A Letter from Bishop Scott Benhase to the Diocese of Georgia

Our Deputies already reported on the General Convention’s vote to authorize a provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex couples. In both orders our deputation voted 3-1 against the enabling resolution. As I explained before General Convention, I also voted against the resolution, not because I am opposed to a blessing rite for same-sex couples, but because the rite itself is problematic, poorly written, and confusing in terms of the Church’s teaching on Holy Matrimony. The rite, however, was approved by over 70% in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.

What will this mean in the Diocese of Georgia? Frankly, I do not know. Since this is a provisional rite and the resolution gives the Diocesan Bishop sole authority to determine its use in his/her diocese, I need more time to consult with our General Convention Deputation, our Standing Committee, and the priests of the Diocese. I plan on doing just that over the next few months. The provisional rite is not officially authorized until Advent, so I have the time needed to consult, pray, and decide. I expect to issue my decision sometime after the fall clergy conference in October.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, --Gen. Con. 2012, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

15 comments on “A Letter from Bishop Scott Benhase to the Diocese of Georgia

  1. Ralph says:

    The bishop writes, “Frankly, I do not know.”

    God asked Cain where his brother was. (Gen 4:9) How did Cain answer?

    A servant-girl came to Peter in the courtyard, saying “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” (Matt 26:69-74) How did Peter answer?

    The priests and elders of Israel question Jesus, trying to trap him. Instead, he backs them into a corner. (Matt 21:23-27) How do they go about not answering his question?

    James R. Lowell (1847) writes,
    [blockquote]Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
    And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

    Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
    Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
    Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
    Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

    By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
    Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
    New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
    They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

    Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
    Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.[/blockquote]

    His diocese needs a clear answer, one way or the other, before the fall stewardship campaigns begin.

  2. Milton says:

    #1 Amen!

  3. Already left says:

    “Duh. Before I tell you what I think, let me find out what everyone else thinks. Duh”

  4. Teatime2 says:

    I’m enjoying this — the big party is over and now they’ve all come home to find a way of distancing themselves from what they did, heh. It proves that GC is just a meaningless show and the real power is in the wallets and opinions of the pew-sitters who fund the church — or not.

  5. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #5 Teatime – indeed – after the party, comes the hangover! There does seem some hesitancy from some of the TEC bishops having led the charge, and the press reaction has been extraordinary from what I read here. It looks as if much of it has been from the left as well as the right; TEC has been absolutely slated in the mainstream media for their action.

    When everyone can see that you have managed to lose a quarter of your congregants in a decade, there is no real way of hiding that or dressing it up. Bishop Benhase does seem to have tried to do something for the diocese and Canon Frank Logue’s promotion of the Acts 8 video was on the right lines, but what is the message you have to give? Where is the hope? Many of these good intentions have been entirely undercut by the resolutions passed at General Convention and the opprobrium and ridicule they have engendered.

    The answer is not rocket science – they might have an Acts 8 moment if they started with a 2 Chronicles 7:14 moment.

  6. Teatime2 says:

    Yes, what happens in Indianapolis stays in Indianapolis — in more ways than one, lol!

    Pageantmaster, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Isn’t it odd, though, that what FINALLY might get TEC to blink and start reconsidering their folly isn’t years of orthodox warnings but unflattering reports and analysis in the media?

    I don’t know if the UK is covering this at all but we’ve got a silly war declared against a chicken sandwich company here because the owner is a Baptist and was quoted as saying he is against gay marriage. He, personally. His company does not discriminate against anyone in service or employment practices. But two cities won’t give Chik-fil-A permits to build restaurants in their cities. And the GLBTs are threatening to stage “kiss-ins” at the company’s restaurants.

    The majority of average folks are appalled by the city’s actions and the activism, if online comments are any gauge. I think people have had their fill of the GLBTs now and the media are waking up a bit. The US has substantial financial and morale problems — TEC has substantial financial and moral problems — so more than enough attention has been paid to the GLBTs and their collective tantrums.

  7. tjmcmahon says:

    #1- I think the specific purpose of the letter is to NOT give an answer to the question until the fall stewardship campaign is over.

  8. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #6 Hi Teatime
    [blockquote]what FINALLY might TEC to blink and start reconsidering their folly[/blockquote]
    I am afraid I have no illusions that TEC will blink – or at least the liberal catholics like the PB who run it – they don’t mind if it crashes so long as they are in charge and can use it for their own agenda politically and in the Communion as a trojan horse.

    For the bishops, and the institutionalists, it is more difficult – they will now have to deal with the fallout domestically in the dioceses. They hate to be thought badly of and even worse to be laughed at.

    At a certain point in decline institutions reach a tipping point. No one quite knows when that has happened or what was the precipitating factor, but when a large national structure like The Episcopal Church is hitting 650,000 in the pews on Sunday, if those figures are to be believed, and a lot of churches are managing with 50 people turning up unless new people can be attracted in, the end cannot be far away for many churches and dioceses. In retrospect demanding 19% contributions for the national church may look delusional.

    Those dioceses like S. Carolina and Dallas who are planting churches and growing again, notwithstanding congregations leaving on the one hand and persecution by the PB on the other are doing so notwithstanding the perceived toxicity of the brand.

    What will happen to Georgia? Who knows, but what Bishop Benhaze does and where the diocese decides its future lies, with decline in Atlanta, or growth with Charleston will be decided on what response the Bishop gives. I think that there may be a lot of bishops pondering that.
    [blockquote]I don’t know if the UK is covering this at all but we’ve got a silly war declared against a chicken sandwich company here[/blockquote]
    Our press have been covering TEC which we think is a joke at its national level; but no, Chick-a-filet is not getting coverage and we don’t really have an equivalent problem. We have different problems – with governments who have decided they are going to ignore the consultations they established, and a Prime Minister who has not learned from the bloody nose he was given at the local council elections and is putting his party up for more punishment.

    Different problems in different countries, but yes much of it caused by activists who do not always act in the best interests of their constituents.

  9. Ralph says:

    #7, I don’t think that any parish stewardship campaign, or for that matter their diocesan capital campaign, will be at all successful until the bishop has chosen sides. If I were a warden, vestryman, church treasurer, or clergy, I would be writing letters, sending e-mails, and requesting appointments with him.

    I wouldn’t make a pledge if there were a good chance that I would be leaving the diocese and parish in the coming year.

    I have friends in that area who are within driving distance of DioGA, DioUSC, and DioSC. If DioGA goes belly up, folks in Savannah need only cross the river to be in a faithful TEC diocese and parish. Inconvenient? Yes. Impossible? No.

  10. tjmcmahon says:

    Ralph, since several of the bishops who have taken a firm stand against A049 were already under investigation by 815 before the convention, you might want to have a plan B yourself.

    And why would anyone leave over A049 when the majority of dioceses were already in the SSB business, a few since the “pastoral provision” of 2009, but most since 2006 or 2003, and no small number since the late 90s.

  11. Ralph says:

    #10, I’m in for the long haul. The controversies make me keep reading the Bible. Some of my friends are very disheartened, and I think I understand how they would be.

    I forgot to mention the DIocese of Florida, also a potential place of refuge for DioGA Episcopalians since Bp. Howard has made it clear that there will be no SSBs.

    In the Southeast, SSBs have been a DioATL thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they start using the new ritual as if it were a sacrament. People who live in the Southeast understand that Atlanta and its environs are not part of the true South.

    In my area, we haven’t had SSBs – at least not that anyone seems to be aware of. There really aren’t good alternatives to TEC in many parts of the Southeast. I actually don’t have a Plan B. I don’t know what it would be.

  12. MichaelA says:

    Tjmcmahon (or anyone from ACNA), how is ACNA going within +Benhase’s diocese?

    With an attitude like this from their bishop, it is difficult to see how TEC will be very effective at evangelism in Dio Georgia during the foreseeable future. Which means even less of an Anglican witness there. Which ACNA diocese does this come under and are there any noted church-planters or evangelists there?

  13. tjmcmahon says:

    Michael A,
    I am approximately 1200 miles from Georgia and live as something of an Anglo Catholic hermit in an ecclesiastic wasteland. I am hardly and ACNA insider. With the closest parish about 2 hour drive (assuming no one has declared their Bible study group to be a new diocese), I am not even sure if I qualify as in ACNA anymore. The ACNA website lists 9 parishes in Arkansas, of which 5 are ACNA proper, 3 AM (does not separate them by PEAR or otherwise) and one APA.

  14. sophy0075 says:

    I am a parishioner of a thriving church in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese, which is the ACNA diocese based in part of Georgia and Florida. We are doing quite well, thank you. You can read more about our diocese at its official website, which is http://www.gulfatlanticdiocese.org

  15. MichaelA says:

    Hi Sophy, always glad to hear about any anglican church that is doing well, in TEC, ACNA, or elsewhere.

    I was just wondering how church planting was going down in that area. But I should make clear that is not meant as a judgment or criticism of anyone, I was just interested to know. My thoughts and prayers are with all who keep the faith.