One of the final acts of my sabbatical time was the working meeting of the A050 Task Force on the Study of Marriage held at the Baltimore Maritime Center from March 31-April 3.
The official update on the work-in-progress of the Task Force was just released via email from the Office of Public Affairs. You can read the whole report here (and I commend it to you!) but I particularly liked this quote from our Task Force Chair Brian Taylor:
"Our hope is that we will contribute to a church-wide conversation about the ways in which marriage can be for many a place of union in heart, body and mind, of joy, help and comfort; a place where, through both prosperity and adversity, we are transformed by love and made more fit for building up God’s kingdom.”I also appreciated how clear he was to communicate both what we have been asked to do by the church ... and what we have NOT been asked to do by the church. (There seems to be some confusion on this distinction in some quarters!)
In a nutshell:
“We also find that people want to know both what we are doing and what we are not doing. We are working to be faithful to Resolution A050 in studying and writing about the biblical, historical, theological and liturgical dimensions of marriage. We are not writing a definition, or re-definition, of marriage that could then be proposed as official church teaching. We are tracing many of the historic and current themes and developments of this evolving institution, and we are inviting everyone to join us in learning, listening, and discussing.”It is super helpful to remember that part of our charge from General Convention 2012 is to "address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same- sex couple in states that authorize such."
The Task Force is also looking at ways to respond to one of the specific charges in the original resolution, to “address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same- sex couple in states that authorize such.” Many dioceses are already finding their own ways of doing this, and the task force “feels that it is part of our responsibility to propose something for the church’s consideration that could offer consistency to what is currently taking place.”
We have not been charged to debate whether that pastoral need exists.*
We have been charged "to address it."
Of course there remain differences of opinion on whether the church should be doing this work. Nobody is arguing with that. But the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage is to study marriage -- not revisit the debate about whether we should be studying marriage.
That debate happened in 2012. And the debate about what to do with the report we produce will happen in 2015. In the meantime, the wider the participation we have in the process, the better our work will be. To find out more, go "like" our Facebook page and stay in the loop on the work as it progresses. Seriously. Go do it. Now. You'll be glad you did!
* Which it currently does in 17 states (plus the District of Columbia) and 32 dioceses in the Episcopal Church