Friday, 6 January 2012

Looking ahead: The Episcopal Church in 2012

Jim Naughton wrote at Episcopal Café about the year ahead for The Episcopal Church.

A number of comments related to this article were made in an earlier thread here, which was about an English subject: Same-sex Marriage and Disestablishment.

In order to stop the discussion on the latter topic being dominated by Americans discussing something quite different, I have created this article.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 2:57pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA
Comments

The issue raised in the previous thread concerned whether the authorization of a trial liturgy for same-sex blessings would be mandatory in all dioceses. Although I have not seen the wording of the proposed resolution at this point, the norm (as in former cases of trial liturgical use) has been to place such trial use under the discretion of the bishop or (in the absence of a bishop) the ecclesiastical authority (often the Standing Committee), as part of the enabling resolution.

This virtual diocesan veto on trial use is not mentioned in the Constitution's description of trial use (Article X), but is common practice. The constitutional language states that trial use of texts (provided as an alternative to a BCP text or a proposed revision of part or all of the BCP) are authorized "for use throughout this Church." The customary leeway given to bishops to veto such trial use might be considered unconstitutional; I doubt such a case would be made, however, as most would wish to maintain the bishop's prerogative granted in the enabling resolutions, constitutional or not.

One of the areas in which our governing documents are reticent is the authority of the Book of Occasional Services. This is neither an alternative nor a revision to the BCP, but a collection of supplemental rites, which in its preface states, "All of the material in this book is optional. None of it is required..." This means there is no Constitutional mandate for general use, and no requirement that they be used, and it might be argued that a bishop could forbid the use of such rites in that book within the diocese. Only a challenge to such a ruling, and a complaint against the challenger, might produce a settlement of that issue in an ecclesiastical trial. Which, I think, most would prefer to avoid. My guess is that rather than brinksmanship we would see more cases of blinkmanship.

So it seems to me that on the SSB issue a bishop will be granted (in the legislation, not by the constitution) a veto authority. If such a rite makes its way into the Book of Occasional Services (as opposed to the BCP) a bishop might still have the right to veto its use.

In any case, no individual cleric will be required to make use of such a rite. Others may think differently.

Posted by: Tobias Stanislas Haller on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 3:51pm GMT

No one picked up my story that Crockfords and the CofE year book have listed the ACNA bishops of Fort Worth, Quincy ( an ex Catholic priest who was never in TEC) as bishops of these sees and members of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 5:10pm GMT

I hope that the comments above are widely read. The constitutionality of the BCP is clear, and the Book of Occasional Services is an outlier constitutionally. It states what may be done.

This being the case, the idea of GC passing something that in turn required discretion being given a Bishop is inaccurate, as the previous note helpfully indicates. I don't think, strictly speaking, it is accurate to conjecture that a Bishop 'will be granted a veto authority' (or needs 'arguably' to forbid anything) Rather, given the status of the Book of Occasional Services, a Bishop wouldn't be granted anything (by anyone). He/she would simply acknowledge that there is nothing constitutional about a non-BCP rite and so can ignore it.

What would happen with individual clerics in dioceses that were to adopt SSBs in Book of Occasional Service dress, should they decline to bless a SS relationship, is of course subject to another set of concerns. The Lead does not deal with that eventuality, in any case.

Posted by: c.r.seitz on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 5:19pm GMT

"In order to stop the ... Americans"

Simon, you KNOW we colonials don't take well to that!

[I kid, I kid. ;-p]

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 7:29pm GMT

"This means there is no Constitutional mandate for general use, and no requirement that they be used, and it might be argued that a bishop could forbid the use of such rites in that book within the diocese." (Br Tobias)

So what is not mandatory is potentially forbidden? I ask because when +Barry Montreal was given his first synod mandate to authorize blessings of civil marriages, he noted that the rite did exist in our own Occasional Celebrations but he had not yet authorized it (even for hetero couples) in his diocese. At the time, I thought this was a bit strange/presumptuous. After all, the rite was published by General Synod as an authorized text of the national church: surely it doesn't need to be re-authorized diocese by diocese "on remand" as our presbyterian siblings say, or else the "liberal bishops" the PBSC is always complaining are trying to get rid of the prayer book would have in fact done so outright.

But are you saying that "occasional" services are in a kind of canonical limbo (nice work if you can get it, but no guarantee you're allowed to)?

Posted by: Geoff on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 7:49pm GMT

What is not mandatory/constitutional can be ignored as without effect -- that is the reality of the status of Book of Occasional Services.

No one need 'forbid' anything under such conditions.

Posted by: c.r.seitz on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 10:55pm GMT
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