Same-gender blessings proposal moves to House of Bishops

Resolution invites Anglican Communion participation, ACC 'conversation'
July 13, 2009

A resolution asking for the collection and development of theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender unions for consideration at the next General Convention is headed to the House of Bishops. The resolution invites participation in the process by others throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion and also asks the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion's main policy-making body, to be "invited into conversation regarding this resolution and the work that proceeds from it." The Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music committee recommended adoption of an amended version of Resolution C056 on July 13, with bishops supporting it 6-0 and deputies 26-1. It would direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, to collect and develop the materials and to "devise an open process … inviting participation from dioceses, congregations and individuals who are or have already engaged in the study or design of such rites throughout the Anglican Communion." The resolution asks that "all bishops, noting particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church." It also says that "no bishop or other member of the clergy shall be compelled to authorize or officiate at such liturgies." Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley supported the resolution but filed a minority report advocating deleting the reference to "all bishops" so as to focus on the six states where same-gender marriage or civil unions are legal. "We have other previous resolutions that are broader that still provide helpful guidelines to all bishops," he said after the meeting. Asked whether he still would support the resolution in the House of Bishops if his proposed change weren't adopted, he said, "I'll have to think about it as the debate goes on." The new C056 represents the committee's efforts to craft one resolution to move forward following July 9 hearings on seven resolutions related to same-gender blessings. A separate subcommittee formed to draft a proposal for addressing four other resolutions concerning canonical issues related to marriage equality. The bishops and deputies worked closely in reworking and perfecting C056, with members stating repeatedly their desire to present legislation likely to pass both houses and in particular to make it through the House of Bishops, the first to consider liturgical committee resolutions. After the full joint committee on July 11 reviewed a first draft prepared by a subcommittee, the bishops met separately and prepared the second draft that was adopted with amendments July 13. The bishops developed the second draft "informed by conversations in the House of Bishops outside our normal legislative session [July 12]," said Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee, thus "responding to a wide variety of voices." "We have talked about all of us standing at the podium to make the presentation of this resolution" in the House of Bishops, said Missouri Bishop George Wayne Smith, bishops' liturgy committee chair. The collaborative process and near-unanimous approval of the resolution on a hot-button issue contrasted sharply with actions in the World Mission committee July 12, when deputies approved and bishops rejected a revised resolution responding to last convention's Resolution B033. That resolution called for restraint in consenting to the consecration of bishops whose "manner of life," widely understood to mean homosexuality, would cause concern for the rest of the Anglican Communion. The Very Rev. Samuel Candler (Atlanta), deputies liturgy committee chair, lauded the "graceful and elegant" way the bishops and deputies had worked together in crafting the legislation. Easing that process was the fact that "largely we represent the diverse middle of the Episcopal Church," Smith commented. Candler said he was optimistic about the resolution's prospects in the House of Bishops. "I think that there's a good group of bishops who can support this," he said. The bishops also will consider a related resolution, B012, out of the Social and Urban Affairs committee. It calls for wider-than-usual latitude for bishops to allow blessings of gay and lesbian couples in states where same-gender marriage or civil unions are legal.

Related Topics: