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North American Anglicans Clash over Supreme Court Decision on Marriage

North American Anglicans Clash over Supreme Court Decision on Marriage
ACNA and CANA bishops condemn Court action. Episcopal Church rejoices
Catholic leaders blast ruling. Federal Court got it wrong. Democracy overruled in California

By David W. Virtue
June 26, 2013

To no one's surprise, the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Gay Jennings, President of the House of Bishops, rejoiced over today's Supreme Court decision that handed a significant victory to gay rights advocates by ruling that parts of DOMA are unconstitutional. SCOTUS also ruled that married gay men and women are eligible for federal benefits paving the way for same-sex marriage in California and the end of Proposition 8.

Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Robert Duncan said, "An extremely divided court reflects an extremely divided nation. Equal rights under the law is a bedrock commitment of the United States of America and can often be accomplished by creative legislation. Nevertheless, the definition of marriage long pre-dates the United States and is a given of the created order. The motto of the United States is "One Nation under God." The Christian Church has followed a Lord who meets people where they are, and who loves them regardless of their challenges. The Church has countered the culture throughout most of its history. We find ourselves, both sadly and increasingly, in this position in a nation once seen as a 'light upon a hill,' and a 'hope of all the earth.'"

The Rt. Rev'd Julian Mark Dobbs, Bishop of The Missionary Diocese of CANA East, commented, "I am very disappointed with the decision of the Supreme Court. The institution of marriage as a covenantal relationship between one man and one woman was established by God in his creation of man and women to live together in a lifelong covenant. Marriage was not made by any government, and no court can change what is divinely established. By departing from the critical norms that have formed and fashioned society since the beginning of the human race, the Court is adopting the trends of current culture at the expense of the unchangeable laws fashioned by the God who designed and made us."

Bishop Dobbs went on to stress, "The Christian Church has a responsibility to model strong lifelong marriages between one man and one woman that impact society in a healthy life-giving manner. The Church proclaims the gospel message that Almighty God loves every individual and that every life is precious to the Creator God. In Him we find the redemption and grace to change lifestyles and turn from behaviors that do not reflect His holy love. In His healing love we find a path to sexual-wholeness which reflects His love for all of humanity."

The ACNA and the Missionary Diocese of CANA East both affirm in their constitutions and canons the Lord's teaching that Holy Matrimony is, in its very nature, a covenantal union, permanent and lifelong, between one man and one woman.

A press statement by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced the Supreme Court marriage decision. The striking down of DOMA and the challenge to California's Proposition 8 mark a "tragic day for marriage and our nation," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

"Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California's Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth.

"These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.

"Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.

"Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God's wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.

"When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage - the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife - he pointed back to "the beginning" of God's creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19). In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity."

Not surprisingly, Episcopal Church leaders rejoiced in the Supreme Court decision. The Washington National Cathedral rang bells celebrating the gay marriage rulings and Dean Gary Hall declared the death of DOMA. "We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God's love in lifelong covenants. Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere."

The Cathedral will be holding a special prayer service in celebration of the ruling at 7pm on June 26 to which all LGBT people and allies are invited, he said.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said her church has taken the position that neither federal nor state governments should create constitutional prohibitions that deny full civil rights and protections to gay and lesbian persons, including those available to different-sex couples through the civic institution of marriage.

"I welcome today's decision of the United States Supreme Court that strikes down the 17-year-old law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex civil marriages granted by the states. The unmistakable movement toward civil marriage equality in the states over the past decade reflects the will of the people in those states to grant equal rights and dignity under the law to all married couples and families, and today's decision will appropriately allow those families to be recognized under federal law as well. At the same time, the Court's withholding of judgment on the ultimate constitutional question of whether a state may ban same-sex marriage reflects the fact that this conversation will continue to evolve in coming years. I trust that Episcopalians will contribute actively and faithfully to this conversation, particularly as our nation begins to discern the many practical implications of today's decisions for areas of our shared life, ranging from immigration law to family rights."

The Presiding Bishop recognized that faithful Americans find themselves on all sides of these issues, including those who have not yet clearly discerned an effective or appropriate response. "It is possible to disagree AND work together for the good of the larger community. That is the bedrock of our democratic political system. It is also the foundation of life in the Body of Christ. Together we can help to build up the whole community, particularly if we have the courage to listen deeply to those who hold a different view. The Episcopal Church has an ancient tradition of attempting to hold divergent views together for the sake of deeper truth. All are beloved of God, and the flourishing of each is what we believe God intended from the beginning of creation. May we help to build a beloved community in which each and every person is treated with dignity, knowing that each and every one reflects the image of God."

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, said, "I join with millions of Christians across the country in celebrating today's Supreme Court rulings that extend equal protection under federal law to all marriages and allow marriage equality to resume in California. We are moving ever closer to civil laws that recognize the God-given dignity and equality of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers.

"Today's rulings will allow more people of all faiths to see what we in the Episcopal Church have seen for decades: Same-sex couples and their families are evidence of the goodness of God's creation. They bless our congregations and communities immeasurably, and we have all learned from their steadfast love for one another and the evidence of God's goodness that they show us.

"We are not done yet. We will not be done until the laws of the entire land and the whole church of God recognize the dignity of every human being and the equality of all faithful couples. Today, however, we are closer to the justice God calls us to seek."

The gay Bishop of Massachusetts Tom Shaw said, "I know that I rejoice with many Episcopalians of our diocese in eastern Massachusetts and across the Episcopal Church because of the Supreme Court's decision today that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. We here in Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex marriage, have long experienced the contributions that gay and lesbian married couples and their families make to our society and to our church, and so the day that makes it possible for all married couples to be eligible for federal benefits, with equal status and without stigma, is a day for which to be grateful."

The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, said, "I join with my fellow Episcopalians in rejoicing that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act, paving the way for equality under the law for all expressions of covenantal love. I pray that the State of Michigan will quickly follow suit. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church will continue to bless both marriage between a man and a woman and the lifelong covenantal union of persons of the same gender."

The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, dean and president of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, a seminary of the Episcopal Church, released the following statement, "As Episcopalians, we believe that same-sex couples who make a sacred commitment to love and be faithful to one another model the self-giving love of Jesus. These relationships deserve both the blessing of the church and the recognition of the state. We are heartened, therefore, that U. S. Supreme Court has opened the door for same-sex marriage to return to California.

"We recognize a diversity of religious perspectives on same-sex marriage, but we reject the notion that religious liberty is compromised by the civil recognition of the marriage of same-sex couples. Rather, we hold that our liberties are more fully realized when we extend to previously marginalized people the rights and privileges we claim for ourselves."

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said, "Scripture teaches us that God shows no partiality. Today our country has moved closer to this vision of equality and unity, and I give thanks for our progress. Now, as always, the ability to create a more just and caring country lies with us. Heartened by today's decisions, may we recommit ourselves to this difficult but holy work."

Marriage equality for all was reaffirmed by the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, who commented, "Today we reaffirm that marriage equality does indeed mean marriage equality for all. This understanding is widely held within the Diocese of Los Angeles and endorsed by the larger Episcopal Church through its General Convention.

"We rejoice at the repeal of DOMA's discrimination against LGBT families, and we feel confident that Gov. Brown and Attorney Gen. Harris will act swiftly to restore marriage for same-gender couples in California now that the U.S. Supreme Court action will allow the lower court's decision to stand," Bishop Bruno added.

"Pastoral and liturgical support for same-gender couples remains a priority in the Diocese of Los Angeles," said Bishop Bruno, who five years ago formed a diocesan Task Force on Marriage to provide consultation and collaboration in this area. Meanwhile, Episcopalians at the church wide level, responding to General Convention actions, formed a similar body and developed liturgies for provisional use.

The Rt. Rev Kirk Stevan Smith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona said, "I rejoice, along with our LBGT brothers and and sisters, over the Supreme Court decisions this morning. Our country has come one step closer to realizing that freedom and justice are for all its citizens.

"Many LBGT people I know who are my age have commented that they would have never believed that equality under the law would happen for them 'in our lifetime.' I can only begin to imagine the full extent of their joy today.

"Our country has come closer to a truth which has been ours as Christians from the beginning, that God loves everything and everyone God has made, and that we are called to reflect God's love for us in how we love each other. Our country is now one step closer to making that possible for everyone. Today, Love won."

The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Robert C. Wright applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in two cases impacting the ability of same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as married heterosexual couples.

"Every human being is made in God's image. And, God has made us different. Today the Supreme Court moves the country forward in respecting the dignity of every human being. Jesus told us we were to love God and to love neighbor as we love ourselves. With this decided my prayer is that we as a nation might now focus on care for our veterans, support for our aged and education and hope for our poor."

Wright said the high court's decision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied legally married gay Americans a range of tax, health and pension benefits, otherwise available to married couple, will immediately impact the right of same-sex couples to form stable unions.

The Episcopal Church's national governing body last July approved a service for the blessings of same-sex unions beginning on December. Bishop Wright gave the required permission for congregations and clergy to use the liturgy.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, issued this statement, "As a Christian, I believe that our society needs all of the sources and signs of grace that we can get. As a citizen of the United States, I believe in equal protection under the law. Today's Supreme Court rulings bring us closer to both goals and renew the urgency for Illinois to enact civil marriage equality.

"In the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, we offer all faithful couples equality, dignity, support and love, and I am proud that our federal government will now follow suit. Extending those benefits of civil marriage to same-sex couples in Illinois would make it easier for them to order their lives together, to care for one another and to raise children in a stable home. We would all benefit from these stronger, happier households and families.

"These Supreme Court rulings concern civil marriage, not the Christian sacrament. But I invite Christians who may struggle with the decision to consider that the union of two people in heart, body and mind is capable of signifying the never failing love of God in Christ for the church and the world. These faithful unions, no matter the sex of the partners, can be sources and signs of grace, both for the couple and for the wider community. When we see and celebrate those signs, we testify to the love and mercy of God that overcomes all our divisions and differences."

Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.

"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said.

"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he said.

He was joined by the court's four liberal justices.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Scalia said the court should not have decided the case.


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