Marriage rites resolution heading back to House of Deputies

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jul 11, 2018

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The House of Bishops made a “technical amendment” before approving a resolution meant to give all Episcopalians the ability to be married by their priests in their home churches.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.[/perfectpullquote]

The House of Deputies, which had overwhelmingly approved a heavily amended version of Resolution B012 on July 9, now must reconsider the resolution and debate the amendment. General Convention resolutions must be adopted by both houses with the same text.

The bishops’ amendment does not change B012’s goal of giving full access to two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention (via Resolution A054). B012 began in response to Resolution A085 from General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which was proposed in part to give a way for Episcopalians to use the rites in eight dioceses of the church’s 101 domestic dioceses in which the diocesan bishop refuses to authorize use of the trial-use marriage rites.

Resolution A054-2015 said that clergy could only use the rites under the direction of their bishop. The original version of B012 would have required bishops who would not authorize the rights to allow congregations to receive Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) from another bishop who would provide access to the liturgies.

Deputies agreed to a version of B012 that took away the DEPO option and placed the decision-making power for using the rites with rectors or other clergy in charge of congregations. The bishops’ amendment comes in the seventh resolve of the resolution and adds the words “provided that nothing in this resolve narrows the authority of the rector or priest-in-charge (Canon III.9.6(a)).”

Chicago Bishop Jeff Lee said the addition was made “simply to make clear as we can that this resolution is not in conflict with the provisions of the ministry canons of the church regarding the authority of rector or priest in charge of congregations. It’s a very, in some ways, technical amendment, but we thought it was important in consultation with the chancellors to add it.”

(Canon III.9.6(a) begins on page 93 here.)

In the debate that followed, the amendment was left behind as 12 of the 13 bishops who rose to speak supported passage of the resolution. Some were adamant in their support, some were reluctant in their support for sometimes opposing reasons, while Albany Bishop William Love was adamant in his opposition.

Western New York Bishop Bill Franklin said he supported the resolution “because it moves us another step away from the situation of separate but equal to which we have often consigned our LGBTQ sisters and brothers.”

Rhode Island Bishop Nick Knisely, one of the three bishops who offered the original B012, said even the heavily amended form of the resolution that came from deputies still gives the bishops who will not authorize the use of the rites a way to feel “fully a part of this church.” Moreover, he said, much of the testimony in legislative committee hearings portrayed the resolution as “a way forward. I don’t think this is a permanent way forward, but this buys us time.”

New York Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool speaks to her colleagues in the House of Bishops July 11 during their debate on Resolution B012. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Time, Knisely said, could allow the church to do what the previous speaker said ought to happen. “I don’t think we have unwrapped the gift of gay and lesbian relationships and really celebrated them,” said New York Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool. “It’s time not only to support marriage equality, but to honor the gift that many of my brothers and sisters are.” Their partnerships ought to be celebrated “the way we celebrate other partnerships in this church.”

Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield, one of the eight bishops who will not authorize the rites, said he would support B012 and was “immensely and seriously grateful” for its compromise. That said, Martins told the house he was “taking my gratitude with a side of Valium because I am deeply concerned” that removing the bishop’s ability to act as the chief liturgical officer and “chief teacher” in the diocese will begin to “erode the sacramental relationship between a bishop and a diocese.”

Bishops were limited to two minutes at the microphone. However, Love of Albany spoke for nearly 10 minutes, despite being told that he was exceeding his time. He said the passage of B012 would put him in the awkward position of violating parts of his ordination vows.

“There has been a lot of discussion as we have struggled with this issue over the past several years on whether or not sexual intimacy within that of a same-sex couple was appropriate,” he said. “There are many in this church who have proclaimed that it is and that this is a new thing that the Holy Spirit is revealing and that the Episcopal Church is being prophetic in putting this forward and ultimately the rest of the body of Christ will come to understand that.

“I don’t believe, presiding bishop, that that’s necessarily true.”

Love added that the church has listened to people’s personal experiences and to their “feelings, their emotions, but we have not had an honest look at, sir, at what God has said about this issue and how best to help people who find themselves in same-sex relationships.”

Idaho Bishop Brian Thom, who served on the Task Force for the Study of Marriage and the committee that reviewed the resolutions, said he supported the resolution with reservations. “The strongest message we received was not about ecclesiology,” he said.

“The most pastoral thing that was being asked for and, for me the most valuable, was that folks just wanted to be married at home,” he said, referring to a situation where bishops tell same-sex couples they must go to a different diocese and be married by a priest who is a stranger to them.

“I’m convinced by that,” Thom said. “My heart breaks for those folks who have not been able to do that, but now they can, and rectors and bishops have a space.

“This is the right move that allows us all to go forward and, while I feel I have thrown with my votes for B012 my LGBT brothers and sisters under the bus, there is now a way forward for them to be married where they want to be married — at home. And all of you who have stood at an altar before a couple like that know how important that is. So, for them, I am going to vote in favor of this.”

The resolution passed on a voice vote with a handful of noes.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.


Comments (37)

  1. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

    This doesn’t matter. No one can force a bishop or priest to do same-sex “marriages.” Get over it.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      And no one is forcing them to do anything. If a bishop or priest does not wish to provide a marriage to a same-sex couple, then they won’t have to under the current revision. It simply provides access to those who would want to perform a same-sex marriage rite.

      1. Vernon Sheldon-Witter says:

        Doesn’t it leave it, as I read it in the hands of the Parish Priest? Or am I wrong about that?

    2. T. W. Scott Golden says:

      In response to Dr Hargis, I would say that I don’t believe it to be the intention or objective of any of us, who advocate for the full equality of same-sex relationships within the Anglican Communion, to ‘force’ any cleric to perform a marriage service for anyone! To achieve something of the nature of equality within the Church of Christ by force, would indeed be a Pyrrhic victory. Rather we hope and pray that such a resolution will be one achieved by not only reason and compassion but even moreso through the revelation of the Divine Intent as a deeper understanding of Scripture enlightens the minds and hearts of those yet unconvinced of the place of LGBTQ relationships within God’s ideal and the Church. Thus, my hope is that rather than resorting to exasperation or ill-feeling as I suspect may inspire such responses as that of the OP, we can continue to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ and to share His love with each other and the world.
      T. W. Scott Golden
      Changing Attitude Ireland

      1. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

        Of course we all wish to work together to spread the Good News; however, show me where it says in the Bible that same-sex LGBTQ weddings are part of God’s Good News revealed in Christ.

        1. Matt Ouellette says:

          I’ve tried to show you examples of how the read the Scriptures in a way that is affirming of gay relationships in previous comment sections, and I can do it again. Here is Bishop Gunter’s series as an example:

          The book God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines is another good introduction that goes into even more detail than the blog series. You may brush these different approaches to Scripture and Tradition as unconvincing, but there are many other Christians who find them compelling.

        2. Bruce Bogin says:

          The part I do not understand is this: if the same God who created heterosexual people with sexual feelings also created homosexual people with sexual feelings, then why do we not treat both kinds the same? It has taken us centuries to understand homosexuality just as it has taken centuries to recognize that women should be treated the same as men and that black people are entitled to all the same rights as white people. Unfortunately, both of these are works in progress and we still have a ways to go. I have read that approximately 7% of people are homosexual. They were born that way. It is not something they chose any more than black people have chosen the color of their skin. Whatever the Bible says or implies on any subject one must keep in mind that one part was written about 3,500 years ago and contains a lot of fairy tales, and the other was written about 2,000 years ago and likewise contains fairy tales. We have learned a great deal since the Bible was written, at least some of us have learned. Regardless of one’s belief or non-belief, why should there be discrimination against any of God’s creatures, whether they be male or female, black or white, gay or straight? As recently as fifty years ago it was illegal for a black person and a white person to marry or cohabit. Inasmuch as homosexual people are created by God and given sexual feelings by God, why should those who are not homosexuals prevent them from marrying, including being married in a church?

          1. Robbie Johnson says:

            So the Bible is full of fairy tales? I believe the scripture writers were inspired by The Holy Spirit. I believe to suggest the Bible is full of fairy tales is putting one in danger of committing the unforgivable sin that Jesus describes as blasphemy.

          2. Matt Ouellette says:

            Surely you don’t think stories like the creation narrative and global flood were literal history, right? There’s all kinds of literary genre in the Bible, including myths and fictional stories meant to convey theological truths, not historical facts. Sure, there are historical narratives in the Bible (e.g. the gospels), but they’re not the only kind of literary genre.

          3. Robbie Johnson says:

            Homosexual behavior is a choice one makes. People are not born homosexual.

        3. Vernon Sheldon-Witter says:

          Show me where Rev. where, in the Gospels, it does not. As I remember Jesus says NADA about this, or am I incorrect in my reading skills. Of course, there is one verse in one of Paul’s Letters that, when translated refers to Prostitution, and a couple in the OT, but you decided to talk about the Gospels, didn’t you.

          1. Vernon Sheldon-Witter says:

            And Robbie Johnson. 40 years of Hospital RN Experience in talking to MDs and researchers who will tell you that the tendency toward Sexual Preference is both Genetic and Lifelong-but you I am certain are correct and a cloud of medical research is wrong.

        4. Bruce Robinson says:

          In ancient Israel, marriage was confined to one man and one or more women. For example, Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth along with 300 concubines. The idea of allowing same-sex couples to marry is a recent development. So one cannot expect gay marriages to be mentioned in the Bible. See:

    3. Robbie Johnson says:

      Get over it? Just wait. Given time, all bishops and priests will be forced to officiate same sex weddings! r r Refusal will result in being defrocked!

      1. Jordan Sakal says:

        Oh sweet Christ, Robbie… You actually believe people “choose” to be gay as opposed to being born gay? Would you like to take a look at the biological record of the animal kingdom which shows that homosexual behaviours are found in nearly all animals (including humans)? Would that help convince you or are you so blind to reality and truth that you won’t see truth when it is right in front of your eyes?

  2. cynthia seddon says:

    I know of a number of people were married before divorcing and embracing homosexuality.One
    was a bishop who left wife and children! I do not believe that it is the Holy Spirit leading the church in this way. We may have learned a lot about multicultural marriage, but now we are talking about something much more serious’ Marriage is between a man and a woman, the church should not compel clergy to perform a rite that is against their conscience..

    1. cynthia seddon says:

      further to my previous comment, perhaps someone can help me understand how One
      God in three personas can self contradict. If the Father says that same sex relations are unacceptable to Him, and Jesus says a man should cleave to his women, How can the Holy Spirit , who is one with the Father and the Son, lead in a diametrically opposed direction ?

    2. T. W. Scott Golden says:

      I think I get the gist of what Ms Seddon is trying to say. In response I would ask her to put herself in the shoes of LGBTQ people of the generation about which is talking (very few milennials thankfully, will experience the same unimaginable social pressure to ‘conform’, as did mine or previous ones, and take a heterosexual partner in order to maintain the status quo. Imagine feeling so utterly trapped and corralled into a life that, in the midst of the self-depiction and self-loathing, you capitulated to the expectations of family, church and society by taking the only route you could perceive as leading to some form of fulfilment, even if it was contrary to your true feelings and orientation. This was the reality for millions of us around the globe for centuries. This was a realty imposed by /supported by ‘God fearing’ ‘Christians’. It often led, in recent years of liberation, to divorce (at best) and at worst has led to suicide over a much longer timeframe. The comparatively recent advances in hermeneutics and exegesis has enabled much deeper study into the time and context of the original Scripture texts. Coupled with the ongoing work of the Spirit and Anglican tradition of reason and history, these new insights enable us to have a fuller (though obviously not complete) experience of the design of the Divine for humanity, our walk with Him and the life of the Church. All I would ask Ms Seddon to do, rather than rest is categorical literal certainties, is to open her heart and mind to the possibility that she might be moved by the Spirit to embrace her LGBT brothers and sisters and rejoice when they commit their lives as couples, to each other and God.
      T. W. Scott Golden
      Changing Attitude Ireland.

  3. cynthia seddon says:

    That is certainly a moving response to my comment, and I do not despise or denigrate my brothers and sisters who are homosexual, I know at one time such actions were illegal, as a point of fact, I ministered in love to homosexuals in the course of my Diaconal ministry. However it does not answer my quandary as to how the Holy Trinity One God, from whom the Holy Spirit is sent, can be at odds with Himself. Does the Father change, does the Son lie .does the Holy Spirit lead us astray, or is God now subject to human wisdom in hermeneutics and exegesis ?. Remembering that according to Scripture the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men, and also that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. In a real sense I am in their shoes for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      More like our understanding of what the Scriptures say has changed (as well as our understanding of sexuality in general). It’s no different than us now understanding that the Earth was not made in six days, that women can teach in church, and that slavery is not moral. I recommend the sources I linked to above.

      1. cynthia seddon says:

        Or could it be that people are reading into the scripture what they want it to mean,rather than what it says -eisegesis instread of exegesis ?

        1. Matt Ouellette says:

          I would argue that’s what the non-affirming side is doing.

          1. Robbie Johnson says:

            The liberals and LGBTQ have been twisting the scriptures to fit their affirmation of the sinful homosexual lifestyle for years!

          2. T. W. Scott Golden says:

            It’s thought-provoking that you make such a statement, Robbie, and take this viewpoint. I can see that, obviously, you’re deeply exercised by the subject of the membership of our various Anglican churches. It’d be interesting to know more of the details that lead you to such a conclusion.

            T. W. Scott Golden
            Changing Attitude Ireland.

          3. Matt Ouellette says:

            I see, we’re “twisting” the Scriptures. Whereas only you righteous, pure conservatives have been reading the Scriptures properly. You couldn’t possibly have interpreted the Scriptures wrong here. After all, the conservative interpretation that the Bible endorsed slavery, subjugation of women, or young Earth creationism were only flukes. Surely this time you got it right. I’m sorry if I come across as snarky here, but I’m tired of conservatives assuming we affirming Christians are reading the Bible in bad faith and not legitimately trying to find the truth. I’ve provided sources that show how you can read the Scriptures and Tradition in an affirming way (I recommend God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines as an introduction). How about trying to engage our arguments instead of assuming we are all a bunch of heretics who hate the Bible or Tradition?

          4. cynthia seddon says:

            Matt. I am sorry that there seems to be some animus in you reply,to what has been a civilized exchange of views. Please don;t forget that the only ‘righteousness’ any of us has is that which is accorded to us through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ In Christ I am no more righteous than you, or vice versa

          5. Matt Ouellette says:

            Cynthia, my comment was directed at Robbie, who’s comment accusing affirming Christians like myself of “twisting” Scripture was anything but a civilized response. While I have disagreed with your position, I think for the most part we have been able to exchange our differences of opinions with respect. I just hope we can refrain from accusing each other of things like “twisting” Scripture. It’s obvious we have a disagreement on how to interpret the Scriptures on this issue.

          6. Robbie Johnson says:

            I expect the last action this convention will take is to kick out those who believe in hetrosexual marriage. Only same sex marriage will be tolerated and celebrated in the Episcopal Church.

          7. Matt Ouellette says:

            Where has any affirming Christian said they oppose heterosexual marriage in the Church, Robbie? All we’ve argued for is that gay couples receive equal access to the sacrament of Marriage that straight couples receive. No one has ever said straight couples should not be married. That’s ridiculous!

          8. Robbie Johnson says:

            I understand that the use of the terms “husband” “wife” “man” “woman” have been removed from the wedding liturgy in the Episcopal Church. Basically telling hetrosexual couples go somewhere else to be married. Your marriage is no longer welcome in the Episcopal Church. Only samr sex couples are allowed to be married here!

      2. Jordan Sakal says:


        What fresh load of tosh are you smoking mate? NOWHERE has it been said that heterosexual couples are no longer welcome in the Episcopal Church. The Bishops and Deputies have just created a separate but equal form of marriage rites to be used by those couples who choose not to use the “traditional male/female husband/wife” marriage rites format.

        That is not saying that heterosexuals are any less valid just because rights are being extended to other people. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, LGBT+ folks including myself want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. We don’t want to deny you yours. We don’t want to take anything away from you. We want what you want — a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

        With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

        What have I done as a gay man against you? Why can’t I have the same rights as you?

        1. Robbie Johnson says:

          Now that my views are known I expect to be denied the sacraments and Christian burial rites in the Eiscopal Church.

          1. Jordan Sakal says:

            That bit of hysterical histrionics aside, you will not be denied burial rites or the sacraments. You know it, I know it, you’re just overreacting to a situation that won’t happen.

    2. Vernon Sheldon-Witter says:

      Sure you don’t and you defy gravity daily huh.

      1. Vernon Sheldon-Witter says:

        Cynthia Seddon.

        1. Thomas Golden says:

          I think Mr Johnson is being deliberately obstuse and vitriolic in his comments here. He evidences no commitment to debate or discussion, rather persists in engaging in wild, unfounded and inflammatory rhetoric. Thoroughly unworthy of anyone who would profess to seek unity and peace in Christ. Mr Johnson, you know in your heart that what you claim and state is fiction. The repitition of it serves no good purpose, unless of course your motive is to deepen the divide between LGBTQ Christians and Fundamentalist heterosexual Christians?

          T W Scott Golden.

  4. Gerard Snyder says:

    As a member of St. Mary’s Church in Springfield Center, NY and in a same sex solemnized marriage from St. Mary of the Harbor Church, Provincetown, MA in 2010 I am delighted that love has conquered hate in recognizing the dignity of all human beings as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion of SCOTUS. Having submitted voluminous materials from a bible study group organized by Rev. Fred Daley formerly of Utica NY to Bishop Love in 2015(which went unanswered) I find it hard to believe that any ordination vows could be violated since God created all men and women in his image and to prevent healthy development of one’s God given birth rite and talents freely bestowed as such would lead to hypocrisy, self hate and ultimate unhappiness all leading to tragic outcomes as history has shown. Does Bishop Love truly profess to have a back channel to God?

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