Thinking Anglicans

The Episcopal Church bishops vote to change marriage canon

Updated Tuesday evening

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church has passed this resolution. The House of Deputies (clergy and laity) has yet to vote on the matter, and must concur before the changes can take effect. They have also been debating the authorisation of various liturgies to be used in connection with this change. We will report on those separately.

The situation is explained in this ENS report: Marriage-equality resolutions advance to House of Deputies:

…The bishops next debated and ultimately approved an amended Resolution A036 that revises Canon I.18 titled “Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony” (page 58 of The Episcopal Church’s canons here).

Among many edits, the resolution removes references to marriage as being between a man and a woman.

It also recasts the requirement in the canon’s first section that clergy conform to both “the laws of the state” and “the laws of this church” about marriage. The bishops’ amended version now reads clergy “shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage. Members of the Clergy may solemnize a marriage using any of the liturgical forms authorized by this Church.”

Clergy may “decline to solemnize or bless any marriage,” a provision similar to the existing discretion allowed to clergy.
Under the revision, couples would sign a declaration of intent, which the legislative committee crafted to respect the needs of couples where only one member is a Christian.

A resolution to substitute a minority report on A036 for the resolution failed.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement: Response to the US Episcopal Church Resolution on Marriage. The full text of this statement is copied below the fold.

Update
This article on the Covenant weblog of The Living Church by Jordan Hylden seeks to explain just how far TEC has got, and how much further there is to go, in completing these proposed marriage changes: Marriage redefined?

There are headlines today, even in such august magazines as The Living Church, that say that the Episcopal Church’s “Bishops Redefine Marriage.” Understood as a headline, that is probably the best way to say what happened yesterday. But details matter, and they matter here. It is probably more accurate to say that the bishops redefined marriage insofar as the constitutional process of this church allowed them to at this time, and if the deputies concur (which they will). Next General Convention, three years from now in Austin, will be the first opportunity for that headline to be accurate without qualification. But for now, the church will live with a mixed economy, and what remains to be seen in the next few years is whether a mixed economy of conservatives and progressives will be retained in a comprehensive church, or whether the majority will ensure that a redefinition will be enforced in the dioceses and parishes that still hold the traditional view…

Copy of Archbishop Welby’s statement

The Archbishop of Canterbury today expressed deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion following the US Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops’ resolution to change the definition of marriage in the canons so that any reference to marriage as between a man and a woman is removed.

While recognising the prerogative of The Episcopal Church to address issues appropriate to its own context, Archbishop Justin Welby said that its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.

At a time of such suffering around the world, he stated that this was a moment for the church to be looking outwards. We continue to mourn with all those who are grieving loved ones and caring for the injured from the terrorist attacks in Sousse, Kuwait and Lyons, and from the racist attacks in Charleston.

He urges prayer for the life of the Anglican Communion; for a space for the strengthening of the interdependent relationships between provinces, so that in the face of diversity and disagreement, Anglicans may be a force for peace and seek to respond to the Lord Jesus’ prayer that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17: 21).

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Leon Clarke
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Leon Clarke

What an odd statement from Justin Welby.

He seems to have failed to notice that a few people in the US were quite excited by the Supreme Court ruling on marriage, and that managing to get with the national mood a few days later looks like an excellent example of looking outwards. (I strongly suspect that the timing is luck, not judgement but still…)

Does General Synod grind to a halt and stop considering new liturgies if there have been too many terrorist attacks in the world in previous weeks?

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

Why is it that Justin Welby is so quick to express his “deep concern” over this move by the American bishops, whereas when Nigerian, Ugandan or other bishops express sometimes violently homophobic views there is no similar promptness in expressing his concern?

Brian Davis
Guest
Brian Davis

Once again Justin Welby completely ignores the existence and the suffering of LGBTI people around the world in favor of the GAFCON fundamentalists. Translation for LGBTI people: “You are invisible. Your lives and your suffering do not matter to us, not even to the point I will mention you in my rebuke at all. We are far more concerned about those who persecute and hate you, often attacking you with violence and bringing pain and death to you and claiming they have a biblical license so to do. We don’t want to upset them and make them angry with us.… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

The C/C of TEC required a majority of all Bishops entitled to vote (and that is a supermajority, counting retired Bishops, etc). 129 is not nearly enough.

This is also why a Trial Rite failed in 2012.

But within 3 years, canonical obstacles like this are simply ignored.

I don’t mention this because it will have any effect. It won’t. When it is full steam ahead, so it is.

I was surprised to see the ABC respond so quickly. I think he could probably see what we all could see. This was hardly a surprise.

IT
Guest
IT

The Episcopal Church Bishops formalized what’s already happening. Marriages between same sex couples are occurring within the Episcopal Church in many jurisdictions across the US. Formal church blessings of a civil marriage have also occurred. And, just yesterday, two bishops with dioceses in states that were directly party to the recent Supreme Court case announced that marriages could now proceed, subject to the standard rules and regulations. TEC is no longer holding Episcopalians hostage to the bias and bigotry of others. Perhaps ABC Welby could look at the damage being done to LGBT Anglicans in the UK and do likewise.

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

I am shocked that accepting same-sex marriage in the Church precludes any compassion for racist and terrorist murder victims. This is an insult to gay people, as well as to those who have lost loved ones.

Katherine
Guest
Katherine

Oh dear. So, we are responsible for continuing to promote inter-religious competitive gay-bashing in the global South and deny equal rights to people in the global North where rights are more clearly defined in law? Fantastic position to play, Justin, I must say, well done. Just where Christians ought to be. [facepalm]

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝
Love wins. So does Justice. The church is at it’s very best when it is embodying the Love of Christ, seeing Christ in all people, and doing Justice. The ABC should be much, much more concerned with love and justice.
🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝

Spirit of Vatican 2
Guest
Spirit of Vatican 2

Terrorist attacks is just whataboutery and evasion. The Episcopalians are pointing the way forward and remedying millenial injustice.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Does “a space for the strengthening of the interdependent relationships between provinces” mean suspending justice for gay and lesbian people indefinitely, for fear of antagonising those who advocate that suspension of justice? What the Episcopal Church is proposing is proportionate and reasonable, and bear in mind that *no-one* is forced to marry a gay or lesbian partner unless they choose to. “A space for the strengthening of the interdependent relationships between provinces” has been the argument used repeatedly to uphold a supposed ‘status quo’ in England, notwithstanding the fact that society has moved on, affirms equal marriage, and an increasing… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“At a time of such suffering around the world, he stated that this was a moment for the church to be looking outwards.” Words almost fail me. The United States Supreme Court just held that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. And the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks The Episcopal Church is looking inward? Evidently by “looking outwards” the Archbishop really meant “looking to Anglicans in Nigeria, Uganda, and Burundi.” Why the interests of those provinces should take priority over the interests of faithful Episcopalians, in the deliberations of The Episcopal Church, is something that the Archbishop utterly fails to explain.… Read more »

David Chillman
Guest
David Chillman

“At a time of such suffering around the world, he stated that this was a moment for the church to be looking outwards.”

What? Like looking outwards to the countless thousands of people who are currently barred from getting married in an Anglican church because of their sexuality? Seems right to me.

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest

Grief and stress…yes we will pray for relief for all people including LGBTI Christians/others who are terrorized, brutalized and demonized throughout the various provinces of the Anglican Communion (daily).

Once again, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, sees injustice, the pain of others and lifetimes of suffering…selectively.

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

The Archbishop of Canterbury puts far more strain on the Communion by this one-sided and ungracious statement than the US based Episcopal Church has done by changing their marriage canon, something that others in the Communion are considering doing soon too.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Can the ABC not manage even a word of congratulation for those who will now be able to marry in church before leaping into worry about the effect it will have on bigots?

Tim
Guest

Utterly miserable response from Welby, greeting people’s glimmer of hope with backpedalling caution and negativity. Welcome to the history-books.

Pluralist
Guest

The Archbishop of Canterbury today expressed deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion…

On his narrow perspective I’d like to see more and more stress for the Anglican Communion. But it does show how recent optimists in Anglicanism here (and mostly elsewhere) are to be brought back to reality. You here will not only be rejected in terms of progress to be made, but continue to be sacrificed in order to reduce the ‘stress’ of the Anglican Communion.

Jean Mayland (Revd)
Guest
Jean Mayland (Revd)

Thank God for the Episcopal Church in the USA.Does Welby not care for the suffering he and his like cause to faithful members of the C of E who are gay or lesbian – not to mention the shame he causes those of us who support them.

Simon R
Guest
Simon R

So no acknowledgement of the need for a “Reality Check” from Justin Welby, as his RC counterpart in Ireland called for after the equal marriage referendum there. We shouldn’t be in the least bit surprised by his graceless reaction. But we should be profoundly shocked all the same.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

Does anyone know when the House of Deputies will vote on the marriage equality resolutions it has yet to endorse?

I rather hope that a strong stand for love and justice will assist those in all faith communities who are trying to resist violent extremism.

Dennis Roberts
Guest
Dennis Roberts

“…cause distress for some…” What is this distress? That their bigotry no longer destroys the lives of other? How does someone making a pledge of love and loyalty and commitment to their spouse rise to the level of causing distress to anyone not beholden to cruel doctrine or not obsessed with controlling other people? I call nonsense. No one in their right mind is experiencing any distress that they haven’t freely chosen to feel. It is self-imposed distress and a phony victimization complex at work. This fake distress deserves no attention from good people. Ignore it and it will go… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Does Welby give a sailor’s cuss about the distress of LGBT people, particularly those living in rabidly homophobic provinces like Uganda and Nigeria? (Or, indeed, less rabid, but also homophobic, provinces like England.) If he does, he shows no sign. Time, I think, for TEC to call on Welby to repent for sacrificing his LGBT sisters and brothers in Christ on the altar of unity. To repent of not even having the courage of his convictions, courage to say that he believes homosexuality is a sin, simply because the Bible tells him so. To repent of abdicating moral responsibility in… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Although clumsily written, I did not read the ABC’s 3rd paragraph as suggesting that TEC should not have passed liberating resolutions in the midst of grief.

For once, I’m going to defend Justin. Such is power of love!!!

🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝🎉💝

Just so you know, there are a lot of people talking about the violence in the world, but particularly Charleston and the recent burning of 6 or more African-American churches since. People are talking about “intersections” to bring people together in the hopes of furthering racial justice.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

I think it would be helpful to understand more about Cantuar’s position on this, not least because if I read the statement correctly it could mark the end of the honeymoon. What kind of media advice is he getting?

Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

Pace the ABC, The Episcopal Church is simply trying to catch up with the world around it, having failed to lead on issues of fairness and equality. Fortunately, the judicial branch is stronger in the United States than in England so the word “equal” now has to mean equal marriage. In England there was never an acknwledgement from the judiciary that marriage is a fundamental right. The legislative branch was stronger so it had to do the work on its own without the judiciary. And the church there insisted on being quadruple locked out of marriage, even though it is… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

C. Seitz, for an academic, you are not giving the full picture. The vote in the House of Bishops was 129 for, 26 against, and 5 abstentions. That’s pretty huge, and I wouldn’t be so sure that retired bishops would tip it away from a “super majority.” It looks to me like you are looking for a “super duper majority.” The House of Deputies will pass it, unless they are displeased with the provisions given to conservative bishops. As is, all bishops have to make the rites available and find an avenue for couples to get married. It would be… Read more »

John B. Chilton
Guest
John B. Chilton

It takes a majority of the HOB. This has always been interpreted to mean a majority of bishops who are present. No new interpretation of the TEC constitution took place. Those voting “no” agree.

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

What Doctor Welby doesn’t say is that our ” consultations and conversations” and women’s ordination also cause equal distress to conservatives and some ecumenical friends.The Roman Catholic Church will probably view all marriages, heterosexual and homosexual in an Episcopal setting, as invalid. For instance the RC Church does not recognize Mormon baptism ( even though it is made in trinitarian language and with water)..as Mormonism has departed from the real meaning of what the Church is and who God is. Similarly Anglican orders were not recognized because Cranmer altered the words and gave them a protestant stamp and meaning. i.e… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Savi
I believe it will be at 11.30 Wednesday morning, Salt Lake City time.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Following the Supreme Court decision, the Irish referendum and, by contrast, the general level of persecution and inequality that persists around the world, the resolution is surely of more global relevance than the agenda for his own Synod meeting in York in July, which discusses, inter alia: ‘Draft Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Amendment’, ‘Draft Ecclesiastical Property Order Legal Services (Annual Fees) Order’, ‘Faculty Jurisdiction Rules’, and other worthy, but not exactly what you might call outward looking, subjects.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Tears of happiness. :-D.. Thanks be to God, Alleluia!

Amanda Clark
Guest
Amanda Clark

@RIW:
In my experience in the US, as both a Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian, neither of those communions remarries converts. Though the hardline Orthodox who rebaptize *all* western converts, even RCs? Maybe they are a bit whacky, I don’t know and its been years since I’ve set feet on the ground there.

**Applies only in the US.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“Deep concern” is a kinder gentler “dire consequences”.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

It is fully reasonable to assume that the same proportion that would have participated in a roll call vote affirmative on canons would have supported a Trial Rite, and in the latter case a majority of all entitled to vote is on the order of 140-150.

The rule is “a majority of all bishops entitled to vote.” It was of concern in 2012. It was not even relevant in 2015.

James A
Guest
James A

“What Doctor Welby doesn’t say …” @RIW. Doctor? Really? I thought he had a Cambridge MA in History and a certificate in Theology from Cranmer Hall (where he reputedly hated his theological training and considered academic training a waste of time). Unless, of course, he has been given one of these honorary things. If so, please tell me it’s not in Divinity. That would be the ultimate insult to so many genuine scholars.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

‘”Deep concern” is a kinder gentler “dire consequences”.’ That may be true, but I’m struggling to figure out what, if any, consequences might be dire, from the TEC perspective. Lambeth Conferences seem to be on hold, because if the Archbishop calls one, the conference will only reveal and formalise the present lack of communion. Otherwise, I’m sure many in TEC would be happy to wash their hands of an Anglican Communion structure that is catering to its conservative provinces, and trying to use their discriminatory wrath as an excuse to centralise power. The Anglican Communion is a global family of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Once again, our fellow Anglicans in TEC are paving the way for a much-needed climate for Reality Therapy in matters of human relationships.

In a society that inclines less and less to the formal institution of monogamous marital relationships, Same Sex Marriage might just provide a welcome trend in the other direction. Surely, what is important is the fact that couples – whether hetero or homosexual, are encouraged to live together in harmony, faithfulness and love.

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

This suggests the Archbishop needs better advisers. Talk about distress being caused sounds like hypocrisy.

IT
Guest
IT

The Discussion by the deputies was originally slated for this morning at 11.30am but the most recent tweet from @Deputynews suggests it will be discussed 3.45pm (Salt Lake City is on Mountain Time, which is 7hrs behind the UK)

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Jeremy is quite right when he says that the Anglican Communion is a (maybe dysfunctional) family of Churches. It has never been claimed – until perhaps recently by some – to be A replica of RIW’s much-vaunted Roman Catholic Church.

This is one of the reasons for the Reformation. For those who want to be told what to believe, there is always an option. For the rest of us, the relative enlightenment of God -given REASON is still part of our reformation heritage.

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

Deeply discouraging. “Archbishop Justin Welby said that its decision will cause distress for some” is exactly the tired old argument that has kept justice for LGBTs on the back burner for decades. Does the Archbishop not believe that the opposite decision would have caused “distress for some” as well? And which distress calls for justice and bases itself on equal value before God? “At a time of such suffering around the world, he stated that this was a moment for the church to be looking outwards.” It seems feeble that the Archbishop feels the church can only address one thing… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Ron, I thought the Reformation was all about King Henry telling the English what to believe!

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

There is live streaming on http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/gc/.