A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003
By Thomas Bushnell, BSG firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 07 Jul 2003 22:36:11 -0700 XXXXX writes:
> You know we as priests are not authorized to do blessings of same
> sex unions in the Episcopal Church. To do so is a violation of our
> ordination vows and a poor witness about the nature of our
> fellowship as members of the one body in the one truth.
This is incorrect.
The canons are silent on the subject.
The Prayer Book rubrics explicitly state (on page 13) that "other forms set forth by authority within this Church may be used", which includes not only the authority of the General Convention, but has generally included the authority of the diocesan bishop as well.
The very next paragraph also says that "for other special occasions for which no service or prayer has been provided in this Book, the bishop may set forth such forms as are fitting to the occasion."
Many bishops have explicitly approved liturgies for such services, just the sort of thing envisioned by the rubric. The service is therefore "set forth by authority" and within the explicit ambit of the bishop for an occasion where "no service or prayer has been provided".
(Other such episcopally-approved services I have attended included a liturgical recognition-of-divorce and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In both those cases there is hardly unanimity about the appropriateness of such services, and I would agree they should not be added to the BCP. [They might be fine additions to the BOS.] It is clear, however, that they are also within the ambit of the episcopal permission rubrics on page 13.)
Moreover, the Prayer Book contains several points at which existing authorized liturgies could contain a blessing of the relationship between two people. For example, such a blessing can be incorporated into the Prayers of the People, using a supplicatory form. The blessing at the end of the service (page 366) has no required words, and provided that all the people are blessed, there is nothing to prohibit blessing them in categories. (Say, first bless these two, then bless everyone together.) And many people have found the form for the blessing of a home to be useful in this regard.
Now the bishop is the chief liturgical officer. Such flexible use of the existing services is certainly within the bounds of the rubrics, but I believe that a bishop could legitimately prohibit them--as indeed some have. Still, if there has been no prohibition, the practice is legitimate.
It is therefore out of bounds for you to accuse a good and worthy priest of having violated her ordination vows.
Thomas Bushnell, BSG
lay person who actually understands the rubrics, Los Angeles
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