Updated Saturday evening
See our earlier report here.
Yesterday, the Church Times reported that Episcopal Church in the US widens access to trial same-sex marriage rites.
The General Convention of The Episcopal Church has now approved legislation making same-sex marriage rites available to all Episcopalians without making changes to the 1979 TEC Book of Common Prayer.
The Living Church reports: Compromise Reached on Same-sex Marriage.
Episcopal News Service has reported it this way: Convention lets its ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ agreeing to give church full access to trial-use marriage rites.
Religion News Service via the National Catholic Reporter: Episcopal convention approves a ‘pastoral solution’ on same-sex marriage.
The approved version of the resolution can be read in full here.
Update The Communion Partners have issued the Austin Statement (July 13, 2018).
The Bishop of Dallas, George Sumner, has issued a letter to his clergy. A portion of this is copied below the fold.
…First and most importantly, the General Convention has decided not to amend or alter the Book of Common Prayer, for which I am deeply grateful. This reaffirms the tradition of faith of which we are grateful recipients, and it avoids the greatest damage to our relations with our fellow Anglicans in the Communion. Secondly, the mandate for future liturgical reform included an enduring status for the 1979 Prayer Book. Thirdly, the General Convention has also set up an important ‘Communion Across Difference’ taskforce, made up equally of traditionalists and progressives, to think about our future. This is also a positive development.
However, the Convention has also removed the right given to diocesan bishops at General Convention 2015 to grant or withhold permission for the use of the rites of same-sex marriage in their dioceses (whose reauthorization of the same sex rites I voted against). This new state of affairs goes into effect on the first Sunday of Advent. I should hasten to add that the Convention reaffirmed both the honoring of conscience of clergy who cannot preside at a same sex marriage, as well as the canonical right of a rector to have control over the liturgical life within his or her Church building.
As the chief theologian and liturgist of the diocese, I instruct and exhort all of our rectors to continue with both the traditional teaching of the Church catholic and the inherited practice with respect to marriage. In so doing you will remain in full solidarity with my own teaching and ministry as the bishop of this diocese. Let me remind you that this teaching is held by the ecumenical Churches and the Anglican Communion, comports with the Scriptures, and is embedded in our own canons. I instruct you thus for the good of your souls and the preservation of the unity of the Church.
I am, however, no longer able to stop parishes, who wish to, from using these rites. We are, and will remain, a part of our national Church, which has made this decision, so we must find a way to live within its bounds. Furthermore, the key resolution of Convention, B012,implies that the diocesan bishop should take a leading role in working how we will do so. Therefore rectors wish to use these rites, and who have the assent of their vestry, should contact me by the 15th of August if they intend to perform these rites. (I should add that, as a result of conversations over a period of months, I believe I have a sense of the rectors likely to desire to use these rites.) This question does not apply to missions, for whom I am in effect the rector, and from whom I will continue to withhold my permission.
We will endeavor to see that same sex couples who are not members of one of these parishes are pastorally committed into the care of the visiting bishop so that one of the rectors of the parishes he will oversee may provide the rite.
These decisions mean in effect that there are now two teachings, with two accompanying practices, on marriage in the Episcopal Church. In this respect we live in a time of confusion in our Church, consequent on the confusion found in our culture at large. The resolution itself recognizes this as it affirms ‘theological diversity.’ However let me reiterate it is not a consumerist matter of pick-which-you-like; the teaching of the Church catholic grounded in Scripture, the one still found in the marriage rite of our Prayer Book, remains normative in this diocese.
Those parishes wishing to proceed with the use of the rites of same sex marriage will enter into a conversation with me about supplemental episcopal pastoral care. The rector must request the use of these rites, with the concurrence of 2/3’s of the vestry. The document ‘Caring for All the Churches’ offers helpful guidance. A process of prayer, study, and deliberation in the parish as a whole will normally follow, though I reserve the prerogative to waive this in some cases. Since I am not able by conscience and conviction to oversee a parish using these rites, since a bishop and his or her doctrinal teaching cannot be separated, we will need to work out oversight for the parish’s pastoral life, confirmation, discipline, etc. This referral is not because of any anger, breakdown of pastoral relation, or rejection- it is because of a deep difference in theology. These parishes will remain part of the diocese of Dallas in all things temporal; they will lose none of their privileges of voting, nor the obligation of their assessment. I am in conversation with a bishop colleague about helping us in this way (and at some point I may offer such help to traditional parishes in another diocese). Such oversight will serve to honor both my own conscience and conviction and those of the parishes involved, and I am very hopeful that we can work all this out without rancor…