Friday, 13 June 2008

pastoral letter from the Bishop of California

The Bishop of California, Bishop Marc Andrus has issued a pastoral letter to his diocese. Read it in full at Pastoral Letter Regarding Same-sex Marriage.

Naturally, he is responding to the recent California legal judgement, and to subsequent reactions to that. But the most distinctive feature of his recommendations is this:

I urge you to encourage all couples, regardless of orientation, to follow the pattern of first being married in a secular service and then being blessed in The Episcopal Church. I will publicly urge all couples to follow this pattern.

This pattern is of course normal (and unavoidable) in many parts of Western Europe (though not the UK) and some other countries. Nevertheless Bishop Andrus has been criticised for proposing it in California.

Some news reports of this:

ENS California bishop urges all couples to seek civil union first, then church blessing

Living Church Bishop Andrus Plans Ad Campaign to Attract Same-Sex Couples

San Jose Mercury Episcopal bishop praises ‘fundamental right of all people to marry’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 June 2008 at 10:58pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA
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Lambeth 1.10: "This Conference: ...in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman [and] ...cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions...

+Andrus: "I urge you [clergy] to encourage all couples, regardless of orientation, to follow the pattern of first being married in a secular service and then being blessed in The Episcopal Church. I will publicly urge all couples to follow this pattern."

Now remind me, who are the schismatics? blah, blah, blah...

Posted by: Joe on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 4:49am BST

"Nevertheless Bishop Andrus has been criticised for proposing it in California."

By whom, Simon?

I find Bishop Andrus's proposal to be an *inspired* effort to WORK FOR EQUALITY, while living in the tension of TEC's canons (on marriage) as they are. Gracious God, speed the day when the canons are CHANGED, for FULL marital equality, for ALL faithful couples!

God bless ya, +Marc. :-)

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 5:29am BST

Joe, it is certainly interesting that you deleted the phrase "in lifelong union" from your recounting of Lambeth 1.10.

Surely that must be an oversight.

Posted by: JPM on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 7:46am BST

Joe:

More importantly, which group--schismatic or not--is operating in a Christian manner toward toward one of the most marginalized groups in human society?

I know who I'd choose.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 12:58pm BST

I remember a priest telling way back in the 70's that he wished the Church would get out of the marriage business. It had nothing to do with gay marriage or marriage equality - he just didn't think that priests had any business acting as agents of the State, or that the State had any business telling him what sacraments he could officiate at.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 1:33pm BST

With regard to the above reference to Lambeth 1998 and same sex marriage I think things have moved at a remarkable pace since then.

The first country in the world only legalised same sex marriage in 2001,to be followed by Belgium(2003), Canada(2005), Spain(2005), Massachusetts(2004), South Africa (2006), Norway (2008) and now California (2008).

The UK's Civil Partnerships only came into force in 2005 at a similar time to the debates over Civil Unions (and marriage) in several US States, Australia and New Zealand.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 3:50pm BST

"I remember a priest telling way back in the 70's that he wished the Church would get out of the marriage business."

But that doesn't solve the problem. In Germany the State IS out of the marriage business. You have to be legally married before you can have a church wedding, which has no legal force but all the symbolism of a couple uniting before God.

Would you stop that too?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 5:36pm BST

JRM wrote:
"Joe, it is certainly interesting that you deleted the phrase "in lifelong union" from your recounting of Lambeth 1.10.

Surely that must be an oversight."

No, it isn't an oversight. Joe omits the rest of paragraph (b) and the whole of paragraphs (c) and (d), clearly indicating an omission from the full text by a row of dots. This is a perfectly normal convention for indicating an omission, widely used when citing only part of a longer text. So why pick on just those few words, JRM?

I think you may be implying that JRM takes a more lenient view of "remarriage" of divorced people during the lifetime of the previous spouse. If this is the case, why not say so explicitly and give JRM the opportunity to say whether or not this is the case?

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 6:20pm BST

It is a CANARD to compare canons for order *within* a specific Church (and Lambeth 1.10 isn't a canon anyway, being only *advisory*), w/ the breaking of canons that define the *boundaries* of Church (shopping bishops, or *schism*).

If TEC's House of Bishops doesn't like what +Andrus has done, then he'll pay for it, *there*.

I feel confident in assuring Joe (et al), that +Andrus won't try to flee to "alternative primatial oversight" [sic], as xJohn-David Schofield (formerly of San Joaquin) did, or ?Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh is attempting to do.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 8:40pm BST

Alan, when we modify quotes, we should not do so in a way that changes their essential meaning.

I am sure you would agree that there is a major difference between a union and a lifelong union.

Given how much hypocrisy there is on the matter of remarriage after divorce, particularly among those who shout the loudest over homosexuality, Joe's omission seems a little fishy.

If I have misjudged him, I will gladly apologize.

Posted by: JPM on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 4:25am BST

Erika, the priest I referred to was opposed to his acting as an agent of the State. He wasn't talking about blessing marriages afterwards in church. I think he would find the German model an exercise in sanity.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 5:47pm BST

Joe wrote: "Now remind me, who are the schismatics? blah, blah, blah...”"

I acknowledge there is some difference between “cannot advise” and “advice”, but to pretend it amounts to schism?

Surely, that is over the top? (i.e. American “Culture Wars” propaganda).

IMHO the mistake here is the Bishop n o t issuing advice (because of the American inspired Socio-Political “movers” assembled at Gafcon).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 9:33am BST

"Would you stop that too?"

Erika, I think I would. Honestly, I don't understand matrimony as a sacrament. I can't get my head around it. It is different in many ways from the others. They all concern the individual and his/her relationship to the Kingdom manifested as the local ekklesia. Baptism/confirmation: how one is reborn into the community, Eucharist: how one is spiritually nourished in the community, Reconciliation: how one repairs the bonds in the community, broken by one's own human failure to live the Gospel fully, Unction: how one is strenghthened by God acting through the community to face the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects of illness, Holy Order: the means by which, via a sharing in the priesthood of Christ, one person's ministry is set aside as the focus of the priesthood of the laity and the "pathway" of grace, so to speak, is made evident. But matrimony? It is the Johnny Come Lately, it smacks to me of the Church being the hands by which the State controls the people, and I just don't get it. Despite the fact that straight people have always used it as a means of validating relationships, I don't see what's sacramental about that. Frankly, if redemption isn't validation enough for people, I don't see what could ever be, and that applies just as much to the heterosexuals who get married solely because they have a sense of entitlement to the white wedding with all the trimmings as it does to anyone else. I have great respect for lifelong commitment, for love and mutual support, all that stuff, I just don't see what's sacramental about it, or why the Church should be involved. Symbolic? Maybe, but sacraments aren't mere symbols. But then there's a lot the Church does that I just don't understand.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 1:39pm BST

Ford
"Honestly, I don't understand matrimony as a sacrament"

But why should that matter?
We do lots of things publicly in church that are not a sacrament. We bless havest goods, we sometimes have pet services where we bless pets, we have renewals of marriage vows, we have thanksgivings for all kinds of things.....
even if you don't see marriage as a sacrament, why can it not be celebrated in church?

One of the saddest things for me is that the core of my life is my faith. God is the centre of everything I do. And yet, when I pledge my life to the women I love I will only be allowed to have a civil service in which every reference to God is explicitly forbidden.
Why is it so wrong to want to stand before God in the church we worship in every Sunday, supported by our family and friends, and just give heartfelt thanks for this relationship, ask God's blessing on it and offer our prayers?

I truly fail to see why this is so contentious.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 7:45pm BST

Whatever happened to the old adage, which stated:
'A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace' ?

Is this not what happens when anyone (or any two) call(s) upon God for a Blessing? Surely any valued human relationship of loving faithfulness deserves this particular distinction - especially when they believe in God's unconditional love and the free gift of grace?

The ring, the stole, the blessing, the kiss -these are all 'outward and visible signs'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 4:58am BST

"I truly fail to see why this is so contentious."

Because despite all the good beneficial undeniably holy aspects of your relationship, there is an aspect of it, one that is integral to it, that they consider to be sinful. It is not the totality of your relationship. The relationship would still go on, likely, if one or both of you became unable to function sexually. But, as it stands, sex is not just part, but an important part, of that relationship. You don't have to agree with them, Erika, but to them, whatever else you are giving thanks to God for in that instance, you are also giving thanks for and asking for His blessing on something they think sinful. You don't understand why they have such trouble? I don't understand why you have this trouble. Any of us would have huge problems with others blessing what we consider to be sinful. I'm sure there are things you think to be sinful that others don't, and you would be disturbed if they went ahead and blessed those things despite you repeatedly telling them it would drive a wedge between you and them. Can you not see the same thing in them? Of course, even if there were no sex in your relationship, they would still find reasons to oppose you, but again, that's another issue. It shows their real motivation is bigotry, not Scriptural faithfulness, but, no matter how many times you point it out to them, they don't get it. What are we to do then other than watch themselves put the lie to their own arguments, if they refuse to learn how to do otherwise? But again, another matter.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 6:51pm BST

"Is this not what happens when anyone (or any two) call(s) upon God for a Blessing?"

No. The blessing of a boat is not sacramental, neither is the blessing of a field, a house, or anything else. The Eucharist is not merely the blessing of bread, a baptism isn't merely the blessing of water, or of a person for that matter. There are blessings and "sacramentals", then there are sacraments. There's a difference, but not being a theologian, I'm not sure I can articulate what.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 7:01pm BST
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