GC2009: House of Bishops Discuss Same Sex Blessings
By David W. Virtue and Michael Heidt
In another potentially communion breaking legislative session, the House of Bishop's met this morning to discuss resolution C056, which endorses same sex unions and rituals to bless them. The resolution goes on to invite the wider Anglican Communion into this process.
C056 resolves that the "Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishop's Theology Committee, collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same gender holy unions" for presentation at the 77th General Convention. It also states that "all bishops... may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church."
The final resolve invites the Anglican Consultative Council, and other desirous bodies of the Anglican Communion, to engage in the development of these rites. An amendment to the resolution by Bishop Don E. Johnston of West Tennessee states:
"that the 76th General Convention invites the Anglican Consultative Council into conversation regarding this resolution and the work that proceeds from it" and, "notes that similar work is presently being carried out in other Provinces, dioceses and churches of the Anglican Communion and invites these bodies to engage and share in the work of The Episcopal Church." The invitation extends to, "all provinces, dioceses, and churches of the Anglican... to engage and contribute to this work, as they may be moved and desire so to do."
This "work" is not prescriptive, with the fourth resolve stating that "no bishop or other member of the clergy shall be compelled to authorize or officiate at such liturgies..." After Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley's minority report was defeated because of its limiting effect on the blessings in question, the third resolve was amended to include "clergy" who will "provide generous pastoral response" as authorized by their bishops.
A further amendment, limiting the scope of developing new same sex rituals was defeated. Bishop Bill Love (Albany) sought clarification as to whether clergy were under the direction of their bishop and would they need the bishop's approval and what would happen if the bishop chose not to give that permission. Jefferts Schori said, "the bishop is the ordinary."
Another bishop observed that this looked more and more like the tyranny of the majority.
Bishop Peter Beckwith of Springfield rose in opposition to the whole matter. "Why waste my time and your time...is it casting a pearl before swine thing. This is another clear instance that we are allowing our church to be shaped by the secular culture rather than pursuing our God given mission in pursing the secular culture."
Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington said the church allowed divorced persons as a concession to human frailty. "It is time for the church be liberated from hypocrisy under which it has been operating about our gay brothers and sisters. Divorce contradicted sexual ethics. Our gay and lesbian members don't think much about what other Anglicans around the world think. The Nigerians are our most ardent critic. The Scribes and the Pharisees tied people up in burdens..."
Bishop Beckwith then requested the resolution be approved by a roll call vote, which would ensure voting on it is public and recorded. This was passed and the House went into recess. C056 is now scheduled for consideration tomorrow afternoon; if it passes through the House of Bishops it will move to the House of Deputies for adoption. Not all bishops were in favor of C056.
The un-amended text of the resolution follows below: July 14, 2009 Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions, to be presented to the 77th General Convention for formal consideration, and be it further Resolved, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, devise an open process for the conduct of its work in this matter, inviting participation from dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are or have already engaged in the study or design of such rites throughout the Anglican Communion, and be it further Resolved, that all bishops, noting particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further Resolved, that honoring the theological diversity of this Church, no bishop or other member of the clergy shall be compelled to authorize or officiate at such liturgies, and be it further Resolved, that the Anglican Consultative Council be invited to conversation regarding this resolution and the work that proceeds from it, together with other churches in the Anglican Communion engaged in similar processes.
Minority report from Bishop Henry N. Parsley: I offer the minority opinion that in the 3rd resolve the substitute should read, "Resolved, that in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage or civil unions are legal, the bishop may provide a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of the members of this church."
Explanation: This language focuses on the six states where same gender marriage or civil unions are legal which I believe to be our correct focus at this time.
+ Henry Parsley (Diocesan Bishop,Alabama)
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