Episcopal Task Force on the Study of Marriage reports on initial meeting

Posted Aug 5, 2013

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has issued the following report.

At the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012, Resolution A050 called for a Task Force on the Study of Marriage to be appointed by the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to study and consult broadly on the subject of marriage. They were asked to explore historical, biblical, theological, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage, and to do so in consideration of the “changing societal and cultural norms and legal structures” of our time.

Resolution A050-2012 further asked for the following outcomes:

  • tools for theological reflection and discussion at the local level;
  • a way of addressing “the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such”; and
  • a report on its progress to the 78th General Convention in 2015.

The Rev. Brian C. Taylor, Task Force Chair from the Diocese of Rio Grande, noted following the group’s first gathering, “This remarkable and diverse group of clergy, bishops, and laity appreciate the enormity of the task before us, and the importance of doing so at this time. We are honored to have been appointed, enthused about doing the work, and confident that with the Spirit’s guidance, we will produce something of value for our Church.”

The Task Force spent much of its time in prayer and open discussion, considering first and foremost how to frame the tasks set before them. They were – and will continue to be – guided by principles laid out in General Convention Resolution D039-2000, which names values that the church upholds for those living in marriage and other life-long committed relationships: “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.”

Taylor said that the Task Force also “considered deeply what underlying question the Church was asking through this resolution. Our working assumption at this point is that it is this: What might the Episcopal Church have to say to today’s world as to what makes a marriage Christian and holy?”

In order to faithfully respond to this question, the Task Force divided into three working groups that will continue to work through the months ahead:

  1. Marriage: Historical, Liturgical and Canonical Roots (chair: the Rev. Canon Susan Russell, Diocese of Los Angeles)
  2. Marriage: Biblical and Theological Dimensions (chair: Carolyn Chilton, Diocese of Virginia)
  3. Marriage: Conversations and Consultations; Changing Norms (chair: The Rev. Canon Will Mebane, Diocese of Ohio)

Regarding the third group, Taylor said, “We know we can’t do this alone; therefore our Task Force plans to seek input from a broad range of people throughout the Church.”

The enabling resolution charges as much, asking for consultation with couples living in marriage and other committed relationships, single adults, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons, other churches in the Anglican Communion, and our ecumenical partners. The Task Force plans on using a variety of means for these consultations: soliciting a collection of short video testimonies from couples about how they have found God’s grace at work in their marriages; a survey; meeting with appropriate bodies; sponsoring facilitated conversations in a variety of Church gatherings; and more.

At the close of the Task Force’s meeting, Taylor concluded, “Yes, it is a daunting task. But our Task Force’s scholars, bishops, pastors, canonists, and educators are up to it. More importantly, the time has come for us to engage in this work, and God will faithfully guide us through. ”

The members of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage are:

  • The Rev. Brian C. Taylor, chair, Diocese of the Rio Grande
  • Carolyn M. Chilton, Diocese of Virginia
  • The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, Diocese of Vermont
  • Joan Geiszler-Ludlum, vice-chair, Diocese of East Carolina
  • The Rev. Gail Greenwell, Diocese of Kansas
  • The Rev. Tobias S. Haller, Diocese of New York
  • The Rev. Canon W. (Will) H. Mebane, Jr., Diocese of Ohio
  • The Rev. J. David Knight, Diocese of Mississippi
  • The Rev. Dr. Cameron E. Partridge, Diocese of Massachusetts
  • The Rev. Susan Russell, Diocese of Los Angeles
  • The Very Rev. Dr. Sylvia A. Sweeney, Diocese of Los Angeles
  • The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Diocese of Upper South Carolina

Resolution A050 is available in full here.