The Presiding Bishop asked me to serve on the writing committee that drafted the response. Along with seven other bishops, much of my time was devoted to this task. Three versions were presented over the course of two days before the final version was adopted. Beyond what you can read in our final version, I’m writing today to offer some personal commentary on this response.
I want you to know that I voted to support this document, although there are certain aspects of it which trouble me. Time will tell whether our response will be a helpful contribution to the current conversation; I sincerely hope that it will.
Arguably, the two most sensitive matters before us were consents to episcopal elections (Resolution B033 of the General Convention) and the authorization of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions. Addressing both of these matters, the House of Bishops reaffirmed the actions of the 2006 General Convention, and here I remind us all that the General Convention is the primary decision making body of The Episcopal Church.
Regarding episcopal elections (BO33), I believe our statement, “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains,” went too far in the direction of trying to interpret a General Convention resolution, yet I can attest that some wanted an even stronger interpretation. The efforts to seek common ground are clearly evident in our writing on this matter.
The second matter addressed public rites of blessings for same-sex unions. Again, we rehearsed the actions of General Convention, which in 2006 took no action to authorize such rites. We acknowledged as well that “the majority of bishops make no allowance for the blessing of same sex unions.” Of course that means some bishops do. I am one who makes allowance for such blessings, and I intend to continue the current pastoral approach we have in place in the Diocese of Vermont for the blessing of holy unions. This was clearly addressed and understood in the House of Bishops.
Read it all. Ok, now follow the bouncing ball with me as we once again explore the Alice in Wonderland world of the Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians in Vermont, in a “pastoral response” to the nation’s first and only civil unions law, have unveiled liturgical rites that gay couples can use in the state’s 48 Episcopal churches.
The worship guidelines, which look and sound like liturgies used for heterosexual weddings, are believed to be the first anywhere in the Anglican Communion that convey church blessings on gay civil partnerships.
The services are contained in a 36-page manual that was distributed to clergy, last month. A committee began drafting the rites in October, and they are expected to become of official in 2006.
The “blessing of holy unions” is backed by Vermont Bishop Thomas Ely. “It would help our people to have the experience of common liturgy where there’s consistency in teaching, in language.”
Read that very carefully. Got it? Liturgical rites that same sex couples may use, with an accompanying diocesan manual. And these rites are backed by Bishop Thomas Ely.
What was is that Tanzania was concerned about?
[The Episcopal Church is asked to] “1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, Â§143, 144).”
Please observe carefully in that section the very important little word OR. It is not only through General Convention that the Primates in Tanzania did not want to see authorized blessings, but also at the diocesan level. So how are liturgical rites backed by the bishop not seen to be contrary to this? Only in a world where words mean what you want them to mean. [/i]