We elves and some of our friends have been busy analyzing TEC bishops’ statements. We’ve found a troubling pattern. We hope this analysis will be helpful, and encourage you to circulate this widely. (please credit T19 if you do circulate this)
Important Update: In the course of discussing this with readers, I’ve realized I made a mistake in lumping together the five bishops who included the “breadth of response” language in their responses to the New Orleans statement. In particular [b]+Ed Little[/b] should not just have been lumped in the list as if he was trying to exploit some loophole. Upon re-reading his statement, that would be clearly UNTRUE. Please see my comment #44 below. Apologies for the confusion and not giving +Little’s statement more careful attention. It shouldn’t have been just lumped in the batch. –elfgirl
Some TEC Bishops try to exploit a perceived loophole and hide the truth
In my work the other night compiling and organizing various TEC bishops’ letters and statements following the New Orleans HoB meeting, one phrase began to leap out at me as it was repeated and emphasized by quite a few TEC bishops. Some among the TEC bishops, notably +Jack McKelvey, seemed to be claiming that the public same sex blessings occurring in their dioceses fall under the Primates’ allowance of a “breadth of private pastoral response.”
Two examples should suffice, though at least 5 bishops, and perhaps others, have highlighted this phrase in their discussions of the New Orleans HoB meeting:
We also articulated, again as requested, the fact that this church has never authorized the blessing of same gender unions. We spoke clearly to the fact that a majority of dioceses already function on this matter in the way that we do in this diocese. We also made reference, as the Primate of Australia suggested we do, to the fact that the Primates themselves have affirmed that pastoral care for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters requires the Communion ”˜to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.”
We quoted the Primates in their May 2003 statement saying that we have a pastoral duty, “to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations.” They further stated, “. . . It is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.” This will be honored in the Diocese of Rochester and I believe in many dioceses throughout our church.
+Larry Benfield of Arkansas(a diocese which had just recently, under +Benfield’s predecessor +Larry Maze, begun to allow public SSBs to be conducted by its clergy; +Benfield may be changing the policy in the diocese, it is not yet totally clear.) also specifically cited “breadth of private response” language, as did +Henry Parsley of Alabama and +Ed Little of Northern Indiana.
So, what were the Primates actually affirming in May 2003, and is the TEC HoB’s adoption of this phrase consistent with the original usage or intent? It appears that this is a key question. Let’s trace the history of this language and the intent behind the original language, first looking at the actual use of this phrase in New Orleans.
1. TEC HoB Usage of the Phrase “Breadth of … response” in New Orleans
On Sept. 24, in the midst of the TEC HoB meeting, TitusOne Nine published the proposed draft of the TEC response to the primates. That draft response included this section:
5. Because we are a liturgical church our actions concerning blessings are expressed in public liturgies. No rite of blessing for persons living in same sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. We wish to make it clear that the House of Bishops has not voted to authorize such liturgies. Even in the absence of such public rites, we acknowledge that the blessing of same sex unions, no matter how public or private, is unacceptable to some of our brothers and sisters in our own House, in our church, and in the Communion. The issue remains perplexing for us as we seek to balance these concerns about rites of blessing and the pressing pastoral need that confronts us. We wish to offer respect for these differing viewpoints.
We are grateful that the Primates have articulated their support for meeting the individual pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons. In 2003 they wrote “there is a duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all Christians to respond with love and understanding to homosexual persons.” The Primates have written that there must be a breadth of private and pastoral responses to individual situations. It is the case that for many decades, the Episcopal Church has explored the most faithful ways of ministering to and with gay and lesbian people who are part of our common life. We acknowledge that in some of our dioceses this includes the blessing of same sex unions.
Note how here the proposed text explicitly acknowledges the public blessings of same-sex unions occurring in various dioceses and tries to claim that such blessings fall under the “breadth of … pastoral responses” envisioned by the Primates. The TEC bishops suggest and appear to want to believe that the only matter of concern to the Primates was the official authorization of liturgical rites for same-sex blessings at a national level, in spite of the fact that the Dar es Salaam CommuniquÃ© explicitly stated the Primates’ concern about TEC’s “pastoral provision” in various dioceses.
In the final statement from New Orleans, that section re: Same-sex blessings was modified to read as follows:
Blessing of Same-Sex Unions
We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty “to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations.” They further stated, “…It is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.”
Again, the TEC bishops are trying to claim that the Primates’ 2003 statement would encompass and allow the current practice of public same sex blessings occurring in many TEC dioceses.
As noted, the language in question goes back to the May 2003 Primates’ CommuniquÃ© following the Primates meeting in Gramado, Brazil. Let’s look at that more closely…
Read it all (you can also download this)