My purpose in this essay is to briefly sketch the policies and practices of diocese of Colorado since the advent of bishop O’Neill, culminating in this policy change that came into effect on January 10, 2009, with the ordination of an individual living in a non-chaste same-sex partnership.
In 2003, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado elected Robert O’Neill as its bishop. During his campaign, he was very clear about his commitments to the gay cause. In Massachusetts, besides spearheading the new diocesan camp, he led his parish into accepting his associate rector’s new lesbian “partnership.” Since there is no provision in the Episcopal Church for these things, her ceremony happened in another denomination.
A lot has happened between his election and now. O’Neill convened a task force in 2004 to examine the issues. “How will we choose to live together given our differences? What is our common ground? What are the limits? What is the highest degree of communion possible?” The end result was a recommendation from the Task Force for restraint, which has been followed till this new turn of events.
In Colorado, there already were partnered homosexuals and lesbians in orders. Also, provision had been made for some sort of thanksgiving in a liturgical context, but it wasn’t supposed to look like a wedding: no vows, no rings, no invitations, etc”¦ According to O’Neill, great license had been taken with his predecessor’s pastoral permissiveness. The modest thanksgivings looked like weddings.
So, upon his election, O’Neill suspended the pastoral provisions for liturgical recognition of homosexual relationships. He also suspended the ordination process of at least one partnered lesbian. He did not let partnered clergy into the diocese, even though certain parishes wanted it. There were three basic reasons: 1) O’Neill hoped to find some way to keep the diocese together. 2) The Anglican Communion’s value to us was of utmost importance. 3) The Episcopal Church had not yet authorized same sex blessings through its General Convention, being the proper, ordered place, where such changes happened. We in Colorado were called, on the left and the right, to restraint for the sake of unity.
That was then, this is now. What changed?