SALT LAKE CITY, UT: The Supreme Court Goes Gay, Episcopalians Rejoice
By Michael Heidt in Salt Lake City
VOL Special Correspondent
June 26, 2015
Following the news of the Supreme Court's 5-4 June 26 ruling that gay marriage is a constitutional right, delegates to the church's 78th Episcopal General Convention worshipped at a Eucharist celebrated by the partnered lesbian bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, here in the Salt Palace.
Glasspool was consecrated on December 4, 2009, as the assisting Bishop of Los Angeles and the world's first ever partnered lesbian bishop.
after moving joyously to an opening liturgy set to jazz and swing, rejoicing worshippers sat to hear a sermon by the President of the Deputies, Rev. Gay Jennings. Speaking to John 17, and St. John of Patmos, Jennings spoke eloquently of the need for mystical language to express heavenly truths. The "suitcase of human comprehension is not big enough for the concepts Jesus has to stuff into it," she told listeners to laughter and applause.
Jennings went on to state that the Episcopal Church is visionary, yet grounded in reality. "We don't believe in vision untethered from reality," she said, "We don't believe in reality untethered from vision."
Part of the Episcopal Church's vision is grounded in the acceptance and advocacy of LGBT rights, which the denomination has championed by consecrating gay and lesbian bishops, such as Glasspool and V. Gene Robinson. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court's ruling was given a warm endorsement by the church's Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, who made the following statement on Friday, June 26:
"I rejoice that the Supreme Court has opened the way for the love of two people to be recognized by all the states of this Union, and that the Court has recognized that it is this enduring, humble love that extends beyond the grave that is to be treasured by society wherever it exists. Our society will be enriched by the public recognition of such enduring faithful love in families headed by two men or two women as well as by a woman and a man. The children of this land will be stronger when they grow up in families that cannot be unmade by prejudice or discrimination. May love endure and flourish wherever it is to be found."
Others were equally if not more in favor of the Court's decision. A Convention volunteer from the Diocese of Virginia told VOL: "I'm ecstatic, I'm thrilled! I never thought this would happen, especially so quickly." The Episcopal LGBT pressure group, Integrity, posted a large rainbow colored heart on social media, with the message, "LOVE WINS!" Russell could be seen in the Convention hall before the Friday Eucharist, singing and flashing victory signs in celebration of the landmark gay ruling.
Some were more cautious. Bishop Pierre Whalon, of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, stated, "It's not surprising that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did. In one sense it simplifies things because it allows us to focus on theology. I think overall it's a good thing, because it settles the nation and the church can move on."
Whalon was sure that the new constitutional status of gay marriage would not force Episcopal priests to celebrate same-sex unions. "Clergy in the Episcopal Church," he told VOL, "Who do not believe they can bless a same-sex couple, will have the full protection of canon law that clergy have had since the 17th century."
At the other end of the Episcopal Church's spectrum, the traditionalist Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Dan Martins, spoke against gay marriage, "It's not surprising," he said in a statement to VOL, "Personally I don't think it's possible to redefine marriage, regardless of the Supreme Court of the United States, or whatever anyone else says."
A lay delegate of the Diocese of Springfield, Joe Patterson echoed his bishop, "I don't agree with it." Patterson continued, "I went to the Mass and they were dancing in the aisles. And I left."
This year's General Convention is preparing to legislate on a series of Resolutions that will change the church's Canon Law in order to formally allow gay marriage. A036, for example, will strike out references in Canon 1.18 to marriage being between a man and a woman to make way for same-sex unions.
When gay marriage is enshrined in the Episcopal Church's Canon Law next week, the denomination will certainly find its pansexual vision tethered to the secularist reality of the Supreme Court of the United States. It will, however, find itself at odds with the overwhelming belief of the Anglican Communion and worldwide Christianity, which adheres to a higher court, the court of its Creator. Bill Muehlenberg spells out the consequences:
"This is just the beginning. This is a declaration of war by five judges who have spat in the face of their Creator, of marriage, of biology, and freedom. Now a major proper response for Christians and others is massive civil disobedience and defiance of this homo-fascist decision."
Muehlenberg concludes, "God have mercy on America. Or, if needed, bring on your just judgment."
How that might apply to a church which has jettisoned what everyone has known until now, that marriage is something that occurs between a man and a woman, is a question that a tiny minority, at best, is asking at this Convention.
Michael Heidt is Editor of Forward in Christ magazine and a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
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