Some same-sex couples will still face hurdles accessing church’s marriage rites

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Aug 15, 2018

[Episcopal News Service] There are times when the Episcopal – and Anglican – tendency toward compromise makes for differing interpretations on how far the church’s big tent has been stretched, and what it all means for the people seeking shelter under its flaps.

The latest example is the recent 79th General Convention’s passage of often-rewritten and often-amended Resolution B012, designed to give all Episcopalians unfettered access to two trial-use marriage rites that were approved in 2015, days after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. B012 was passed in response to the refusal by eight of the diocesan bishops in the church’s 101 domestic dioceses to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.” The bishops did not authorize use of the rites and required couples wanting to use them to be married outside their diocese and away from their home church.

When Resolution B012 becomes effective on the First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2, same-sex couples in most of those dioceses still will have to go through some steps that are not required of straight couples, even though the resolution moved the authority for deciding to use the rites from the diocesan bishop to their parish priests.

The compromise that B012 represents is a “classically Anglican solution” to help same-sex couples in all dioceses use the rites in their home parishes and give bishops who oppose such marriages “a way to live within the canons of the church and yet still not violate their theological conscience,” according to the Rev. Susan Russell, a deputy from Los Angeles and longtime leader in the effort for full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.

Russell, who worked for what she has called the “hard-won compromise” of B012, told Episcopal News Service that “bishops are going to do what they’re going to do, but that doesn’t mean that that isn’t what the resolution says, that isn’t what the resolution is requiring. They’re making those choices on their own.”

She said there is a “relatively broad continuum of how [the resolution] is being interpreted or misinterpreted or framed and/or distorted.”

The Rev. Susan Russell, a deputy from Los Angeles, has called the final version of Resolution B012, among other things, “a great teachable moment for the wider church about actually how our polity works, about the reality that the rector does have the prerogative or the charge to make those choices.” Photo: Screenshot from on-demand video

The pertinent part of B012 says that when a bishop “holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples, and there is a desire to use such rites by same-sex couples in a congregation or worshipping community, the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority (or ecclesiastical supervision) shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites.”

For the bishops who have prohibited same-sex marriage in their dioceses and denied use of the trial-use rites (and required same-sex couples to go elsewhere in the church to get married), it comes down to the interpretation of the words “shall invite, as necessary.” Six of the eight bishops have publicly said that they would require the assistance of another bishop for clergy who want to use the rites.

They are interpreting B012 as requiring – or allowing them to require – the involvement of another bishop. Some of those bishops have said that mission congregations in their diocese, where the bishop is effectively the rector, will not be allowed to use the rites.

California Deputy Christopher Hayes told Episcopal News Service that he believes General Convention overwhelmingly passed Resolution B012 to give bishops with a theological objection to same-sex marriage a place to stand within the order and discipline of the Episcopal Church, while giving same-sex couples “an equal place in the church.” Photo: Screenshot from on-demand video

California Deputy Christopher Hayes, who helped lead the revision of B012 and then proposed it to the House of Deputies, agreed with Russell’s sense of the hard compromise that the final version of B012 represents.

“Some of us who had hoped to see these liturgies become part of the prayer book or at least be on track to become part of the prayer book did not get as much as we would have liked to see,” Hayes told ENS. “People on the other side of the issue prevailed on that issue, but they do not get to have entire dioceses where same-sex couples are forbidden from being married. I’m concerned that these are efforts to undermine the compromise.”

Russell, Hayes and other framers of the revised resolution say that B012 does not require the involvement of a bishop, except to deal with a canonical provision about remarriage after divorce. Canon I.19.3 (page 60 here) requires priests to show their bishops (or the bishop in the diocese in which the service is planned) that they have verified the annulment or dissolution of a divorced person’s previous marriage, and that they discussed with the couple the need to show “continuing concern” for the well-being of the former spouse, and of any children. Resolution B012 specifically notes that this requirement applies to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex ones and necessitates that a bishop who opposes such marriage invite another bishop to provide the needed consent.

The framers changed the original version of B012, proposed by Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, to remove its requirement that congregations wishing to use the rites but whose bishop objected could ask for the 14-year-old option of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO), which the bishop would have to grant. The House of Bishops devised DEPO in 2004 for congregations that so severely disagree with their diocesan bishops on matter of human sexuality and other theological matters that their relationship is completely broken.

“We worked really hard to not use DEPO language in that resolution,” Vermont Bishop Tom Ely, who also worked on the resolution, told ENS. “We did not feel it was necessary because we kept hearing in the hearings [at convention] from those bishops that they had great relationships with the congregations. There were just some who didn’t agree with them” on this issue.

East Carolina Deputy Joan Geiszler-Ludlum, who chaired General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage and worked on the B012 compromise, “implored” deputies on the final day of convention to adopt the final version of the resolution. She later told Episcopal News Service that “clergy have shelter” on both sides of same-sex marriage: they can choose to perform them or they can choose not to, although she hopes the resolution’s provisions will encourage more priests to “begin to see their way into doing this.” Photo: Screenshot from on-demand video

A summary of where the eight bishops stand now

Albany Bishop William Love has not said whether he will require such outside support. He passionately conveyed his opposition to the resolution during debate in the House of Bishops. Love has scheduled a Sept. 6 meeting with the diocesan clergy “to discuss their concerns and the potential impact of B012 on the clergy and parishes of the diocese.”

Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer spoke on July 21 about his commitment to implement B012. However, he later told ENS that he has not yet worked out the details of his plan. Jim Christoph, senior warden of St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park, Florida, a congregation that has advocated for marriage equality in the diocese, was at the July 21 gathering and told ENS that Brewer was clear that the resolution did not call for “a DEPO mechanism” but a more limited arrangement for oversight by another bishop. Christoph said he understood that Brewer will require the vestry to agree with the clergy’s desire to use the rites.

Dallas Bishop George Sumner, likewise, is still working out the details of his plan, but he said on July 19 that any parish wishing to use the rites will need to have another bishop handle all of that congregation’s pastoral oversight, provide confirmation and manage the process of people discerning a call to ordination.

Florida Bishop John Howard told his diocese earlier this month that he is “committed to honoring Resolution B012” even though he opposes same-sex marriage. He said he would work with clergy “to find a fellow bishop willing to undertake pastoral oversight” in accordance with the resolution.

North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith said that DEPO will serve as “a roadmap for these matters” in his diocese. However, he did not say whether that “supplemental episcopal pastoral care” would involve more that same-sex weddings.

Springfield Bishop Dan Martins said that he will at first require that a congregation’s “ministry leadership team” meet with him “to discern whether there is indeed a consensus around the desire to hold such a ceremony.” If so, they will agree to “the terms, conditions, and length of the relationship” with another bishop who will provide all episcopal functions.

Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt calls B012 “a creative application of the principle of the local adaptation of the historic episcopate” that sets up “a particular structure that upholds the bishop’s unique role as chief pastor and teacher and presider at the liturgy,” even when the bishop cannot support same-sex marriage. Bauerschmidt said he will consult with clergy and vestries that desire to use the rites and will ask another bishop to provide the pastoral care to ensure that the trial liturgies will be available in the diocese.

Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs told ENS via email on Aug. 9 that he will not ask clergy to request pastoral support from another bishop. “As the bishop of the diocese, I should be able to provide pastoral support to clergy who request it,” he wrote. “I am committed to following the mind of the church.”

Hayes said, “I commend Bishop Gumbs for stating that he will make provisions for priests to perform marriages for same-sex couples in their parishes and that he is committed to providing full pastoral support for those priests.” He noted that the diocese is in “a legally anomalous position.” The U.S. Virgin Islands has civil marriage equality, but the British Virgin Islands, also part of the diocese, does not.

Working out B012 in Tennessee

Indie Pereira, who serves on the vestry of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, told ENS that she is “cautiously optimistic” about the stance Bauerschmidt has taken. “We’ll wait and see about how the details work out,” she said.

Four couples at St. Philip’s hope to use the rites, but some members oppose same-sex marriage, she said.

The vestry plans to use an outside facilitator “to help us come to a consensus as a parish” before the clergy move forward, she said.

Pereira and her partner, who wed civilly during the time when Bauerschmidt required same-sex couples to be married in the Diocese of Kentucky, want to have their marriage blessed in their home church. “We’re pretty hopeful,” she said. “More hopeful than I have been in a long time.”

Connally Davies Penley, who helped form the advocacy group All Sacraments for All People, or ASAP, in the Diocese of Tennessee, told ENS that she is grateful that the bishop “is conforming to the vote taken at General Convention.”

“One of the gifts that John [Bauerschmidt] has brought to the diocese is that he really cares about unity, unity within the diocese and unity with the church,” she said. “He is really moving in a way that we can stay together. I am grateful for that.”

And in Dallas

The Rev. Casey Shobe, rector of Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, told ENS that he and Sumner have discussed the bishop’s “draft plan for how he envisions trying to implement this.”

Shobe called it “a way forward that would potentially allow us to have even greater pastoral oversight from a visiting bishop beyond just the issue of marriage.” That, he said, could mean this bishop would perform confirmation, license clergy and supervise the discernment for those considering a call to ordination, including LGBTQ persons.

“We are comfortable with this proposal, because it would result in Transfiguration experiencing a big leap forward on a set of matters that are deeply important to us, which have consistently kept us at odds with our bishop in the past,” he said.

After convention approved the rites in 2015, Shobe said he did not ask Sumner for DEPO because he was not given assurance he and the congregation would not be punished for performing same-sex marriages even under the oversight of another bishop. The diocese’s canons prohibit same-sex marriage. Instead, Shobe and others spent the time until the Austin meeting advocating for convention to help remedy the issue.

Meanwhile, eight couples went elsewhere to be married by other clergy. Shobe says Transfiguration hopes next year to have a “significant celebration and renewal of vows” for those people. He also anticipates a number of “long-expected and hoped for weddings” taking place at the Dallas church in 2019 and 2020.

A different ecclesiology in Dallas and Springfield

Sumner of Dallas and Martins of Springfield contend that their understanding of their episcopal ministry means that any congregation wishing to use the rites must be assigned another bishop for all of their congregation’s spiritual, pastoral and sacramental oversight.

Sumner said in his letter that he cannot “by conscience and conviction” oversee a parish using these rites because “a bishop and his or her doctrinal teaching cannot be separated.”

“Let me emphasize that this referral will not [occur] because of any anger, breakdown of pastoral relation, or rejection – it is because of a deep difference in theology,” he said.

Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, shown here speaking to the House of Bishops during General Convention, says there must be a “firewall” between congregations in his diocese who want to solemnize the marriages of same-sex couples and him, because he opposes such unions. Photo: Screenshot from on-demand video

Martins summed it up this way in an interview with ENS: “The theology that runs behind this viewpoint is that all sacramental ministry, all ordained ministry, in a diocese is a derivative of the bishop’s ministry. There’s nothing that can happen that can be separated from that. There’s no way that we can have our spiritual fingerprints on it or canonical fingerprints for that matter.”

He said in his letter, “There must be a robust firewall between a community that receives same-sex marriage into its life, along with its clergy, and the rest of the diocese, including and especially the bishop. This does not have to mean that there is anger, rancor, or anything but sincere love between such a congregation and the diocese.”

And, he told ENS, his July 2015 prohibition against Springfield clergy using the rites outside of the diocese still applies. “I’m hoping canonically resident clergy will take me at my word,” he told ENS, and respect his teaching about marriage and respect their oath of obedience to their bishop.

Hayes, who is also the chancellor of the Diocese of California, said the view of the episcopate that Sumner and Martins hold is not supported by the Episcopal Church’s canons, which vest control of a congregation’s worship with the clergy member in charge.

“The bishop’s obligation is to provide for there to be sufficient clergy to serve the needs of the people, and to be sure that the canons and rubrics are obeyed,” he said. “The bishop does not have the right to say, ‘I disagree with the priest’s lawful use of those liturgies that conform to the rubrics and canons.’ The bishop simply does not have that right and never has, not in our tradition.”

Hayes added, “What’s of more concern to me is that they seem to be using it as, I’m sorry to say, an intimidation tactic” to force congregations to into a DEPO situation if their clergy want to these rites.

“They’re putting up hurdles that are not contemplated in the resolution or authorized by canons,” he said. “A rector does not need to consult with the bishop about the use of an authorized liturgy of the church.”

That, Hayes said, is a canonical provision that dates to 1904 and has its roots in the traditions of the Church of England. (Canon III.9.6(a)(1a) is found on page 91 here. More background is available in the highlighted sections on pages 818, 826, and 855–856 here.)

Vermont Bishop Tom Ely says he doesn’t think bishops who oppose same-sex marriage need to set up a DEPO-like arrangement for priests and congregations who want to use the rites. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg

On its way to passage, the eight bishops called for an amendment to B012 to say that nothing in the resolution narrows the authority of the rector or priest-in-charge, as outlined in that canon, Ely said. It was meant to protect clergy who did not want to offer the rites, but he said, it also applies to clergy who do want to use them and whose bishops do not approve.

“If you need to put up 27 hoops to make your clergy jump through in order to provide local access, that’s a pastoral decision you are making,” Ely said. “I don’t think you need to, but if you believe you need to, then craft it in a way that it works but make sure it works.”

During convention, the California deputation shared a table in the House of Deputies with that of Springfield, and Hayes said the deputies spoke about belonging together despite disagreeing about marriage.

“We belong together despite disagreeing on this issue, and that has been part of what defines Anglicanism for 500 years,” he said. “The issues of Protestant versus Catholic were a lot harder to bridge than this issue of marriage. They go much deeper into the creeds. To have people who agree about every word of the Nicene Creed say we can’t be in relationship with each other because we disagree about marriage is really is a misapprehension of what we’re called to be as church.”

Read more about it

  • Full ENS coverage of marriage equality is available here.
  • The two rites at the root of this debate are here and here.

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


Comments (64)

  1. Doug Desper says:

    Now comes the long, long shaming of those bishops whose consciences do not align after everyone had touted that their conscience is valued and that their alternative voices are needed. The Convention Resolution is being followed so this article is starting to look like “pile on” to stigmatize those bishops who did not wholeheartedly endorse marriage alteration.

    The same thing happened during the Women’s Ordination debate. While I agree with it, there were assurances given to the whole Church that no one had to go along with it, but to just make room for those who want to. How long did that last before Convention made a 180 degree reversal and created a mandate? There is a similar flavor here about altering the meaning of Marriage. Elaborate promises were made to respect conscience but now starts up a “trail of tears” which identifies non-lock-step bishops as being part of some sort of barrier. Forgive me, but I do not believe that it will be too many years before bullhorn activists shout down non-conforming consciences and Marriage will be everywhere in the Church what it has never been for 2,000 years.

    1. Bruce Garner says:

      Doug, no one is “piling on” or “shaming” anyone. Neither is anyone forcing a bishop to do anything. All that is being asked is that they stop creating barriers to full access to the life of this church as had already been guaranteed by our own canons long prior to the changes in marriage. When you speak about what marriage has been for 2,000 years, please be accurate. At one point polygamy was allowed (except for bishops and deacons) and I had been allowed for thousands of years before Christianity.. Women were “given” because they were property and their owners could give them away. Divorce did not exist no matter how bad, hurtful, abusive or any other negative descriptor of the marriage existed. There was no way out but death. Do you honestly want that? Be honest, none of these bishops are being required to do any thing except allow people to get married. Don’t create a pity party for them when they are doing it already.

      Ken, your God fearing priests taught something that is not in Scripture. “love the sinner, hate the sin” is a fairly recent invention not supported by a Biblical text. Do you really think God will be all that interested in who is married to whom? I think God will be much more concerned about how we loved God and how we loved our neighbors. By the way, as I recall, Jesus said that marriage wasn’t even an issue when we get to the here after. (No one gets married or given in marriage…per the Gospels.)

      1. Doug Desper says:

        Shaming? You bet, Bruce. Bishop Ely should have been asked by ENS, “Bishop, just what ARE those 27 hoops that you are accusing other bishops of creating for a same gender ceremony?” No, he got a pass to make a statement that serves no purpose other than to portray those he differs with as obstructionists. The tone of this article is clearly accusatory.

        1. Jordan Sakal says:

          Mr. Desper,

          The fact of the matter is this: Those bishops that are denying the rite of marriage to same-sex couples are in fact obstructing the decisions made by the General Convention. The decision has been made and now the bishops should fall in line.

    2. Vernon Sheldon-Witter says:

      Mr. Desper, I am afraid to state this that Marriage was viewed as a Economic Contract and only peripherally as a Theological act. Your 2000 years holds little water.

      1. Doug Desper says:

        Vernon — what I am arguing is that Marriage was perfectly designed, and was the first gift by God to humanity (Genesis 2 – and reaffirmed by Christ in Matthew). It is a heterosexual unity designed by God and cannot be improved upon no matter who believes themselves equal to do so. No decision of any Convention or Council will alter God’s original gift and design for human pairing found in Genesis 2, and no Christian can be called to obey such disobedience. Now, that doesn’t mean that homosexual couples should not have a union and ceremony to dedicate their bond. But, it cannot be marriage in the same equal sense that God’s perfect gift was given “in the beginning” (as Jesus recalled in Matthew). It must, by design, be different but still valid. The problem with many of us is that the Church has let Caesar determine the course and the definitions. The very moment that Caesar opened the word and concept of “marriage” up to everyone was the opportunity for the Church to teach about God’s original and perfect gift to heterosexual couples as found in the beginning, AND then chart a course for homosexual couples to have a valid but different union. The Church failed and conflated these two distinct types of unions as though they are the same thing. Fiddling with liturgy doesn’t create anything. Watering down the liturgy to be a “fill-in-the-blank” ceremony for couples destroys the meaning of Genesis 2 and looks strained to solemnize a same-gender union. It’s amusing and hypocritical how gay activists spent years railing against Caesar’s laws of the land which created a barrier, and now many of the same activists are using Caesar’s law as their support for why everyone should just fall in line.
        The poorly conceived decisions which satisfy an itch in 2018 will cause a rash in 2118. That’s what happens when when questions are decided according to human wisdom.

        1. Jordan Sakal says:

          Mr. Desper,

          If marriage was “perfectly designed” why then is the rate of divorce for heterosexual couples roughly 42-45% among heterosexual couples? marriage is not designed purely as a heterosexual union either (for the purposes of procreation or otherwise) or do you believe that those heterosexual couples who cannot procreate have invalid marriages before God?

          The problem with your separate but equal theology here is this, In 2008, California adopted proposition 8, which made gay marriage once again illegal in the state. The matter was soon taken to the court’s and in the judge who wrote the majority opinion of the court’s opinion Judge Walker stated that in effect, even if every letter of the law was the same, even if there was not one single legal difference between marriages and civil union, the very act of making a new and distinct term for gay relationships necessarily means they are different from and ‘not as good as’ the straight variety.

          That’s the exact problem, you want to treat us as if we are invalid and that we are inferior to you. That our love is somehow different from yours and the truth is, it is not.

          1. Doug Desper says:

            Jordan – read your Scripture, mainly at Genesis 2. Marriage was a perfectly conceived idea in the mind of God and the first gift by God to humanity as a vocation to participate in the act of creation, if possible, and therefore no human institution can amend that original design and bond or create anything equal to it. (Other relationships such as gay unions are another topic – and can be valid but do not have the same vocation as this first gift to humanity. Gay folks cannot by biology participate with God in a creating act. Marriage is not only for humans to have each other in a bond). The Bible is replete with examples of humans rebelling and “knowing better than God”. (Hence your quote about the divorce rate. The Genesis 2 concept of marriage itself is not at fault, but the sinfulness and arrogance of humanity certainly is). By the time of Jesus the perfectly conceived idea of marriage had been twisted by humanity into many aberrations – including divorce, which Jesus said, was granted by Moses because “your hearts were hard”. The gift and design of marriage is perfect. It is a vocation. The human will is what distorts and General Convention has allowed itself to be led around by the nose by Caesar to conceive a muddy concept and call it marriage. Notwithstanding, Genesis 2 and Jesus’ affirmation of it in Matthew 19 will never be amended. In it’s rush to social justice the General Convention has aimed at the wrong target and has effectively reduced marriage to a human comfort bond rather than the call by God to participate in creation. That is an injustice to the Scripture and to the special vocation that heterosexual couples have been called to.

          2. Matt Ouellette says:

            Doug, I recommend that you see my response to you below, as it covers many of the points you made here. Suffice it to say, there are good theological reasons to affirm marriage equality which are not just due to following secular standards. Your emphasis on the need for procreation in order for marriage to be valid (a common argument in the Roman Catholic Church) is mistaken, and would require us to declare infertile heterosexual marriages as invalid (and hand-waving that away with phrases like “openness to procreation” are unconvincing because these couples are still biologically incapable of procreating, just like gay couples).

        2. Matt Ouellette says:

          Doug, I appreciate that you are not condemning all gay relationships as sinful, and believe that they should receive blessing from the church. However, I don’t see what the point is in blessing their unions as something other than marriage. Sure, gay marriages are different from straight ones, but that doesn’t mean they are less valid. If you ask me, the church deciding to invent a new sacramental rite to bless a sexual union other than marriage would be succumbing to human wisdom over divine wisdom, since the Church has only ever allowed the institution of marriage to be the proper place for sexual unions to be sanctified. Why not just expand that understanding to include same-sex couples as well as opposite sex ones? Of course, there are challenges in doing this, especially with regards to preserving the unique experiences and witness of same-sex couples to the Church, as Bishop Matthew Gunter has noted when he decided to not support the change to the marriage canon in 2015:

          However, I think that difference can be maintained by viewing same-sex marriages as simply a different “order” of Holy Matrimony rather than a different sacrament altogether (which was one of Bishop Gunter’s proposed solutions). I just don’t think it is necessary to come up with a completely new sacramental rite when marriage would work just fine.

          1. Charles Pierce says:

            Mr. Ouellette – Marriage is about children, the issue of two people and the linage that they produce. It is also about money, who will receive the property of his Father and who will not. Today most states have laws that if a child is born and the people are married in the eyes of the state, even if the Father can genetically prove the child is not his issue, he is still legally the father. Science has made many strides in many fields but has never been able to master the act of procreation. Even with DNA the parents of the child are important, because that is the way God set it and the idea of linage. Why does the Bible go so much into detail about the linage of Jesus. Who you are and where you came from is important. Using your thoughts why do we have marriage at the state or religious level at all. Simply let everyone procreate at will with who ever and when ever they want.

          2. Matt Ouellette says:

            And what do you make of infertile heterosexual couples, Charles? Should they be forbidden from marriage because they cannot procreate?

          3. Charles Pierce says:

            Your argument about infertile couples is specious at best and ignorant at worst. Heterosexual couples at least have a chance of producing children. Same sex couples do not. That is a biological fact that can not be disputed.

          4. Jordan Sakal says:

            Mr. Pierce,

            You claim that Mr. Ouellette’s argument is specious and inherently wrong. How is his argument wrong? You claimed that homosexual couples do not deserve the rite to marriage because in your view marriage is a reserved act/rite for those couples who are able to procreate. Mr. Ouellette asked you therefore what of those heterosexual couples who are unable to reproduce? Are they invalid to be married? Are their marriages sinful or wrong? You did not answer this question which is a perfectly valid one and you should do so.

          5. Charles Pierce says:

            The biological process of making babies is relatively simply, one male and one female join in union and transfer sperm to the female egg. That is the way it works, no matter how much is pass between 2 males or 2 females they will never produce a child. I am not questing the loving and caring relationship that they may have but the point is they can not produce children.

          6. Matt Ouellette says:

            Charles, we all know how procreation works. What you fail to explain is why the ability to procreate is essential to a valid marriage. You still have not answered my question regarding infertile heterosexual couples.

          7. Jordan Sakal says:

            Mr. Pierce,

            You may have missed this part of biology nowadays, but it is possible to take a gay man’s sperm and a lesbian’s egg and fuse them together in a laboratory environment and then implant them into the female’s womb. (This is of course presuming that these couples are friends and would agree to such an arrangement) The resulting foetus would be biologically share the friend’s DNA and not need any sexually reproductive activity to occur.

            Artificial insemination does show how one of the two gay parents can be the biological parent.

            What a concept!

  2. Jordan Sakal says:

    It is morally reprehensible and shameful to me that in certain diocese there will exist in the Episcopal Church impediments to marriage for loving, caring LGBTQ+ couples. It is not right, just, or fair and it flies in the face of Jesus’ message of love.

    1. Ken Thomas says:

      As a FORMER fourth generation Episcopalian it grieves me to no end that my mother and father’s church has fallen so for from the true Christian faith. Haven been taught by God fearing priests that it is necessary to hate the sin but love the sinner it is apparent that since bishop Robinson was greeted with open arms to spill his life style over into the church that God’s word has been discarded as worthless dribble by this new modern way of professing faith. It is true the same sex couples will face hurdles, but their biggest hurdles will come when they face their maker.

      1. Jordan Sakal says:

        Mr. Thomas,

        What is the “true” Christian faith to you? To me, I follow the following from the BCP, it succinctly describes the Christian faith to me.

        “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:
        Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

        My faith in God through his Son Jesus Christ, is unshaken and immovable in the face of your criticism and condemnation. I was born a gay man, someday I hope I will be a married gay man (with gasp! a husband) and I will be reunited at the end of my life with peace through Christ Jesus in the life of the world to come.

        The faith and beliefs of the Episcopal Church have not been “discarded as dribble” however, as all societies do, we have gained new understandings of faith and have advanced as a result.

        The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song will I praise him.

        1. Charles Pierce says:

          Has God teaching changed in 2000 years, why is the church throwing over doctrine that is Biblical and functioned well, for 2 or 3 percent of the population. Marriage today is a state function not a church function when a Priest preforms the marriage rites he is acting both for the church and for the state. “The 79th General Convention’s passage of Resolution B012, designed to give all Episcopalians unfettered access to two trial-use marriage rites that were approved in 2015, days after U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.” So we are now following the state rather than following our teachings. We are simply driving away people to satisfy a small percentage of our population.

          1. Matt Ouellette says:

            Charles, perhaps you should try reading some affirming theology and see why many have decided to support marriage equality in the Church. I recommend this blog by Bishop Matthew Gunter for starters:
            Also, God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines is another great resource.

  3. Bruce Garner says:

    As I read the comments from the eight bishops, I found myself shaking my head in a mixture of sadness and amusement. Did they recall a promise they made at their ordinations as bishops from page 518 of the BCP:
    Bishop: As a chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and ministries, nourish them from the riches of God’s grace, pray for them without ceasing, and celebrate with them the sacraments of our redemption?
    Answer: I will, in the name of Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

    There is nothing in that promise that provides an exception to “all.” There isn’t an exception for those you don’t particularly like, those with whom you might hold differing theological views or those who don’t meet a myriad of differences likely to exist within a diocese. Yet, several of these bishops are clearly willing to abdicate all episcopal responsibility for an entire congregation over who wants to be married in the church. That comes across to me as pretty insecure and childish.

    Where did it become necessary for a priest or congregation or a couple to be in lockstep agreement with a bishop about everything. Scratch below the surface and you will find a few more areas where there might not be agreement. Yet, here we are again, obsessing about human sexuality instead of the Gospel.

    Are these bishops so insecure that they cannot function in a situation where people hold different positions than they do? What were they taught in seminary? Theology is a broad subject with much room for differing views and interpretation. I doubt if there has ever been a time when everyone agreed on everything.

    The promise they made is to be a pastor, like Jesus. It’s not to be a lawyer, a Pharisee. Your flocks need you more than you might think. They might actually have faith in you if you were not so obsessive and rigid over all things related to human sexuality.

  4. Charles Pierce says:

    What was the membership in the TEC in 1992, what is the membership today. Many of the issues that are being portrayed in the article are the reason that people are leaving the TEC. Are we becoming a church that is to please the congregations or are we a church that is based upon the teaching of the Bible. If we do not examine our doctrine we will not exist in 10 or 20 years.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      If sticking to a conservative understanding of the “teaching of the Bible” is essential to our growth and existence as a church, then why are the Continuing Anglicans, who are very conservative on issues of gender and sexuality, so much smaller and also shrinking? I think the issue is much more complicated than whether or not a church supports marriage equality.

    2. Steve Price says:

      The denomination losing the largest per cent of membership is the most anti- gay,the Southern Baptist Convention,And if you really still think the Diocese of S.Carolina is not part of the Episcopal Church,you might want to check with the S.Carolina Supreme Court

  5. Charles Pierce says:

    I am not worried about the Anglican Church, they have their own problem mostly based upon the society in the countries where they operate. I am worried about the TEC. The entire Dioceses of Low South Carolina has departed, the cost to the TEC $40M the cost to SC about $18M. I know a large number of Priests who say that if they are required to preform same sex marriages the will simply stop being a priest. The first thing one does when they find themselves in a hole is to stop digging. We need to stop digging.

    1. Jordan Sakal says:

      Mr. Pierce,

      So your choice/suggestion is to deny all LGBTQ+ members of TEC the same rights, rites, and privileges that you enjoy as a heterosexual member of the church? How can you justify denying people the same access you have just because we are different from you?

    2. Robbie Johnson says:

      It is just a matter of time until all priests and bishops will be required to perform same sex weddings. Refuse and you will be thrown out of the clergy!

      1. Jordan Sakal says:


        Do you have proof of this claim or is this just another baseless accusation?

    3. Grant Barber says:

      Who said anything about requiring priests to perform weddings for same sex couples? That is an incredible reach–not even on the same slope if you’re going for slippery ones in your reasoning. Clergy are not required to perform marriages automatically for people who present themselves. Great example of the current ‘buckshot’ approach to argumentation–proliferate the number of (sometimes outrageous or at least demonstrably false) statements as a way to avoid focus on the matter at hand. Earlier commenter, or maybe it was in article, got it probably best: do not set up impediments for clergy to perform and couples seeking marriage, but rather a clear set of steps–no more complicated, less actually I’d hope, than re-marriage approval is now post-divorce. The real pain will come if the clergy and people of the congregation at odds with their bishop then become functionally part of another diocese. If the geographic location is on a border (Ft Worth and Dallas for example, and Diocese of TX) then culture, proximity will make things smoother than a congregation geographically located a significant drive/flight away.

    4. Wayne Helmly says:

      In fact, the “entire diocese” in the eastern half of South Carolina did not depart, nor are we known as “Low South Carolina.”

      Actually, thanks to excellent leadership from our bishops, clergy, and laity, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has shown modest growth over the past few years.

  6. Susan Russell says:

    The question has never been whether there is a place for traditionalists with a minority opinion on marriage equality in the Episcopal Church. It is whether those holding that minority theological perspective should have the power to deny access to the sacrament of marriage to couples seeking God’s blessing on their marriage — something that is currently happening in only 8 out of 101 dioceses and to which an overwhelming majority of bishops, clergy and laity serving as the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church said “time’s up.”

    In the weeks and months ahead we will continue to live into that decision as a church and — as I said in the interview above — some bishops are going to do what they’re going to do. Bishop Martins can make up any ecclesiology he wants to around his episcopate — he just can’t use his own fantasy of how he thinks a bishop should be able to exercise power to trump the checks and balances our historic polity places on the power of bishops. That was the intent of B012. So prayers ascend for those having to navigate those challenges — especially for couples yearning to be married in their home church by their parish clergy.

    1. Charles Pierce says:

      Bishops of the Episcopal Church are not infallible on issue of Doctrine as is the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Why do a group of men and women have a right to rewrite doctrine base upon the uproar of the crowd. “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the women and the man enter into a life-long union, making their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.” Do we still have a sacrament of Marriage or are we simply following the Nation States definition?

      1. Matt Ouellette says:

        Charles, I again refer you to my comments below. They demonstrate that this is not about following secular culture and laws.

        1. Charles Pierce says:

          Sorry, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duct, then it must be a duck.” This sure look like a duck to me and many other people in the Church.

        2. Jordan Sakal says:

          Mr. Pierce,

          Of course we still have a sacrament of marriage. The sacrament is just being expanded and made more inclusive to now reflect the church’s new theological understanding of same-sex relationships. No damage is being done to heterosexual marriage, heterosexual marriages are not being taken away or changed. Rather, the blessings of God and the Episcopal Church are now being extended to LGBTQ+ couples. Simple as that.

  7. Bill Louis says:

    To paraphrase; the 79th General Convention’s passage of Resolution B012, designed to give all Episcopalians unfettered access to two trial-use marriage rites that were approved in 2015, days after U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
    Did TEC paint itself into the corner? How long will it be before same sex couples denied the Rite of Marriage by a Bishop in TEC, sues the church much like the Oregon baker was sued (awarded $135K) for refusing to bake a same sex wedding cake or the Kentucky clerk that is in contempt of a court order to issue a marriage license to same sex couples. What will be the fate of a Bishop refusing to marry a same sex couple in his Diocese? TEC’s shrinking coffers will be in jeopardy of further decimation by opportunistic couples seeking a payday from the church through the legal system.

    1. Jordan Sakal says:

      Mr. Louis,

      Instead of people suing the church and weakening it, (which I do not think would happen.) The bishops could you know, actually support the teachings of Christ when He says to love one another. These bishops remind me of Kim Davis, the county clerk who went to jail rightfully for violating the law even though she had the ability to recuse herself and have no part in the issuing of marriage licences. The bishops could do the same, and let their priests who actually stand on the right side of this decision marry these loving couples. That way everyone wins.

  8. Charles Pierce says:

    We are attempting to over simplify love and its meaning in Greek. Greek has 4 kinds of love, Agapeo the love of God that all Christians have, Phileo the love of one another as brother and sister in Christ, Eros the love of a physical partner. The last is Storge or the love of family. For 2000 years the Eros has been reserved for a male-female relationship. I also recognize that Homosexuality was present in Greece and Rome and many other parts of the known world, it was tolerated but not sanctioned as it produced nothing for the society, Eros between husband and wives was to produce children for the society and sexual relations outside of marriage was not tolerated because of the parentage of the child (Bastard in the classical sense), we in modern society have decided to make homosexual marriage a tenant of modernity. For the world that is its choice but the Church does not have to follow blindly he teaching of Caesar.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      Charles, the reason why we are re-considering the teaching on marriage in today’s society is because our understanding of homosexuality is different from what is was in the ancient world. In the ancient world, homosexuality was condemned not primarily because of the lack of procreation (after all, adoption is always an option for infertile couples), but because it was thought of as an expression of sexual excess and lust. Therefore, anyone with same-sex inclinations, according to this understanding, could simply settle down with someone of the opposite sex to get their lustful inclinations under control. However, we now know that homosexuality is the result of an inherent orientation that cannot be willfully changed, just like heterosexuality. Therefore, given this knowledge, the only options the church has in order to properly minister to gay people is to either change its teaching on vocational celibacy (where celibacy is mandatory for some types of people, rather than vocational) or expand its teaching on marriage (so that gay couples can also fulfill St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:9). Affirming Christians believe the second option is more in keeping with Christian charity and mercy. This is all explained in more detail in Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian if you want more information but suffice it to say that this has nothing to do with just following the teachings of secular culture, any more than accepting heliocentrism or evolutionary biology was for the church.

  9. Charles Pierce says:

    I lover all people in an Agapeo or Storge way, and I have Eros feelings for one person, my wife. I do not profess to be able to rewrite the teaching of God because of man’s new understanding of homosexuality. That is like being Sponged, where man become more important than God.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      And faithful gay couples feel the same way about their spouses as you feel about your wife. Why should your Eros be considered superior to the Eros of gay people? And I do not believe non-affirming Christians such as yourself understand God’s teaching on homosexuality, as much as you think you might. We’ve changed our understanding of God’s teachings on many things in the past in response to the movement of the Holy Spirit and scientific knowledge, from the need for circumcision to be admitted into the Church, to following kosher dietary laws, to geocentrism, to the acceptability of slavery, to evolutionary biology, to the role of women in ministry. Why is this change in understanding different?

      1. Charles Pierce says:

        We attempt to rewrite history to fit the need of modern day theology. It will not work, the TEC might as well simply become one of the fell good churches with not doctrine but what each individual parishioner, Deacon, Priest and Bishop wants it to mean. The traditional meaning that has been around from the beginning was and still should be what is used to produce our theology. Until 8 or 10 years ago homosexuality was considered a mental defect why has it changed. Perception have changed. But the theology has not changed. Do not make up history to support your theology.

        1. Matt Ouellette says:

          You seem to have completely ignored my arguments about how we have changed our interpretation of theology in response to scientific advancement in the past. Why is this change different? Also, homosexuality was not considered a mental defect only 8-10 years ago. It was reclassified in the 1970’s, over 40 years ago:

          The reason for this was based on the lack of evidence that homosexuality being harmful to the individual. So are you saying a theology which assumes homosexuality is a mental disorder, contrary to the scientific consensus, should remain?

  10. John Hobart says:

    Sadly, the Episcopal Church is an angry and unhappy place. I remember better times.

    1. Jordan Sakal says:

      Mr. Hobart,

      Where is the anger and unhappiness? Unless you mean the anger and unhappiness that exists because people are uncomfortable with the direction of the church. (Which is a phenomenon that has existed across churches and across religions for generations.)

    2. Vernon Sheldon-Witter says:

      What better times. Know this, the Church is going through the malaise the rest of the Nation is going through. In every Diocese besides the 8, the Bishop and Clergy are quite happy with the Solution. Give up the fake ennui and learn to live with the solution. The rest of us have.

      1. John Hobart says:

        Your hurry to marginalize the feelings of those with whom you disagree is probably part of the problem.

  11. Charles Pierce says:

    The TEC has lost 1/2 of it membership in 26 years, it is not doing fine. It is failing.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      Almost every denomination has lost members in the United States. That is due to the collapse of Christendom in our society, not due to any unique failing of TEC.

  12. Charles Pierce says:

    The catholic (Big C and Little c) and the mainline protestant churches are losing membership. The Evangelical churches are growing. It is time to ask the question why? Not simply spout platitudes about the loss.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      If you are implying it has anything to do with the evangelical churches opposing marriage equality, then you are mistaken. Conservative denominations like the RCC, Southern Baptist Convention, and Continuing Anglicans are also shrinking, and they all oppose marriage equality. The reasons for denominational decline is more complicated than that.

  13. christopher seitz says:

    In my earlier days in this church, one would have imagined that to set aside diocesan canons a constitutional change and clarification would have been in order. Now not only is there practically no distinction between canons and constitution (two GC being required for constitutional changes), GC resolutions, banged out on the floor of GC, now are being held up as equivalent to canons. In theory, if we were not already so far down the road of canonical disorder, one might well imagine a bishop saying, “resolutions are just that, and I will ignore them” – which may be a bit of what is happening as an incoherent B012 is being acknowledged as somehow relevant.
    So one person believes B012 only deals with divorce and not bringing a bishop in to handle ss marriages. Another holds that it entails parishes effectively coming under said bishop for all matters (except paying assessment). Yet another holds that said Bishop just deals with ss marriage and the parish is fully under the diocesan umbrella. A fine Esau pottage.
    One sees in this article that interpretation number two is viewed as an overreach. Yet when one reads the comments of the Rector of Transfiguration in Dallas, it sounds like the interpretation he, in favor of ss marriages, prefers as well. And of course, throw in as well the fact that parishes will be divided on the matter (so TN in this article, but also Dallas and CFL for sure) — something B012 must hope is just a bump in the road.

  14. christopher seitz says:

    So how will all this play out? Is Susan Russell right, or Tom Ely, or the fine chancellor from CA, or George Sumner, or Dan Martins? Or does it not really matter very much as the conservative bishop position cannot hope to replicate itself finally, given the consents process, when this handful of bishops will have retired? Diocesan canons are pretty much meaningless.

    We have had a struggle over whether a bishop and a diocese can claim to stand under scripture and BCP and vows made at a time previous when TEC had not yet turned in this direction; and GC resolutions which direct Bishops to do as it says when it says it. The latter has clearly won out and we are simply observing the final innings, as these few remaining bishops approach retirement. The only question is how messy this intervening period is and whether their remaining years allow them the scope they are claiming, at least for now.

    What is the view on this more broadly? Same-sex marriage is the priority. Polity/order is either inconvenient or unnecessary. We have a new General Convention Church where bishops and dioceses are to choose between GC or previous commitments/understandings.

  15. Franklin Billerbeck says:

    Help! I’m confused! Setting aside the theological questions, the 7th resolve of B012 clearly indicates all couples shall have access to these rites (the two newly authorized rites) in their home congregation. So if “Tom and Sara” want one of the two newly authorized rites they must be allowed to use that rite. That is clear. But what if “Bob and Tom” or “Susan and Sally” desire to use one of these rites? It is also clear that a priest may decline to solemnize any marriage for pretty much any reason. If a rector chooses not to perform a same gender marriage, must the rector allow another canonical Episcopalian priest or ELCA pastor to perform the same gender marriage e.g., the priest’s curate?

    What is the order precedence? Constitution, BCP, Church Canons, Diocesan Canons, General Convention Resolutions? Has General Convention, de facto, overridden the BCP, changing the substance but not the wording? Does it have the authority to do so?

    Re.: Infertility. Ultimately, God is the giver of life. Couples the medical establishment deems infertile may turn out to have children (a video clip currently on St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary’s web cite provides one example of this).

    Bp. Gunter of Fond du Lac argues there may be a difference between same gender marriage and heterosexual marriage. If so, what are those differences and how does TEC train clergy to address them?

    If possible, would someone help rid me of my confusion?

    1. christopher seitz says:

      I will try.

      Rectors may decline. They have no authority, obviously, over other clergy, and any couple may go to another priest. Same as ever, now including same sex couples. If couples go this way, it would likely follow they would worship where they have been married.

      As for GS resolutions, you are correct to wonder how something like B012 is meant to function, given diocesan canons, resistant bishops and dioceses, divided parishes, and on it goes.

      My view is that it will be messy and possibly conflictual in conservative dioceses, with lots of scope for charges, but that this will end when said bishops retire. There will be individual parishes which are known for not moving in this direction, but this will be the end of the matter.

      Nothing has happened to the BCP as of now, but new local options are part of the climate of “rites sur mesure.” I hope this helps.

  16. Charles Pierce says:

    “rites sur mesure.” Write your own, sound more like the Baptist Church than the Episcopal Church. All for one, one for all and every church for itself. Messy is the best description of the out come, Chaos is more likely.

    1. Franklin Billerbeck says:

      Thank you for your response. My sense is you are very correct. In the case of a rector declining to perform a same gender marriage (which is the rector’s right), if said rector would be REQUIRED under canon to allow the same gender couple to have another priest to come into the rector’s parish and perform the marriage — that way the couple could be married in their home parish.

      1. christopher seitz says:

        Of course such a canon COULD exist, but it does not. One could try to get one on the books, but it is hard to imagine tha passing. And the present canon would have to be expunged.

        1. Franklin Billerbeck says:

          Thank you. That is very interesting. That interpretation would then allow a rector not only to refuse to perform a same gender marriage, but prevent a same gender marriage being performed in the church where s/he is rector. Whether a vicar or priest in charge would have such authority, I’m not sure. My sense is there are some congregations where performing a same gender marriage would cost members and, in a smaller congregation, that could impact the viability of the congregation.

          1. christopher seitz says:

            There are a number of demographic realities. Single rector parishes — this could be above 75% given the membership drop in TEC. You are speaking of a rector with staff who disagree with her/him on this. But there is also the reality of vestries and their role, and divided parishes are inevitable given this new development.

            There are also formal anomalies. The two canons on the books–discretion re: marrying couples and rector’s being in charge of liturgical life, fabric, etc–were never written with the present context in view. The first has to do with pastoral discretion simplicter — not a LGBT reality not in view when it was written. The second has to do with protecting a rector from harrassment and enabling her or him to set the direction unhindered. These have become defaults because everything has now been overridden–including bishops and diocesan canons–and they are alone left standing (like columns in a collapsing building…).

  17. Kofi Wing says:

    We who believe in traditional marriage are not idiots. It is tiresome to see that being insinuated in so much of this. That said, most of the comments here on both sides miss something very important.

    Many of the comments here have gotten caught up in the fog of trying to prove or disprove marriage equality by various arguments from procreation or lack thereof. I do not think that is a helpful way of approaching it. The essential thing is to remember that marriage is a physical icon of Christ and his Church. Sexual difference in the physical sense is the essence of this “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” If Christ and the Church were identical, we would not be redeemed. One who was fully God and fully human was necessary for salvation. That is the difference between us and Christ. Marriage is a sign of the incarnation of Christ, wherein God “goes out from himself” (pun intended) in order to bring salvation to the world.

    None of this is to question the fact that some people have a fixed and unalterable homosexual orientation. I understand that for most people it is not a “choice.” All that aside, the doctrine of marriage is unassailable and immutable, and there is no place for sexual activity outside marriage. It is worth noting that some of those who have such an orientation would agree with me on this (e.g. Dr. Wesley Hill).

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      I, as a gay Christian myself, do not agree with Wesley Hill’s theology on marriage and sexuality. While I’m glad he has found life in his vocational celibacy, I think he is wrong to suggest it is mandatory for all gay Christians (not to mention that neither the Scriptures nor tradition mandate life-long celibacy for any particular group of people; it is a vocation). I also think he and other non-affirming Christians are reading too much of their own biases into the texts to assume that the Bible’s affirmation of heterosexual marriage is a condemnation of gay marriages. I think Matthew Vines, Eugene Rogers, and Dr. James Brownson provide a better approach to marriage and sexuality, and convincingly demonstrate that sexual differences are not required for a marriage to typify Christ and the Church. Gay Christians who are not called to celibacy need a way to fulfill St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:9, so expanding our doctrine on marriage is the best way to minister to these gay Christians rather than change our teachings on celibacy.

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