The decision by the Rt. Rev. James Robert Mathes, Bishop of San Diego, reflects the recommendations of the diocese’s Holiness in Relationships Task Force Report [PDF].Alleluia, Alleluia!
“My approach on this matter, and several other things, is to be in conversation with the community,” Bishop Mathes told The Living Church.
The bishop has discussed his thinking with several clergy gatherings. The bishop said he sees the decision above all as making provision for pastoral care by priests.
Parishes aren’t authorized to bless anything,” he said. “Priests are.”
The Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas, subdean and canon for spiritual formation at St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego, referred to the new policy in a sermon she preached July 18.
“Approximately two weeks ago, Bishop Mathes sent a letter to all clergy in the Diocese saying he will permit the blessing of same-gender relationships in churches in this Diocese, under certain conditions,” Thomas said in her sermon.
“Among them, parishes wishing to do blessings must engage in a parishwide study of the issue such as the one found in the Holiness in Relationships Task Force Report and submit a letter or resolution to Bishop Mathes from the vestry, or in our case Chapter, indicating support for their clergy to do blessings. We have done both and Bishop Mathes has said we may proceed.”
There are still miles to go before we rest -- before the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments is not just a resolution but a reality in The Episcopal Church. But steps like the one taken by the Bishop of San Diego moves us further toward that goal -- and that is something to pause to rejoice and be glad in.
Listen to how Canon Thomas preached it on Sunday:
It is a Martha moment because there is still work, righteous work, to be done in order to accomplish full inclusion—not the least of which is working towards marriage equality. But in terms of doing blessings, at this time there are additional requirements for same-gender couples.And let the people say Amen. Amen. Amen!
And it is a Mary moment as well because we are finally able to witness to the world, what the fullness of loving relationships, grounded in faith look like; as well as celebrate the love of the couples who come to have their relationships blessed. They will fill this place with a profound joy, a holy joy.
And it will happen. As Bishop Paul Marshall says so beautifully in his book, Same-Sex Unions, Stories and Rites:[t]o bless a union is to ask God to make it an experience of the kind and intensity of Christ’s love, both for the couple and also for all who are touched by their life together. Thus blessing a union is not to wish it good fortune or merely to give thanks for it, although both certainly occur: it is to set it aside for a holy use, to perceive it to be grace-bearing, to expect God to use it.So today, mindful of the righteous work still to be done, let us not be distracted by many things but sit at the feet of Jesus and give thanks for the innumerable grace-bearing ways God will put to holy use all the unions blessed in this sacred space. We are witnesses to the new creation and this moment, this holy moment will never be taken away from us.