General Convention to consider gender-neutral marriage canon

In February this year, the General Convention Task Force on Marriage issued a report which recommends changes to the marriage canon of The Episcopal Church.

The changes are explained in this report from Episcopal News Service by Mary Frances Schjonberg Marriage task force calls for gender-neutral language in marriage canon.

The 122-page report of the Task Force is available in full here.

In addition to the recommendations, the report includes seven essays, which form the bulk of the report (pages 9 to 98) and are:

1. A Biblical and Theological Framework for Thinking about Marriage

2. Christian Marriage as Vocation

3. A History of Christian Marriage

4. Marriage as a Rite of Passage

5. The Marriage Canon: History and Critique

6. Agents of the State: A Question for Discernment

7. Changing Trends and Norms in Marriage

More recently, some articles have been published by the Anglican Theological Review which discuss this report. These articles are all available from this page, but are as follows:

The recent Report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, as presented to the 78th General Convention, proposes substantial changes to The Episcopal Church’s marriage canons. By replacing language in Canon I.18 drawn from the marriage rite in The Book of Common Prayer, the changes would render optional the traditional understanding that marriage is a “covenant between a man and a woman” that is intended, when it is God’s will, “for the procreation of children.” We contend that these changes obscure the nature of marriage as a divinely created social form that is the external basis of the covenant union between “Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32). As such, it draws a veil over marriage as an outward and visible sign of this union. While leaving open the issue of blessing same-sex unions, we make an Augustinian case for retaining the prayer book’s doctrine of marriage.

Three further articles respond to the above:

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cseitzrobert ian williamsPat O'Neilldr.primroseCynthia Recent comment authors
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Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

Surely they should have passed this legislation before they ordained Gene Robinson? This is the logical outcome of accepting contraception, and making procreation optional.It usually takes about twenty years for the Church of England to catch up with TEC. However TEC never had a substantive membership of conservative evangelicals.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Marriage is a sacred covenant between people who commit themselves to each other as partners, and God. For Christians, this covenant may take place before the community of other Christians. The covenant is fundamentally reliant on God’s faithfulness, and the relationship is a matter of sincere faith, based above all on God’s faithfulness and grace. Gender does not come into it. What comes into it is: love, faithfulness, grace, care, devotion, commitment, patience, forbearance, tenderness, companionship, physical relationship, emotional relationship, practicality, etc. The debate about genders is a non-issue. If you love someone, you love someone. That is the heart… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

I commend the responses of (GC drafting-committee member) Tobias Haller, here: http://blog.tobiashaller.net/

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

RIW,
I sincerely hope that it won’t take the CoE another whole 20 years to catch up with TEC. Even if our Shared Conversations and the subsequent debate at General Synod next year doesn’t result in marriage equality (which it won’t), the genie of One Man and One Woman is firmly out of its bottle, and now that the church has finally started to engage with this formally and properly, it it inconceivable that it should need 20 years to recognise that marriage cannot be reduced to biology.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

This inclusive move in The Episcopal Church in North America; to more pastorally consider the possibility of a monogamous, life-long, faithful relationship commitment of two persons of the same gender; is one very good reason why the Anglican Communion needs our TEC sisters and brothers.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

The GC 2012 created a dilemma in that the canons of TEC (and the BCP) clear define marriage as between a man and woman. That canon was not changed and still remains. So for 3 years clergy have been blessing ss unions because GC 2015 allowed for a ‘generous pastoral response’ that necessarily would result in contravention of the canons. And has done. No Title IV charges would ever be allowed to be used against this, even though they are actually mandatory. So now we come to 2015. GC has to sort out the canonical missteps, but it will not… Read more »

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

Erika, I still believe that in the Church of England the evangelicals will block it. They are divided on women’s ministry but still 97 per cent in opposition to same sex marriage. Affirming pro gay evangelicals are very much a minority.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I agree, Robert: outside the tiny and marginalized group of accepting evangelicals, the evangelicals who run and bankroll the Church of England are fiercely opposed to equal marriage. It’s a non-starter so long as they hold office and pay the bills. They *might* (and that’s a big “might”) be persuaded to allow lesbian and gay clergy to contract civil marriages and live in non-celibate relationships, but that’ll require a major leap for them, since for evangelicals, homosexuality isn’t “adiaphoron” (something indifferent), but a salvation issue. It’s possible that evangelicals could be persuaded to allow priests to, in their eyes, damn… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

For those who want to know, here is a link to the justification that the Bishop of New York gives for practicing inclusive marriage: http://www.dioceseny.org/news_items/229-clergy-may-conduct-same-sex-marriages-from-9-1 C. Seitz has it correct, that GC2012 provided for “generous pastoral oversight” to use the new blessing liturgy for the purposes of inclusive marriage. This was adopted as Resolution A049. At this point, nearly every diocese in the “blue states” has been doing legal church marriage using that clause of A049. Some argue that it isn’t sacramental because of the canons (that will surely change) – I believe that argument is akin to the one… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Yes, +Sisk even admits that what he is doing he has no authority to do re: Constitution and Canons. He says that he is in contravention of them.

When one can make an admission like that, it indicates the character of the New Episcopal Church without remainder. C/C are only enforceable (arguably) for Title IV purposes when it is alleged the wrong kind of person or action was involved.

In other words, a church of power advocacy, not order or common will.

It is not hard to change the C and C. But it is, well, inconvenient.

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

A wonderful testimony Cynthia. Thank you for sharing it.

And congratulations and peace & joy to you both.

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

The most awful thing is that all this focus on gay marriage, detracts from what has happened to heterosexual marriage in the C of E. Evangelicals are quite prepared to stay in a church which allows a free for all as regards re-marriage of divorcees but are threatening schism over ssm.

Turbulent Priest
Guest
Turbulent Priest

James, the more likely scenario is that ten years from now there will be widespread disobedience in the Church of England with many parishes blessing same sex marriages. As with every situation of this kind, it will not be possible to discipline all the “offenders”. Also there will be justifiable outrage, both within the church and in wider society, if clergy are persecuted for marrying their same sex partners. I doubt if civil partnership will survive in practice, unless opened to all—which seems unlikely. It will then be up to the segment of evangelicals to whom you refer to decide… Read more »

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

There seems to be a long history in Christianity of people doing things on the ground before the church officially caught up. People like Paul, Wycliffe, and Luther are among the many names that come immediately to mind.

Dennis Roberts
Guest
Dennis Roberts

Mr. Seitz: While you are expounding on the value of following all of the established procedures and only making changes within the context of methodological precedent I wonder if you could please include a discussion of two small points: 1. At what point did you make the same complaint (work within established systems) to your conservative friends and allies who attempted to do significant damage to the Episcopal Church via “facts on the ground” in the plans outlined the Chapman memo? 2. When breakaway types took over dioceses (such as South Carolina) and did what they promised not to do… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

What provisions should be made for people who don’t even identify within the gender binary?

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I am of course speaking about an Episcopal Church of long history, a BCP, C/C and a population not long ago of 3M. 1. I am not speaking of a memo drafted by a single individual in a movement I have never espoused. Read ACI and you will see this clearly. 2. Your point #2 is riddled with factual error. The Episcopal Diocese of SC remains just what it has always been (same name, same canons, same TEC BCP, same Bishop, same Standing committee etc) . TEC drifted in a new direction it did not wish to go. TEC attacked… Read more »

James Byron.
Guest
James Byron.

Turbulent Priest, I hope you’re right. I’d love to be wrong on this. Disobedience may well work, but only if it’s coordinated, and only if confronts ‘Issues…’ head-on. Blessings can be spun as being within its abusive “discipline,” after all. (Personally, I’ve never understood why blessings have taken on such weight: surely compulsory lifelong celibacy is a more pressing issue!) I don’t see anything close to a majority of evangelicals changing their mind. Corinthians c.6 is just too explicit, and from their POV, if they get it wrong, they’re sending people to burn in hell for all time. The stakes… Read more »

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

There will be no schism, as all sides have too much to lose with the wealth and prestige of the Church of England.It will be a slow war of attrition, like ritualism 150 years ago. But remember one salient factor married clergy of whatever stripe may find they have gay children and grandchildren. I know 4 evangelical free church ministers in this category.like divorce there will not be a family in teh country who does not have out gay relatives, ten years from now.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Your point #2 is riddled with factual error. The Episcopal Diocese of SC remains just what it has always been (same name, same canons, same TEC BCP, same Bishop, same Standing committee etc) . TEC drifted in a new direction it did not wish to go.”

Spare me. It’s a truism, but nevertheless True, cseitz: “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own ‘facts'”. You can peddle this argument (no doubt successfully) in the anglican Conservativ-iverse, but elsewhere, the SPIN creates a rather odiferous wake.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

There is nothing remotely un-factual about anything written. Same Bishop, same name, same BCP, same pre-2012 C/C, refusal to go along with unconstitutional Title IV and laissez-faire rite production.

Opinions are yours; these are facts and uncontestable ones. EDofSC remains and is now aligned with the Global South. The ABC has publicly issued his nihil obstat.

And the earth still turns on its axis…

And will do even after GC 2015 transforms TEC yet further.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Cseitz, you’ve always been fair in your comments, so I’m thinking that perhaps you’ve unaware of all the details. SC offer an FAQ on their website*, in which they explicitly say that “we have now completely withdrawn our accession to the Constitution and Canons of TEC.”

* http://www.diosc.com/sys/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=461:faqs-about-the-assault-on-the-diocese-of-south-carolina&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=75

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

The “Global South” is not uniformly homophobic. That is profoundly dishonest.

The Holy Spirit is on the move and she isn’t waiting for c&c!!! The Gospel isn’t about c&c, as useful as that can be. The Gospel is about the Good News to human beings, God’s Children.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Dear James Bryon, thank you for your kind comment. I tried to be careful in what I wrote. Many of us judge the actions of GC from 2009 on as themselves against the C/C of TEC. To be cautious I wrote ‘same pre-2012 C/C.’ Once TEC created a Title IV that gave the PB authorities nowhere envisioned, warranted, or regulated, it meant that SC withdrew its accession. It was only in part for this reason, however, that TEC retaliated and charged the Bishop with abandonment. Fortunately, if tragically, the Diocese was prepared for the attack. It had done the legal… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Perhaps I am misreading the canons and constitution of TEC (but I don’t think I am): General Convention is the ruling body of TEC. Unlike, say, the US government, there is no other body that has the authority to declare a measure passed by GC as being “unconstitutional.” Presumably, then, if GC passes a measure in the proper manner (ie, the prescribed number of votes are taken, the votes are counted accurately, etc.), then the measure is not only passed but de facto constitutional…as GC is the only authority on such matters. Therefore, Dr. Seitz can personally believe that Title… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

This will be one of the first times a body secular or religious worked hard on a Constitution only to discover that it is actually meaningless. And, the idea of challenge in civil court is both a non sequitor and nonsense. But what civil courts have concluded–not least because under oath TEC’s expert witness said so, when asked–is that the GC is not invested with supreme authority. Your reading of the c/c is patently awry. Why would the Constitution demand two hearings of GC if it was just so much ephemeral authority? To say that a Constitution is not a… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

A personal “opinion has no authority and no legal backing–unless he chooses to challenge it in a civil court.” Civil courts are hesitant to interfere with General Convention’s interpretations of TEC’s own governing documents. For example, a parish attempting to leave TEC with its property offered some opinions that TEC was not a hierarchical church. The court held that the statements were merely unsanctioned opinions and interpretations contrary to TEC’s constitution and canons: “[The parish] contends that it created a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether [TEC] is hierarchical for temporal matters, including property disputes. [The parish] submitted an… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Why would the Constitution demand two hearings of GC if it was just so much ephemeral authority?” Because, like the by-laws of a secular corporation, the Constitution of TEC determines how matters are to be decided…in this case, that–in order to avoid just the ephemeralness that Dr. Seitz derides–any change to the constitution and canons be voted on by two succeeding General Conventions. This requires that a desired change withstand at least three years of discussion and debate in the church at large. That, by the way, is exactly how the Title IV that Dr. Seitz characterizes as “unconstitutional” was… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“The court held” — yes, and then another set of court rulings held otherwise. Including the Illinois Court of Appeals.

I will not bother to quote the extremely awkward exchange in Illinois where TEC’s expert witness, under oath, admitted the supremacy language re: General Convention was nowhere to be found.

He was not called in when it came to South Carolina.

And the Texas Supreme Court ruled that neutral principles trumped alleged Dennis Canon ‘hierarchy.’

So at best, TEC’s recourse to civil courts–itself expressly forbidden by the C/C–has faltered badly indeed.

Grace and peace.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“That, by the way, is exactly how the Title IV that Dr. Seitz characterizes as “unconstitutional” was adopted.” Wrong yet again, sadly. Title IV was judged inadequate and so reviewed due to its potential unconstitutionality. The Diocese of Dallas, e.g., refused to accept it because its own C/C require it to adhere to the Constitution of TEC. We did not therefore have 2 General Conventions agree the constitutionality of Title IV. Rather, a committee asked to evaluate the matter said that it wasn’t sure whether it was constitutional or not, and because we had no ecclesial court of review, it… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

“TEC’s recourse to civil courts … has faltered badly indeed.” Off the top of my head, I’m aware TEC has definitely prevailed in the courts in California, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. I suspect there are other states that do not come immediately to mind. In the Texas case, the Texas Supreme Court held that, “We agree with the court of appeals that the record conclusively shows TEC is a hierarchical organization.” Its ruling is, of course, at odds with the Illinois court, which is in turn also at odds with the other state court decisions mentioned above.… Read more »

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

Cseitz doesnt tell you other states found differently and he forgets about the fact that TEC have won most of the other cases and the final word has not been heard in Texas, Illinois or South Carolina..

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“Finally, there has been a claim that TEC’s recourse to civil courts is expressly forbidden by TEC’s constitutions and canons. If anyone can cite a specific provision so holding, I would be appreciative.” Bien cordialement. You are wanting IV.19.2. ‘No member of this church, lay or ordained, shall have recourse to a civil court to adjudicate the C/C of this church or seek to resolve a dispute…’. I am quoting from memory so you will want to google it yourself for the exact language and share it, since this seems important to you. It is quite startling to see yet… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Sorry, the final word has been heard in Illinois, TX and SC (pending review). In Illinois, this comes with possible collateral estoppel as it was an Appeals upholding.

In matters such as these, judges are on a learning curve; they are learning. The recent rulings are the most relevant.

TEC’s expert witness has now been retired.

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

TEC’s Canon IV.19.2 does not bar persons from bringing lawsuits in the civil courts concerning property disputes. The canon provides in full as follows: “No member of the Church, whether lay or ordained, may seek to have the Constitution and Canons of the Church interpreted by a secular court, or resort to a secular court to address a dispute arising under the Constitution and Canons, or for any purpose of delay, hindrance, review or otherwise affecting ANY PROCEEDING UNDER THIS TITLE.” (my emphasis) “This Title” means Title IV of TEC’s canons, which concerns “Ecclesiastical Discipline.” The canon’s language concerning lawsuits… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Sorry, the final word has been heard in Illinois, TX and SC (pending review)”

If there’s a review pending, then the word isn’t final.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

TX and Illinois are final.

If you believe the first clause of IV.19.2
Is not restricting appeal to civil court to interpret the C/C, you are welcome to that view and a loyal member of NEC.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Sorry, I have had one of those 36 hour international travel nightmares that many of you will know and love so well… 1. Court rulings are not in the category of ‘it’s 40-15, your serve’. Any loss for TEC is disastrous because it means that judges are finally mounting a steep learning curve. This was especially true in Illinois and SC. TEC’s expert witness, under oath, said there was no supremacy language in TEC’s documents. Terribly damning, and very awkward, was Bishop von Rosenberg’s response to direct questioning about the canon under discussion here (IV.19.2). You may read the transcript.… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

PS

Judge Chupp has just awarded the sole major TEC bastion in EDFW to +Iker.

40M may have seemed to make sense if one was winning–highly dubious though that be as Christian witness–but not when the money is not going down the drain.

We can but pray a new PB sees that the tide has turned and stops this money misuse.

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

The plain fact is, is that in every property dispute, TEC is challenging and appealing all the decisions made. The TEC has spent millions of dollars on litigation, but has reaped a rich reward in victories. The lower court decisions in Virginia and Georgia(Christchurch) were all reversed and the same will happen with SC,Texas and Illinois. Other churches are also concerned by these lower court decisions, and will support TEC all the way to the ( SCOTUSA)Supreme Court if necessary. Sadly when the cases are lost the real losers are the manipulated faithful and not Iker,Duncan and Lawerence, who make… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Well it hasn’t reaped a 500M award in SC but it has spent millions trying! How would you like to pay that bill? Or the one in Illinois or TX?

You are welcome to inquire of TEC about all their rich reward reaping. You won’t learn much about that.