Episcopal Church we have been on a 40+ year journey from the 1976 declaration that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” Since that time the church has moved forward — again and again — to turn that resolution into a reality. Just as with the ordination of women in the 1970’s not everyone has agreed … but part of our charism as Anglicans has been to claim our big tent heritage by making room for minority theological opinions.

    As Anglicans we were formed in the crucible of the 16th century Reformation into a particular body ecclesial uniquely capable of being both protestant and catholic in a time when such a possibility was beyond imagining. We are, therefore, uniquely wired by our DNA to be a church that can hold together the tension of being both gay and straight in the 21st century. In the end the Gamaliel principle will determine the efficacy of the choices we have made as we respond to where we hear the Holy Spirit calling us into her future — and it will be God’s job to judge how we have responded to that call.

    In Austin the Episcopal Church has the opportunity to lift up “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God” as the values that make a marriage holy. It has the chance to talk about marriage as vocation of holy love, grounded in biblical values of faithfulness and forgiveness. And it has the opportunity to say we are a community of faith focused on supporting all who are called into the vocation of marriage – not discriminating against some who are called into the vocation of marriage. It’s a privilege to be part of that work.

  15. Len Freeman says:

    This is a good discussion, though I do think that including the All Sacraments for All People video in the middle of the article goes over the line from journalism reporting on an issue, to pretty clear advocacy. It’s Ok, but it’s not journalism.

  16. Amy Pringle says:

    My fantasy:
    1) Yes, revise the whole BCP. Make it digital as well as a print option, to keep replacement costs down.
    2) Revise and expand the marriage rite to eliminate all that church-as-bride-of-Christ stuff and add more optional and participatory prayers and blessings, per the NZ book.
    3) Change the rubrics to be gender-flexible.
    4) Done.

  17. Elizabeth R. Apgar Triano says:

    Why, why, why are we still allowing ourselves to be clapped in leg irons by people who have nothing better to do than obsess over the sexuality and/or gender of strangers?! We should be Long past better versions of living out such aspects of our faith as “to seek and serve Christ in all persons,” as we vow in our baptismal creed. Those who claim to cling to the Bible and quote the prayer book, yet ignore the many calls for justice because they’re too busy fantasizing about other people’s sex lives really might consider that their energy could be better devoted elsewhere.

    There is so much diversity even in gender and number just among the Names of God in God’s history in our own scriptures, that I really cannot respect any of the arguments citing some strait-laced take on a specific English Bible verse as being grounds to demean and discriminate against our fellows, whether that debasement is couched in pseudo-polite language or straight out hostile.

  18. Bruce Bogin says:

    I would like to pose this solution to this seemingly intractable problem. Those people who oppose same-sex marriage should never ever enter into such a marriage, or even attend such a marriage even if those marrying include a son or a daughter. Just stay away. But I ask them to have the grace to permit those who are same-sex oriented to be able to have a religious ceremony (which, as we all know, is not necessary in order for a marriage to be legal; a civil ceremony would suffice) in an Episcopal church which should be welcoming to ALL people. Let us remember, and hang our heads in shame as we do, that over the years Christians including Episcopalians have used the Bible to support slavery, to oppose the franchise for women and to oppose mixed race marriage (which only became legal throughout the US only 50 years ago). Permitting our churches to celebrate same-sex marriages and mixed race marriages does not mean that every member must or should endorse such marriages. It merely means that two people’s choice of mate is no one’s business but their own and that they have the right to have a religious celebration of their marriage in a church which claims to be a welcoming church.

  19. Terry Francis says:

    Gretchen, our objections are no more “tiresome” than you and others in the gay community constantly trying to convince others (and yourselves) that same sex marriage is totally compatible with Biblical teachings. It’s not. And all the LGBT propaganda isn’t going to make it so. Can’t really blame you for deciding to no longer debate this issue. It’s awfully hard to defend a lie. Oh and bty, my conscience isn’t wounded in any way. You and your partner have a nice life together.

  20. Terry Francis says:

    So Ms Triano, if one thinks same sex marriage is against Biblical teachings then one is “fantasizing” about other people’s sex lives?? What a truly asinine statement. But then, spoken like a true progressive.

  21. Bruce Bogin says:

    I have never been able to understand why some people want to take writings that were written two thousand years ago and more to circumscribe their lives. How are they unable to accept the knowledge of our bodies and minds which has been revealed in that time. I find it appalling that even after those two thousand years now in the twenty-first century we are still enslaved to ancient concepts of superstition and patriarchy. In the recent past Christians, including Episcopalians, have supported slavery, have opposed franchise for women, have opposed inter-racial marriage, have opposed integrated schools based on their interpretation of the Bible, and for this we should hang our heads in shame. Now in the twenty-first century when most of us have finally learned that homosexuality is something someone is born with, there are those who insist on living in the first century. Well, I have a solution. Those people who oppose same sex marriage should not marry someone of the same sex and they should never attend a same sex wedding even if one of the persons in the wedding is their son or daughter, but they should have the grace to permit those who wish to marry a person of the same sex to have that marriage solemnized in a religious ceremony in a church which is welcoming to all.

  22. Terry Francis says:

    Ms Russell, you claim that Anglicans (Episcopalians) have a tent big enough for minority theological opinions? If by minority you mean conservative/traditionalist opinions then you are totally wrong. That big tent closed its flaps to those opinions a long time ago. At best they’re simply ignored and at worse they are attacked and ridiculed.

  23. Terry Francis says:

    Bruce, what I find appalling is your attitude toward people who disagree with you on this issue. Judging from your rhetoric you apparently feel that people who believe that same sex marriage goes against Biblical teachings are morally, intellectually, and spiritually beneath you. When you say you are “appalled” by people who are still enslaved to ancient concepts of superstition and patriarchy you sound more like an outspoken atheist than a Christian. (You DO claim to be a Christian, right?) Stop ridiculing people who disagree with you on this issue. It doesn’t make you look good.

    1. Bruce Bogin says:

      I will gladly accept everything you say about me. I will not shrink from condemning the views of those who would marginalize and discriminate against people whether by reason of race, gender or sexual orientation, particularly when those who so marginalize and so discriminate do so relying on Holy Scripture. There can be no valid argument in support of slavery. There can be no valid argument which reduces women to be the servants or chattels of men. There can be no valid argument which opposes the right of a white person to intermarry with a black person and there can be no valid argument which opposes the right of two persons of the same sex to intermarry and to have that marriage solemnized in a church. I am not bound and I will not be bound to recognize any such argument. I am proud of the Episcopal Church. I am proud that it consecrated a gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003; that it thereafter consecrated a lesbian suffragan bishop; that it has ordained gay and lesbian priests who are living with their same-sex partners. I am not at all interested in ‘looking good’. I am interested only in the dignity of ALL people, no matter their race, gender or sexual orientation, and that the Episcopal Church treats them all alike. I don’t need your snide comment about my Christianity. That is solely a matter between me and my God. To me, it is right and just that homosexual people should have the same rights and rites as are given to heterosexual people. Its is not ‘right’ because I say so. It is right because all people are the same in Jesus Christ.

  24. Doug Desper says:

    OK, we’ve heard how Via Media supposedly applies to the marriage question. Such a view believes that there are 2 ambiguous positions requiring a human discernment. Sorry to disappoint but there is no ambiguity here in Matthew 19 ** wherein Jesus returns the listeners to original design in Genesis 2. Humanity had tried every variation of bonding (the 21st century has nothing new), but the Head of the Jesus Movement bypassed mind-numbing Indaba and reversed right back to Genesis:

    3 Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “HAVE YOU NOT READ that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” 8 He said to them, “It was because YOU WERE SO HARD-HEARTED that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but FROM THE BEGINNING IT WAS NOT SO”.

    Everything that could be a marriage was being tried in the time of Jesus, but the Lord called His movement to reclaim Genesis. (Maybe that’s why this passage was left out of the Marriage Study).

    So, in comparison to these very plain words reinforcing the original design of marriage what are we to make of comments like these:

    “Use of Scripture to support denying marriage to same sex couples is ludicrous”.
    “Some people think marriage is only for a man and a woman. I disagree. As Episcopalians, we are called to embrace a diversity of opinions”.
    “…people of deep faith can and do read the same Scriptures and come to a variety of conclusions.”
    “…I really cannot respect any of the arguments citing some strait-laced take on a specific English Bible verse.”
    “I have never been able to understand why some people want to take writings that were written two thousand years ago and more to circumscribe their lives”.

    General Convention delegates, I would quake for the Head of the Jesus Movement to look upon Austin and announce “HAVE YOU NOT READ?”, “YOU WERE SO HARD-HEARTED”, and “FROM THE BEGINNING IT WAS NOT SO.”

    (** I erroneously typed Matthew 17 earlier, but it doesn’t change the Gospel passage).

  25. Bill Louis says:

    Bruce, I don’t know what Church you’ve been attending but in all my years as a Protestant attending different denominations I have never heard of my Church condoning slavery or any of the other things you accuse Episcopalians of supporting. To suggest its the Bible is outdated and bathed in superstition is to question the story of Christ and validity of Christianity itself. If you are so unhappy with the Church the way it is and the people in it then why do you stay? If the Church tries to force a different way of worship down my throat then I would take my financial support and worship elsewhere.

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