…I want to single out two considerations in my own words that lead me to a conclusion I will draw momentarily.
My first consideration is theological: Is this rite true? When I or any member of the clergy bless anyone, we use the form, “I bless you in the Name of God.” This is what may be called performative language: it performs the action that the words imply. We do not say, “I pray for,” or “I wish,” or “I think that” … God will do so and so. We are only authorized, however, to bless what God, in fact, blesses. And when we use these words, we had better have a clear warrant from Scripture or the theological tradition of the Church to back us up. No individual is competent to decide what God blesses, and no congregation or denomination is competent to do so either. Otherwise, we are merely guessing at best, and misleading people at worst.
My second consideration is closely related to the first: is it really pastoral? How may we give to people the assurance, the comfort and the strength of God’s blessing without the warrant of Scripture or the great Tradition, or even the agreement of our closest brothers and sisters in the Communion to which we maintain we belong? Indeed, how can we do so given the “theological diversity of this church” itself in “matters of human sexuality”? This seems to me to be an incoherent act. A pastoral blessing must rest on a more solid foundation than this. Furthermore, I must point to the “provisional” character of this blessing rite: I must ask our brothers and sisters in Christ who seek this rite if they are really satisfied with a “provisional” blessing? What happens if, or when, this rite is modified, or perhaps even rescinded? What General Convention gives, it can also take away! What kind of blessing is it that is subject merely to majority human vote?
Given these two considerations, my conclusion is predictable: I cannot give direction or permission for the use of the rite in this Diocese. I trust that this conclusion will not be understood to be either capricious or stubborn. The theological and pastoral stakes here are very great indeed. A bishop is ordained to “guard the faith, unity and discipline” of the Church. Given the teaching of Scripture, the Tradition as set forth in our own Book of Common Prayer, the witness of our Communion, and my own theological and pastoral concerns, I find no other alternative.
Where do we stand now after July 12? I answer that we stand where we did on July 3. Our God-given mission remains the same. Our churches welcome all people into our fellowship, proclaim God’s Word, form disciples, strengthen our people for service and ministry, nurture one another in trust and commitment, and pray for one another and our world. We honor one God: the Father who created us, the risen Jesus who calls and transforms us, and the Spirit who strengthens us for mission and enables us to bear fruit that will last.
When people come to us, they rarely ever ask what our General Convention did. Instead they will ask, “Is God real to these people?” And then they will ask, “Is there a place for me here?” By our worship, our study, and our action together we answer that first question. By our openness and welcome we answer the second. “Welcome one another,” St. Paul wrote, “as Christ has welcomed you.” That is our mission. Now, and always.
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