* FINAL VERSION - Concurred

Resolution C051

Topic/Title:   Liturgy/Music: Blessing of Committed Same-Gender Relationships

Proposer:   Diocese of Michigan


Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 74th General Convention affirms the following:

  1. That our life together as a community of faith is grounded in the saving work of Jesus Christ and expressed in the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral: Holy Scripture, the historic Creeds of the Church, the two dominical sacraments, and the historic episcopate.
  2. That we reaffirm Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention (1976) 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".
  3. That, in our understanding of homosexual persons, differences exist among us about how best to care pastorally for those who intend to live in monogamous, non-celibate unions; and what is, or should be, required, permitted, or prohibited by the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church concerning the blessing of the same.
  4. That we reaffirm Resolution D039 of the 73rd General Convention (2000), that "We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God", and that such relationships exist throughout the church.
  5. That, we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.
  6. That we commit ourselves, and call our church, in the spirit of Resolution A104 of the 70th General Convention (1991), to continued prayer, study, and discernment on the pastoral care for gay and lesbian persons, to include the compilation and development by a special commission organized and appointed by the Presiding Bishop of resources to facilitate as wide a conversation of discernment as possible throughout the church.
  7. That our baptism into Jesus Christ is inseparable from our communion with one another, and we commit ourselves to that communion despite our diversity of opinion and, among dioceses, a diversity of pastoral practice with the gay men and lesbians among us.
  8. That it is a matter of faith that our Lord longs for our unity as his disciples, and for us this entails living within the boundaries of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. We believe this discipline expresses faithfulness to our polity and that it will facilitate the conversation we seek not only in The Episcopal Church, but also in the wider Anglican Communion and beyond.

 

 

Minority Report separately distributed in the House of Bishops regarding the Substitute Resolution Adopted by the House of Bishops

 

We, the undersigned, believe that the Substitute Resolution offered by the Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee should not be passed for the following five reasons:

  1. On point number three, the resolution conflates two very different issues. While we acknowledge that differences do exist in how to faithfully and effectively provide pastoral care for people who believe themselves to be homosexual persons, we also affirm that those pastoral concerns, skills, and techniques are very different from developing rites for same sex unions.

We are also concerned that in this paragraph the phrase "...and what is, or should be, required, permitted, or prohibited by the doctrine, discipline and worship..." [of this church] is deeply troubling. We question why is this phrase "or should be" is included. Why can we not simply say, as our ordination vows require us to say, "what is required, permitted or prohibited..."

  1. On point number four, we happily acknowledge that relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful and honest communication, and holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God. They are called "holy marriage" and they have been part of the life of the church for 2,000 years. But this resolution is not about marriage relationships between a man and a woman, it is about creating something new in the life of the church.
  2. On point five, we wish to state in the strongest possible terms that, far from being consonant with the Primate's Pastoral Letter, this is a denial of it. We quote from that letter, "The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorization of such rites."

Thus, the Primate's letter, in the strongest language and with a clear intent, implored this church not to develop such rites. This resolution is a complete and arrogant repudiation of the clear intention of the leaders of our church.

  1. On point five, we ask the question, "What does it mean `to experience' such liturgies?" A simple reading of this language flies in the face of the intention of the Primate's letter as it raises the question of how one can "experience" a liturgy without actually performing such a liturgy. Thus, this resolution has the effect of authorizing the performing of (quoting the resolution) "celebrating and blessing same sex-unions".
  2. On point six, we note the seemingly conciliatory and congenial dilution of the language of the previous resolutions. But this resolution has the same effect in the life of the church as those more forthright resolutions.

        We note the language specifying "possible inclusion" and the change from the Book of Occasional Services to Enriching Our Worship. We note, however, that the reality that (a) once these rites are published by the Church Publishing Company they carry the implicit imprimatur of The Church. Thus (b) people both in and outside of the church can reasonably conclude that these rites of blessing are themselves blessed by the church itself. That is because (c) the subtleties which mark the distinctions between the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Occasional Services, and Enriching Our Worship are lost on the vast majority of men and women in and outside the church. The reality is that no one outside a close coterie of canon lawyers and liturgical scholars will make a distinction between included these rites in Enriching Our Worship and the Book of Common Prayer.

        We note that the stated purpose of Enriching Our Worship (Preface p. 13) is that it "contains texts intended to be explorations for the development of liturgical materials...[and] looking forward to the[ir] dissemination throughout the Church..." Publication by The Church for propagation by The Church for use in The Church of rites of same sex blessings is the true intent of this resolution.

        We note that the Preface of Enriching Our Worship goes on to say (p. 17) "Whatever we imagine the future of the Book of Common Prayer to be, the task of the months and years to come is to compose, use, evaluate and distribute a wide variety of emerging resources." The intention of this resolution becomes clear if we substitute in that sentence the phrase from the substitute resolution "celebrating and blessing same-sex unions." Thus, we could reasonably read the Preface of the Enriching Our Worship to read as follows: "Whatever we imagine the future of the Book of Common Prayer to be, the task of the months and years to come is to compose, use, evaluate and distribute liturgies for the celebration and blessing of same-sex unions."

        Thus, while the proposed change from the Book of Occasional Services to Enriching Our Worship seems conciliatory and congenial, the actual difference is insignificant and the end result is the same as the previous resolutions.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon



* Resolution is final but status and text are still under review before publication.