Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Episcopal Church considers new liturgical texts for marriage

Updated Thursday morning

An earlier article deals with the proposed changes to canon law. The changes described here, together with those mentioned in the earlier article will be considered by the House of Deputies of General Convention later today.

As ENS explains in Marriage-equality resolutions advance to House of Deputies,

…If the House of Deputies concurs with the House of Bishops-amended Resolution A054, the liturgies “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2” from “Liturgical Resources 1: I Will Bless You and You Will be a Blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015” from the supplemental Blue Book materials of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music will be available for trial use beginning this Advent. Those rites offer the option of using “wife,” “husband,” “person” or “spouse,” thus making them applicable for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
The bishops eliminated a third proposed liturgy from the resolution, “The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony.”

All three liturgies can be found on pages 2-151 here from the materials provided to convention by the standing commission.

The amended resolution stipulates: “Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision, will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies. Trial use is only to be available under the discretion and with the permission of the diocesan bishop.”

The resolution also says “That bishops may continue to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.” During discussion, bishops said this was intended to address bishops’ situations in jurisdictions outside the United States, such as Italy and countries in Province IX, where same-sex marriages remain illegal.

The resolution extends the canonical provision to these resources that, “‘It shall be within the discretion of any member of the clergy of this church to decline to preside at any rite contained herein” and that “this convention honor the theological diversity of this church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological objection to or support for the 78th General Convention’s action contained in this resolution.”

Some bishops questioned whether this meant a priest could officiate at a same-sex marriage ceremony without consequence even if his or her bishop didn’t approve of use of the trial liturgies.

The provision is intended to protect clergy in a diocese where the bishop advocates for the use of the liturgies, replied retired Virginia Bishop Peter Lee. Clergy are protected if they disagree with their bishop, but not if they disobey them, he said…

See also the detailed explanation by Jordan Hylden of the process by which these new texts can be incorporated in the American Book of Common Prayer:

…The church’s specially appointed Task Force on the Study of Marriage had originally proposed canonical changes that would have redefined marriage as gender-neutral and authorized liturgies for use. But many voices on both right and left objected to this course, since it would have placed the church’s constitution and canon law at odds with one another. The church constitution requires that worship services in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) cannot be altered at one General Convention, nor can alternatives to them be authorized except for “trial use” (Article X). To change canon law by itself, therefore, was not sufficient to provide alternative services to BCP liturgies. Therefore “trial use” was the course taken by the bishops, some of whom (such as Bishop Shannon Johnston, of the influential Diocese of Virginia) argued that precisely because same-sex marriage is so important, it needs to be passed in a way that is constitutionally beyond question. Other bishops, such as Thomas Ely of Vermont, eventually came around to this view and a consensus was reached early on in committee…

…What will happen now? Significantly, the bishops authorized the trial-use marriage liturgies “at the direction and with the permission” of diocesan bishops. If this holds up in the House of Deputies (on the docket soon), it will then mean that for the next three years bishops like William Love of Albany will be able in church law to continue their current practice of forbidding same-sex marriages in their dioceses. After that, if the liturgies become part of the BCP, it is difficult to see how that will any longer be possible….

See also this commentary by Tobias Haller Comprehension not Compromise.

…Some have characterized these resolutions as compromises. I prefer to see them as comprehensive. The resolution on liturgies authorizes trial use as provided for in the Constitution, with the mandate that bishops will see to it that all couples have access to the liturgies, while at the same time affirming that the bishop is responsible for directing and permitting these liturgies. This may be too subtle for some, but I believe it will allow the minority of bishops who are personally opposed to marriage equality sufficient conscientious cover, while at the same time requiring them to find ways to provide for couples in their dioceses who wish to make use of the liturgies. This will be a time for creativity and generosity…


ENS reports General Convention approves marriage equality.

…The House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops’ approval the day before of a canonical change eliminating language defining marriage as between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and authorizing two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054).

The resolutions marked the culmination of a conversation launched when the 1976 General Convention said that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the church,” said the Very Rev. Brian Baker, deputy chair of the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage. “That resolution began a 39-year conversation about what that full and equal claim would look like. The conversation has been difficult for many and painful for many.”

Resolutions A054 and A036 represented compromises reached after prayerful consideration and conversation within the legislative committee, and then the House of Bishops to make room for everyone, Baker said. “I know that most of you will find something … to dislike and to disagree with” in the resolutions, he said, asking deputies to “look through the lens of how this compromise makes room for other people.”

Deputies defeated an attempt to amend each of the resolutions. Following 20 minutes of debate per resolution, each resolution passed in a vote by orders. A054 passed by 94-12 with 2 divided deputations in the clerical order and 90-11-3 in the lay order. A036 passed 85-15-6 in the clerical order and 88-12-6 in the lay order.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 1 July 2015 at 10:13pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

I'm not sure I understand the TEC resolution.

Are all bishops required to offer these liturgies to parishioners, in all dioceses?

Or is it a matter of the bishop's "discretion"--which would appear to permit a bishop to not allow these liturgies, even on a trial basis, in his/her diocese?

If the point was to carve out an exception for dioceses where local civil law does not permit same-sex marriages (e.g., Italy), that carveout could be expressed far more clearly than it seems to be.

Otherwise it looks as though there will be some conservative, hold-out dioceses, where same-sex marriages will not take place, because the bishop has exercised the discretion to not allow them.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 1 July 2015 at 10:56pm BST

Good questions Jeremy.

Marriage is now the law of the land in the US. But some TEC dioceses are in other countries that do not have marriage equality, like Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. So the resolutions had to take them into account.

As for conservative bishops within the US. They are required to make the liturgies available and to provide options for the couples to get married, though potentially outside of their dioceses. We don't know how this will play out yet. Those bishops get to decide how to handle it, but they must provide options. Most of these dioceses are in Texas and Florida. Albany and Pittsburgh are on the wrong side as well. They wrangled over whether the provision would say "may" or "will." They went with "will," making availability a requirement.

Tobias Haller wrote a really beautiful reflection on it.
Comprehension Not Compromise

Tobias writes beautifully, but I have a sense of disappointment for those who are left out. Yes, there is a way for them, but it places the burden of travel and removes the joy of getting married in their home parishes with friends and family.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 1:37am BST

The conservatives have been defeated soundly. No worries. Each Bishop must make provision. 'Conscientious cover' is some kind of baloney language that means: 'I hereby say OK because I must say OK.'

The Doyle Plan will be operative, or 'go to a neighboring diocese.' But both will be regarded as unfair and Title IV will loom over it all.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 6:09am BST

So basically the Episcopal Church has not FULLY accepted gay marriage.It is still optional, and dioceses who object can opt out.Furthermore those dioceses who object can continue to elect opt out bishops.

The partial recognition of ssm marriage within the Episcopal church is the logical outcome of the revolution that occurred at Lambeth 1930, when procreation was made optional with the acceptance of contraception.

Anyone who marries in an heterosexual marriage in the Episcopal church, after November and subsequently divorces..could now quite easily obtain an annulment in the Catholic church.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 6:48am BST

"... it will then mean that for the next three years bishops like William Love of Albany will be able in church law to continue their current practice of forbidding same-sex marriages in their dioceses."

I doubt Bishop Love believes that.

I believe Jordan is wrong. +Love may object, but he must make provision.

My hunch is this will be unacceptable to him. Leaving him with difficult choices. But he will speak for himself I am sure.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 8:33am BST

One can only suppose that cseitz knows more about the 'baloney' he mentions - apropos TEC's determination to open up the ecclesiastical accommodation of Same-Sex Marriage rites - but without any real understanding of the pastoral value of such initiatives.

Thang God that G.C. shows more charity!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 10:24am BST

"So basically the Episcopal Church has not FULLY accepted gay marriage."

Well, "fully accepted" or not, the numbers are pretty overwhelmingly in favor of inclusive, sacramental marriage. House of Bishops was 129 for, 26 against, and 5 abstentions. A preliminary count in the House of Deputies, 173 for, 27 against, and 12 divided (whatever that means).

It MUST be made available to all couples in the US. The bit about the handful of conservative bishops having the option of exporting their gay couples to another diocese is an unfortunate burden. I would call it a legacy situation.

At the local level, priests get to decide whether they will do gay marriage or not, just like they have discretion in any other marriage. In my diocese, the majority signed on to doing Same Sex Blessings, they are likely to be open to marriage.

Recent polls show over 65 percent acceptance of gay marriage amongst Episcopalians and most mainline Protestant churches here in the US, and I believe the RC's as well (who are out-of-step with their hierarchy on many matters). Higher amongst Quakers, Buddhists, Jews, and Unitarians. I find it unlikely that many non marrying bishops will be elected in the nearer future. I could be wrong.

So RIW, I guess it depends on what you mean by "fully accepted." It's fully available.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 1:53pm BST

Regarding Cynthia's statement about Pittsburgh being "on the wrong side," I don't know how our deputies voted on this (they might have been "divided" in one or both orders), but it is highly unlikely that Bishop McConnell will not permit use of the new rites. He has already been permitting use of the current "blessing" rite, and after the HoB vote he was quoted as saying that in spite of his “significant theological reservations” about the trial rites, he was in support of making them available. “We have to have this conversation,” he said. “I dispute that we have been talking about this for 40 years. Most of that wasn’t talking; it was a pitched battle. Now we maybe are actually able to talk and listen to each other.”

Posted by: Bill Ghrist on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 3:32pm BST

I respectfully disagree with R I Williams above concerning annullments. If you will compare the Declaration of Intention in the Canon prior to amendment, and its current state, you will find it greatly strengthened. In fact, the proposers of the change noted that the previous declaration did not in fact constitute a Declaration of Intention because it failed to mention any of the intentions that, when defective, constitute grounds for annulment. All of the traditional "purposes" of marriage are retained in this new Declaration, expanded slightly with language that includes adoption as well as procreation. So even the intention to marry in accordance with God's purposes for marriage are present, and that possible ground for annulment is ruled out.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 4:08pm BST

Re. the voting: it was by orders in the house of deputies, so the count is by each order of each deputation. There are 4 clergy and 4 lay deputies per delegation.

So for the canon change, it was

85/88 delegations for
15/12 against
6/6 divided

That means 85 delegations of 4 clergy each, voted for; 15 voted against; and 6 deputations were divided, with two clergy for and two against; which are formally counted as a "no".

Posted by: IT on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 4:36pm BST

The fact that Cranmer struck out sacrificial language in his ordinal, invalidated it. In the new declaration of intent in the Episcopal Church the word procreation has been replaced by an ambiguous phrase. On those grounds alone, the new rite must be interpreted and in Roman Catholic consideration it may be rendered null and void. Plus the fact the Episcopal church believes marriage is not indissoluble but can be dissolved.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 7:09pm BST

Pardon me if I got Pittsburgh wrong. Several versions of the roll call have been published, as several had errors. Somewhere I'd seen Pittsburgh voting against, that may well have been one of the errors. Apologies!

Thank you, IT for the update. I had forgotten about voting by "orders," but that makes clearer what is meant by "divided."

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 8:57pm BST

Kindly read more carefully. Baloney referred to the comment from Haller on what he called conscientious cover. No conservative bishop thinks that.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 9:52pm BST

Dr Seitz, I worked closely with two of the conservative bishops in the Legislative Committee, and I think you misjudge them.

To take at least some of them at their word, their "Salt Lake City Statement" includes this:

"When we disagree with the Church’s actions, we will do so openly and transparently and — with the Spirit’s help — charitably. We are grateful that Resolution A054 includes provision for bishops and priests to exercise their conscience; but we realize at the same time that we have entered a season in which the tensions over these difficult matters may grow. We pray for the grace to be clear about our convictions and, at the same time, to love brothers and sisters with whom we disagree."

This is a rather explicit reference to the sort of "conscientious cover" to which I referred.

Unless you think the bishops are talking baloney, too. Such language is beneath you.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 3 July 2015 at 3:47am BST

Mr. Williams, I don't have my copy of the Code of Canon Law with me in Salt Lake City, but my recollection is that the Roman Church recognizes the validity of civil marriages performed prior to entering the Roman Church. These marriage rites contain no reference to the divine purpose whatsoever.

My primary point is that the previous declaration of intention was itself defective, in omitting two of the principal causes for finding of annulment, defect of intention with regard to fidelity or permanence. You may not like the phrase "gift and heritage of children" but that phrase has long been a part of Anglican liturgy.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 3 July 2015 at 4:06am BST

The language 'conscientious cover' implies 'cover' for what? It is an infelicitous and inaccurate phrase, though it may well describe how you view your activity on their part.

I know each of these bishops well and have worked with them closely.

'Cover' -- so they can keep their heads up? So they can 'sell this' to hurt and disappointed parishioners and clergy? So they can pretend that for three years something didn't really happen when in fact immediately they have a pastoral mishmash of real problems to deal with? And what kind of 'conscience' does this bespeak?

You may believe you have confected a clever set of this-and-that's for a three year period. But no one on the conservative or liberal side is fooled. It would be far better to let the yea be yea and the nay be nay. It is 95% close now.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 3 July 2015 at 12:53pm BST

Not my work, Dr. Seitz. This language was crafted in the House of Bishops, who, I think, know each other far better than either you or I.

But I meant by "cover" -- a phrase I used prior to the release of their minority report -- in the sense in which I believe they express their own exercise of conscience, in recognition of the tensions and difficulties they will have to address. They will not have to approve of the rites in question if they object to them; but they will have to see to it that couples have access to them. That, to me, is a fairly definitive expression of protection of conscience.

Those who live in a society in which people disagree can still find ways to accommodate the concerns of those with whom they disagree. Those with responsibility may also find themselves in the position of having to enforce laws or direct proceedings with which the disagree. This is, ultimately, what obedience and collegiality sometimes entail.

The bishops in question have acknowledged that in their minority report.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 4 July 2015 at 4:37am BST

Mr Haller, in RC teaching only marriage between two baptized Christians is indissoluble.Therefore the Church accepts the validity of marriages made in good faith outside that setting,as long as they are monogamous.

The Church accepts that two Christians outside her communion may have have an indissoluble marriage if they married in good faith without any impediments.

However the setting and context of Christian marriage in the Episcopal Church has now changed, and this I believe could be used as a grounds for annulment.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Saturday, 4 July 2015 at 5:59am BST

The only thing being 'covered' is a mess that will now explode into the open.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 4 July 2015 at 11:57am BST

I see Bishop Brewer in CFL saying in a prepared video that the CP Bishops disassociate from the resolutions of GC.

As I said, lots of messes to wade through.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 4 July 2015 at 2:29pm BST

My hope is that bishops who oppose same sex marriage will heed the words in Resolution A054 and “will make provision for all couples” with a “generous pastoral response”. The bishops may "disassociate from the resolutions of GC", but I pray they will not disassociate themselves from LGTB people in their dioceses who are under their care and wish to marry in the church.

Posted by: June Butler on Sunday, 5 July 2015 at 3:39am BST

Any Bishop who seriously 'disassociates' from a GC resolution will be considered to have abandoned his Orders and be released from duty. The diocese will be given a provisional Bishop who will demand compliance.

The LGBT people and cause have triumphed.

Dreaming up various kinds of fig leaves is all well and good, but no one should be fooled by this.

It isn't a 'compromise' when 29 vote No.

They lost, however.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 5 July 2015 at 11:46am BST

The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas Standing Committee statement:

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 5 July 2015 at 10:06pm BST

There seems to be a problem with the PDF file Dr. Seitz has linked to. Much of the second page is unreadable.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 6 July 2015 at 12:27pm BST

It can be found at the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas website.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 6 July 2015 at 2:30pm BST

I was able to read all of the pdf file that Dr Seitz linked to. But the statement is also available as a webpage:

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 6 July 2015 at 5:27pm BST

Thanks, also now at The Living Church

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 6 July 2015 at 10:01pm BST
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