SALT LAKE CITY, UT: Episcopal Church House of Bishops Passes Gay Marriage Resolutions
Gay Bishop Gene Robinson summed up the debate, "As Jesus said on the cross, it is finished"
By Michael Heidt in Salt Lake City
VOL Special Correspondent
June 29, 2015
On Monday, June 29, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church voted in favor of two Resolutions, A054 and A036, which authorize gay marriage liturgies and make the church’s marriage canons gender neutral.
Resolution A054 authorizes the use of same-sex “Resources and Rites” from “Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015.” The Resolution states that these are for “trial use” under Article X of the church’s Constitution. It also contains a conscience clause, allowing clergy to “decline to preside at any liturgy contained herein.”
After debating A054 in the morning session of the House, the bishops met in closed session, and passed the Resolution in the afternoon before considering Resolution A036, which makes the church’s marriage Canon 1.18 gender neutral.
A036 removes language stating that marriage is the “union of husband and wife in heart, body and mind,” as well as any reference to marriage being for the “procreation of children.” The Resolution does, however, include an excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer, which explains the meaning of marriage:
“We understand the teaching of the church that God's purpose for our marriage is for our mutual joy, for the help and comfort we will give to each other in prosperity and adversity, and, when it is God's will, for the gift and heritage of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of God. We also understand that our marriage is to be unconditional, mutual, exclusive, faithful, and lifelong; and we engage to make the utmost effort to accept these gifts and fulfill these duties, with the help of God and the support of our community.”
The evangelical catholic Bishop of Albany, The Rt. Rev. William Love, was the only bishop to speak against the principle of both resolutions, arguing specifically against A036 on the floor of the House. Love stated that sexual intimacy was properly between a man and a woman within marriage for life.
“When it comes to changing the Church’s understanding of the sacrament of marriage, I would remind you of what our Lord said in Mark’s Gospel, (10: 6-9) ‘But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’”
Bishop Love continued, “(there are) those who believe him to be the Son of God, God Incarnate. He is quite aware of the nature of marriage and could have chosen other ways of describing marriage, but he didn’t.
“Nowhere does God say that two people shouldn’t love each other, share a life together, be legal representatives of one another, this is not an issue. But Scripture says that it’s not appropriate to use the gift of sexual intimacy except within the confines of marriage.
“Do you love your partner enough not to engage in sexual intimacy?” asked Love, “That’s what is really in question. Again, I speak against this motion.”
Following debate on the pros and cons of the Resolution, including a minority report submitted by the Bishop of Springfield, Daniel Martins, A036 was passed by a sizable majority in a roll-call vote. 129 bishops voted in favor, 26 against, and 5 abstained. Those against included most of the Church’s Province 9 bishops, from Central America, and the few remaining traditionalist bishops in the Church’s domestic dioceses, such as the bishops of Springfield, Albany and Central Florida. As with Resolution A054, A036 allows clergy to refuse to celebrate gay marriages.
Reactions on social media were instant, “tyranny of the majority is feeling empowered,” broadcast the Bishop of Springfield, in what appeared to be a lone voice on the Convention’s #GC78Twitter feed. Others were more upbeat, “let your yes be yes!” cheered @episcopalcafe, while Gene Robinson summed up the debate, "As Jesus said on the cross, it is finished."
Both A054 and A036 will now go to the House of Deputies for approval.
Michael Heidt is Editor of Forward in Christ magazine and a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth
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