Thinking Anglicans

TEC adopts compromise solution on same-sex marriage

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 ReporterEpiscopal 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…

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Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

The 2015 compromise made bishops responsible for something which formerly had not been their responsibility, except where a dispensation was required. This present action should come as a relief to the bishops opposed to marriage equality, and some of them have grasped that. I hope all of them will before long, as I have no wish to see further conflict. They are free to continue to speak and teach against it, but no longer have to give putative approval by implementation or delegation. (The provision for inviting another bishop to give pastoral care is not needed, as bishops are free… Read more »

Crs
Guest
Crs

Bishop of EDOD has clarified the reality now on the ground in Dallas. I suspect others opposed will do so as well.

Crs
Guest
Crs

See the statements I have referred to.

Crs
Guest
Crs

Of course they do indeed give approval by delegation.

Inviting another bishop not needed? What do you mean? Of course they call in other Bishops. And Sumner refers to his being available by reciprocity for conservatives in other dioceses.

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

Crs, I do wonder what you are about. I said the provision (by resolution) is not needed, because, of course, bishops are free to do this without a resolution.

Crs
Guest
Crs

Not in EDOD. There will be parishes where ssm is requested and some clergy are not opposed but others, including rector and vestry members are. Sumner is clearly not standing clear but setting dates for meeting with him, speaks of 2/3 votes, and so forth. You make it sound like they are now out of the loop and their role was always dubious. I do not know often what you are asserting. This is simply false.

I also doubt that things will be as cordoned off as Sumner implies. St Michaels will be very divided. Incarnation as well.

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

Crs, it is clear to me that you do not understand what I have said above. You are arguing with points I neither intended, nor to my mind, stated. I have no idea what thesis you refer to when you say, “Not in EDOD.” I have read Bp Sumner’s letter and think I understand him, and nothing I’ve said here goes against anything he said. It is you who express doubt about the future not going as he plans; I am making no prognostications, simply restating the canonical reality that a bishop does not need approval from a GC resolution… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Be well Fr Haller. Bishops conservative are hardly relieved or pleased, content or ought to be, more this or less that as per Haller TA wisdom. They have been reduced to the barest minimum and we now have a new GC dominated church. This was always going to be the final stops for the TEC train so far as they are concerned. I would not surprised if Love in particular bails out. He was clearly impassioned and distressed. My strong hunch is that B012 is inherently unstable and the usual GC hodge-potch. Time-buying. Fuse-lengthening. We will have the Jesus Movement,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“GC dominated church”….My understanding of the polity of The Episcopal Church is that General Convention has always been the ultimate authority. Bishops do not now and have never been able to make decisions about doctrine or canons or liturgy on their own. In this, it is rather like the US federal government (which I think was rather the point all those years ago when the system was created)–GC is congressional (legislative), the PB is presidential (executive). The dioceses are, in this analogy, like the states, with their own executives (bishops) and legislatures (diocesan conventions). Even at the parish level, this… Read more »

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

As usual, CRS, you are wandering from the thread and singing your favorite familiar song once more. You know the secret mind of bishops while I am happy to take them at their word. Yes, Bp Love was passionate in his opposition, but — the vote on B012 having passed by voice — there is no record as to how the individual bishops voted, apart from their own post-ballot testimony. Bp Martins reported (on his blog): “I am very pleased the B012 passed, and hope the Deputies concur. It is significantly less problematic than other versions of itself that were… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Fr Haller, yes my hunches, but you are the one taking people at their words. I hope this will bring an end to your wise preachments on this topic but somehow I doubt it. Here is your happy Bishop Martins: “However, this most recent General Convention has constrained the authority of bishops to simply prohibit same-sex marriage within the diocese. This is deeply lamentable. It undermines and erodes the ancient and appropriate relationship between a bishop and a diocese as chief pastor, teacher, and liturgical officer. It obscures the sacramentality of the Bishop’s identity and role, that all liturgical and… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

And Bishop Martins conveniently ignores the fact that liturgy and doctrine in The Episcopal Church (despite the dictionary definition of that term) is and always has been the province of General Convention, not of any single bishop. Were it otherwise, we would have a church with different liturgies and doctrines in every single diocese.

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

Yes, CRS, I read his essay. I never claimed he was “happy” but accept that he was “pleased” that the compromise passed, and that no BCP amendment was advanced. I do not think he was alone in that perspective. However, since you bring it up, much of his unhappiness stems from an illusory and false understanding of how a bishop’s jus liturgicum functions in Anglicanism (and in Rome, for that matter). In both cases the bishop’s rights in liturgy are very limited, and his primary task is to see to it that the liturgies authorized by the church are carried… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Dear Fr Haller I brought it up because “deeply lamentable, erodes, undermines, obscured, grievously erred, deep personal sorrow and heartbreak” do not comport with your initial and ongoing characterisation. Obviously. I live in France. Blessings on your life in Albany or wherever you now are. In time the dust will settle on TEC’s new face. Martins speaks of robust firewalls and the Austin statement of CP Bishops ministering to conservatives outside their dioceses, from whence will come liberal Bishops to do a kind of DEPO in their own. All of this will take some getting used to, and the profile… Read more »

Crs
Guest
Crs

The Austin Statement from the Communion Partner Bishops is now available at their website.

Bishop Sumner has also provided a clear statement of how those several parishes are to conduct themselves vis a vis his épiscope in respect of BO12.

Crs
Guest
Crs

Dear Simon. I am in Heidelberg and operating off a cell phone. I got Bishop Sumner’s statement directly as retired canon. I believe it is posted at http://www.edod.org.

I had copied some relevant bits at Episcopal Cafe when I had access to my computer and Orange in France.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“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.“ What a triumph of passive aggression! Certain parishes will conduct same-sex marriages; therefore their bishop will have as little to do with those parishes as possible! If that letter is an accurate sample of… Read more »

Crs
Guest
Crs

I find it curious how outsiders respond. I’d put the number of rectors wanting ssm at under 10% of all parishes. 60% OK with the present response of the Bishop. 30% more conservative and disappointed with the CP stance.

Jo B
Guest
Jo B

While I’m sure, as always, you’ll claim superior inside knowledge, I suspect a degree of confirmation bias at work. I think what’s likely is that there are a few brave priests willing to risk the ire of their Bishop and stand up and be counted in the cause of justice, while plenty more are conscientiously in favour of recognising all marriages but prefer to remain on good terms with their Bishop rather than rock the boat. There will be some who are adamantly opposed even if they had a supportive bishop but whether it’s 30% or 3% is a matter… Read more »

Crs
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Crs

Don’t claim superior knowledge as a kind of blog sport. I was canon theologian in the diocese.
I know the parishes well. But of course you are free to disagree.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

CRS: You mean, of course, that you KNEW the parishes well. Things may have changed in the interim. Or do you believe the people of Dallas to be so hide-bound that they are not capable of changing their minds and hearts as they learn more about gay people and their legitimate desires to marry?

CRS
Guest
CRS

Dear PON. My wife is from Dallas. Her business is there. My close working colleagues are there. I was canon theologian and left less than 3 years ago. There is an odd device called the internet and with it something called email. For the record, I view B012 as a mess and anticipate lots of challenge and confusion. The Bishop has set terms I believe will be taken by many as going too far from B012 and GC. In the video produced in behalf of ss marriage only 5 parishes in the entire diocese were involved. 4 are very clear.… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

If the majority of the Diocese of Dallas is still, in the Year of Our Lord 2018, in the United States of America, opposed to same-sex marriage, then, yes, I think they are very hide-bound. As to the Bishop’s views being unrepresentative, unless he has polled his parishioners, I think it’s hard to tell. My experience in several parishes in two dioceses is that the people elected to vestries and to diocesan conventions represent only the most vocal and, to some extent, those most closely aligned to the rector’s views…and not necessarily the majority of the parish. For a little… Read more »

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

CRS: On the other hand, it is my experience living in the Dallas area that conservatives here in the diocese have a remarkable ability at not seeing Episcopalians who hold a different perspective. It has long been the trend for conservatives here to imagine that they speak for everyone and to refuse to see that other opinions are also strongly held, and perhaps more widely held than they tell themselves. This diocese is quite toxic. Hopefully this change will open the door to a lot of other changes, too. That might be the reason why the conservatives have tried to… Read more »

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

Pat: Dallas is changing rapidly, inside and outside of the church. While rural Texas remains very conservative culturally and politically, the urban areas have seen big changes. You put your finger right on the real issue: how much do these conservatives in power positions (in the diocese and in state politics) really represent the changing cultural and religious landscape? Up until now they have pretended that alternative points of view either don’t exist or are too far outside of their self-defined norm to be considered. When change happens (and a lot of us think that it will happen soon) they… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

https://www.episcopalspringfield.org/toward-generous-faithfulness-about-marriage/

Bishop Martins’ statement.

In vain will one find any relief, contentment–deserved or otherwise–or resolution. Why would one have expected otherwise, as I suspect very few at TA might have thought.

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

If only conservatives got as aggravated and active about the damage they’ve done as they do about their hurt feelings, I might have sympathy – as it is, I *do* empathize, because, being human, I also know what it’s like to suddenly realize you are not *more* important than other people, that the understanding and vision of others *is* just as important to them as yours is to you, and to find out that you are not more special than others who have suffered longer and more viciously, either to other humans or to God. I do hope and pray… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Dear PON and Dennis et al. I am writing this (below) for another context. Those who are in your view at odds with the diocesan canons and the Bishop and the general traditionalism of Dallas will now be able to show their faces and stand up against this, as you say is so. This is because B012 is inherently unstable. I do reject the idea that a catholic understanding of marriage is either anti LGBT as such or, as depicted, some kind of backwoods ignorance in view of our US-style “Grand March Toward Greater Enlightenment.” That just seems to me… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Unstable because the first clause sets no regulations for how all may have provision….Unstable as well because the second clause gives scope for Bishops to set terms at odds with the expansive first clause, like vestry vote, delimiting marriage sites to those parishes where the rules set down by the Bishop have been followed, and so forth. ”

Continuing my analogy to the US civil government, this is–to my mind–as it should be. The legislature passes laws, the executive sets out regulations as to how those laws are to be implemented.

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

Have you considered the possibility that some middle of the road parishes in this diocese might decide to suddenly be in favor of marriage equality if it means alternative episcopal oversight?

CRS
Guest
CRS

You tell me. Your sense of entrenched but silent opposition to the Bishop is not obvious to me. He meets with the clergy tomorrow evening. From what I have heard there are conservatives who wish he had stood closer to +Love, and there could be more than the 4 parishes represented by the couples in the video who decide they want new rites. I myself do not think B012 is clear enough when it comes to setting the ground rules, and so lots of potential for testing. So we shall see. But that is about ss marriage more than it… Read more »

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

“If TEC becomes shop-for-a-bishop…” but that is Sumner’s choice with his rejection of the parishes that he doesn’t like. And that idea was originally started by the right when they decided that they didn’t like women being ordained. But Sumner has opened the door and you might see some vestries and rectors start to wonder how life would be if there were a change in the purple shirt who comes around. Anyway, your lack of knowledge of any opposition is just reflective of the regime in this diocese which long predates Sumner. Much of this is driven by two very… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Dear Dennis, I wish you all God’s blessings. In my view, TEC is only tolerating whatever conservative bloc remains with gestures like B012. The consents process will rid TEC once and for all of conservative Bishops. The HOB knows this. Have no fear. TEC will soon be the church of your dreams, with no push-back of any kind. Blue skies ahead!

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

And for those wondering about the comment above about “the four parishes represented by the couples in the video” just google “Dear General Convention” and go to the website. There are two videos available and they are both well done. They have made a lot of conservatives in the diocese of Dallas very angry. I suspect that this isn’t due as much to the content of the video (as much as they dislike that) as it is due to the way it shows the rest of TEC that Dallas isn’t a monolithic block. In the past conservatives have kept a… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

Bishop Martins of Springfield has decreed: “Precisely because all liturgical and sacramental ministry is an extension of the ministry of the Bishop, and implicates the entire diocese in whatever is done, there must be a robust firewall between a community that receives same-sex marriage into its life, along with its clergy, and the rest of the diocese, including and especially the Bishop.” Back in the day of the fights over women’s ordination, this attitude was regularly described as the “taint” or “cooties” theory of theology — can’t have the contagion of those icky same-sex married people or those who support… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“[A]ll liturgical and sacramental ministry is an extension of the ministry of the Bishop.”
All? Really? Seems a bit ego- or at least episco-centric.