Shift in Policy on Same-sex Blessings by New Bishop of Arkansas

From The Living Church we have this tidbit:

Priests are expected to use only authorized public liturgies when responding to the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian members, according to the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield who said the shift became effective with his installation as Bishop of Arkansas last January. The policy shift was explained during a meeting of the clergy prior to diocesan convention last February and was a factor in the voluntary renunciation of vows by at least one priest recently.

If anyone knows more detail about this I would like to hear it–KSH.

Update: Some information about the previous situation may be found here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

9 comments on “Shift in Policy on Same-sex Blessings by New Bishop of Arkansas

  1. carl says:

    Brand new bottle, same old vinegar. Three reasons.

    1. This is only a shift in policy if someone gets punished for violating it. Time will tell, but do we really need to hold out breath?
    2. Punishment will probably never be required anyway because a ‘generous’ interpretation of this clause:
    [blockquote][C]lergy and congregations are permitted to experiment with pastoral responses to same-sex couples seeking affirmation and support.[/blockquote]
    Will render this clause untenable:
    [blockquote][C]lergy are forbidden from performing sacramental rites for the blessing of same-sex unions[/blockquote]
    3. Besides, there is still this qualifier:
    [blockquote]Seeking ways of recognizing and blessing faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships falls within the parameters of providing pastoral concern and care for our gay and lesbian members[/blockquote]
    The bishop thus implicitly acknowledges the acceptable nature of a homosexual relationship in these instructions. But that is the actual issue – not how to bless, but whether to bless.

    This is just a PR stunt to show “The HoB really meant it, and we are acting in accordance. No authorized liturgy!” Yes, this instruction is certainly in accordance with the HoB statement.


  2. plainsheretic says:

    So people don’t get to confused it would help to refer to the current Bishop of Arkansas and his predesor by thier last names. The share the first name Larry.

    Bishop Benfield, the current bishop of Arkansas, reversed his predecessor, Bishop Maze, decision to allow local option for same-sex blessings. Bishop Benfield told his clergy that they could use only “authorized” rites, which is to mean authorized by general convetion of the episcopal church. Since there are no authorized rites for same sex blessings these are not to be performed in arkansas.

    The preist who renounced her orders was an openly gay and partnered preist. She did this in protest of Bishop Benfields new policy.

  3. carl says:

    Confused like me. Oh well.
    red face

  4. Kendall Harmon says:

    Thanks #2, this is the way I interpreted the article.

  5. Adam 12 says:

    So many word games can be played with “public,” “authorized,” “sacramental.” Performing such rites in the sanctuary, to my mind, is an affront to God. May he have mercy on us all.

  6. sophy0075 says:

    My sympathies to all reasserters who reside in this diocese. How much more of this will the leaders of the Anglican Communion tolerate?

  7. Sarah1 says:

    Honestly, while I’m thankful that this bishop wishes to return to the church’s stance on sexuality, I feel empathy for those in the diocese who have gotten used to same-sex blessings and a progressive stance on sexuality [and other issues] and now have the rug pulled out from beneath them.

    One month, one thing is The Gospel, and another month, another.

    Whiplash . . .

    And very saddening to those on any side. When one foundational worldview prevails in a diocese, there is both cheering and gnashing. And when another foundational worldview prevails, the other side cheers, and the old one gnashes.


  8. J. Champlin says:

    Speaking as a priest serving in the Diocese of Arkansas, the comments in #2 present the plain sense of what Bishop Benfield has said. Just to add to it, Bishop Benfield was clear that, with the way blessings have been developed, they amount to sacramental rites, and has refused permission on grounds that the church is not at liberty to create sacraments at will. Also, this was all clearly said during the “walkabouts” before the election in November ’06, and put in the larger context that our understanding of marriage is in disarray and until (wonderful word!) we engage in some remedial work there we simply do not know what we’re doing.

  9. FatherBob says:

    Those who base their opinions of same-sex blessings on grounds of “justice” and non-biblical sources, put heterosexuals in a strange bind. Married hetero’s must get a legal divorce to end a relationship. Gays, in most jurisdictions, cannot get a civil (or ecclesiastical)divorce. It is not a part of TEC’s structure to have divorce courts. Gays thus need only to join another church to rule out any church related hassles. Gays will not be disciplined for extra-relational affairs, after all, it’s their lifestyle! Hetero’s can be refused the sacrament by parish clergy for adulterous behavior. The double standard stinks! What I don’t understand is why a hetero priest would be deeply interested in actively advocating gay blessings, as many are on record as promoting. But then, I don’t understand a lot of things.