Monday, May 28, 2018

Resistance IS Patriotic

Hanging out the flag this morning and recognizing the deep irony that as we spend Memorial Day remembering those who swore to defend the Constitution against all enemies -- foreign and domestic -- the Constitutional right to free speech and expression they died protecting is under direct attack by elected officials who are dismantling the Constitutional protections they too swore to defend. #ResistanceIsPatriotic

Monday, May 21, 2018

That Time I Was Right

When it was announced that the preacher for the Meghan Markle/Prince Harry wedding would be our own Presiding Bishop Michael Curry I wrote that this was (and I quote:)
"... a moment of evangelism and an opportunity to proclaim the Good News of an inclusive church and the expansive love of God to a world in desperate need of it. And there is nobody better for the job that Michael Bruce Curry — child of God, preacher of the Gospel and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church."
The piece -- "Reflections on Evangelism, Inclusion & the Royal Wedding" -- drew the attention of the Religion News Service and garnered this quote in their May 17th post on the upcoming wedding:
Episcopalians are hopeful they can capitalize on all the attention paid this weekend to Anglican ritual and spirituality. If all goes well, Curry might be their ticket to framing the church in a fresh light. “For those who know enough about Christians not to want to be one,” Russell said, the wedding brings a chance “to hear someone who gives a message of justice and compassion.”
And boy howdy was I right about this one!

Knowing Bishop Curry as I have for these many years ... before he became a bishop in our work for peace and justice, when he was Bishop of North Carolina and a leading voice supporting the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments and since he's been our Presiding Bishop (elected by an overwhelming majority on the first ballot in 2015, I might add) ... I had not a shadow of a doubt he would bring the powerful message of God's love available to absolutely everybody to his wedding address. And bring it he did!

In case you missed it ... and my FB and Twitter feeds suggest not too many people did ... here are links to both the video and to the text. And here's a stand out quote that arguably summarizes not only this wedding homily but Bishop Curry's lifelong work and witness:
“Imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families, neighborhoods and communities, governments and nations, business and commerce where love is the way....When love is the way then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like a ever-flowing brook, poverty will become history, the earth will be a sanctuary, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there's plenty good room for all of God's children."
I think it bears repeating that exactly ten years ago we were sweating out the beginning of Lambeth 2008 — the every ten year gathering of bishops from all around the global Anglican Communion — under the cloud of threats that the American Episcopal Church would be voted off the Anglican Island because of our commitment to full inclusion for LGBTQ people.

But instead of caving to the blackmail, the American Episcopal Church stayed the course, continued to expand the circle and in 2015 we not only changed our canons to make the sacrament of marriage equally available to all couples seeking God’s blessing on their lives and on their love, we elected a prophetic, outspoken champion of inclusion as our Presiding Bishop. I think it is fair to say that those of us who survived Lambeth 2008 could not have imagined — in even our wildest dreams — that we would be where we are today … and yet, here we are.

And where we are is a moment where national and international attention is shining on the Episcopal Church -- inarguably for a brief moment because that's how this works -- so let's seize it.

Here are just a few of what we've seen in the last 48 hours:

Headlines like this from Reuters:
US Bishop Wows Royal Wedding With Impassioned Sermon On Love

And this from the UK Guardian:
Michael Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon Will Go Down in History

And then there was this from Esquire: Bishop Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon Was Wholly Un-British, Amazing, and Necessary ... a feature that ended with these words: "We really did not expect to get inspired by a Royal Wedding, but there you are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to join the Episcopal Church."

Seriously. Does it get better than that?

Yes. I actually did.

There was this SkyNews interview with both Presiding Bishop Curry and Archbishop Welby ...

... which included these words from Justin Welby: "What we saw was that preaching is not a past art: that the use of language to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ just blew the place open ... it was fantastic!"

And what we heard was the ABofC putting to rest once-and-for all (one can hope) the fantasy that differences have to become divisions and reminding us that as members of the Anglican Communion what unites us is far stronger than whatever may be leveraged to try to divide us. (Of particular to anyone heading to Austin in July for our 79th General Convention ... just sayin'.)

But wait ... there's more! Who thought they'd live long enough to see an Episcopal Presiding Bishop parodied on SNL?

And ... to have said PB applauding the performance on Instagram? Yes ... that just happened.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg of a moment where what is happening is that a whole boatload of people have a new sense of the energy, passion and love-driven spirit of this Jesus Movement we are part of.

They have a glimpse of a Christianity that is not about judgment, condemnation and exclusion but justice, compassion and inclusion. Michael Curry preached -- as Justin Welby noted in the video clip above -- about a Christianity that is "profoundly unconventional' ... "putting God at the center and blowing open a revolution that gives energy and life to the world."

And in response the world sat up and said ... as Prince Harry mouthed to Meghan Markle at the end of the sermon ... "Wow!"

What happened is that we have been handed a moment for proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ Jesus to a sin-sick world weary of division and polarization and hatred, bigotry and violence ... and it was handed to us on a silver platter.

What happened is that the seeds have been sown. And what happens now is that we get to work turning the moment into a movement. Ready. Set. Go.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Equal Time: CofE Rank & File Speak Out in Support ot TEC

ICYMI: The Episcopal Church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage (TFSM) -- convened by our 2015 General Convention -- requested feedback from our wider Anglican Communion cousins on the following question:
From your perspective and specific setting, what has been the impact of The Episcopal Church’s authorization and use of liturgical rites for same-sex marriage and the blessing of same-sex unions on “the Church”?
The response we received (and filed as part of our Report to General Convention) from the Church of England was submitted by Mr. William Nye, Secretary-General of the Archbishops' Council and Secretary General of the General Synod of the Church of England. It was roundly critical of the TFSM proposals and warned that -- if adopted -- “the pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC, in all manner of ways, would increase”.

It also turns out it was not roundly representative of many voices in the Church of England who have subsequently stepped up and spoken out to challenge Mr. Nye's authority to speak for the whole church and applauded the leadership of TEC in moving forward toward fuller inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Body of Christ.

Here are some excerpts from Letters to the Editor in The Church Times

From 113 church leaders: We have read William Nye’s letter to the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 20 April) with considerable interest, surprise, and, to be honest, disappointment, and wish to dissociate ourselves from it. The letter refers to a majority belief in the Church of England that the only legitimate locus for sexual relationships is within heterosexual marriage. This sweeping assertion cannot, in fact, be substantiated, as the Church of England, to our knowledge, has never asked her regular worshipping community what it thinks and believes about this.

From 14 members of the General Synod Human Sexuality Group: The letter was not reported to the General Synod in February, nor published by the Church of England. Thanks to the Episcopal Church’s culture of openness, we now know of the letter’s existence and contents. Mr Nye asserts that for a majority in the Church of England “Holy Scripture is held to rule that sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s will.” It is not clear what steps he took to ascertain whether this is indeed the majority belief, and recent research surveys suggest that it is not.

From General Synod member Anthony Archer: The Episcopal Church’s consultation is a clear reminder of the autonomy of each Province of the Anglican Communion in shaping its own doctrine and affairs, autonomy that will become starker if the Episcopal Church has to face further “stringent consequences” for its prophetic lead. It is time the Church of England adopted that position rather than hide behind its de facto position in the Anglican Communion and wring its hands on the basis that it can do nothing until all other Provinces agree (in other words do nothing).

Then there's this response from One Body, One Faith ...

For decades we have watched the Communion used as an excuse for our failure to acknowledge the diversity of views in the Church of England, and to speak with integrity and courage the truth of our people. Now, as another province embarks on a different way of making gracious provision for diversity of integrities, it appears they are being blamed with impacting on the work of the working groups set up by the House of Bishops in the aftermath of the disastrous GS2055. The members of those groups with whom we’ve been able to engage are working courageously and prayerfully to hold in tension their various perspectives and to make room for meaningful change. It is disingenuous to seek to draw TEC into submission to the Church of England suggesting that this is for the sake of the Communion. TEC, the discernment and reception process are bigger than that, as is the provenance of the Holy Spirit.

This flurry of activity is more than just a tempest-in-a-teapot over Mr. Nye getting out over his skis and presuming to speak for the whole CofE.

It is a reality check to all of us who prepare to gather in Austin for our 79th General Convention and consider the proposals from the TFSM that diversity of opinion on issues relating to marriage exists in absolutely every part of our wider Communion.

It is a reminder that in spite of the threats of schism and the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it ... which seem to return to General Convention debates as regularly as the swallows return to Capistrano ... differences do not inevitably lead to division.

And it is an opportunity for us to continue to "set our hope on Christ" as we move forward with the work of making full and equal claim for God's beloved LGBTQ people not just a resolution we once adopted but a reality we actually live.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Simon Says: "Let’s get the truth of the situation out there"

Yes. Let's do!

So I would say "it has begun" -- except it kind of never stops. The "it" would be on the ongoing spin of misinformation and polemic coming from the "sky is falling" contingent convinced that the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments in the Episcopal Church will be the end of the world as we know it in general and the Anglican Communion in specific.

The latest iteration is this Church Times piece by Madeline Davies making the rounds on social media and regarding the work of the TEC Task Force on the Study of Marriage.

From the article:
PROPOSALS to incorporate marriage rites used by same-sex couples into the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of the Episcopal Church in the United States will increase pressure in the Church of England to “dissociate” itself, the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, has warned.

In a letter to the Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which has produced the proposals, Mr Nye writes that, if the rites — written to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples — are incorporated into the BCP as the only marriage rite, “the pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC [the Episcopal Church], in all manner of ways, would increase”. Such a move would also be “potentially damaging” to work in the C of E to create a new teaching document on sexuality (News, 30 June), he writes.

He goes on to warn that, if provision is not made for traditionalists in the Episcopal Church, it would be a “serious blow for interfaith relations, negatively impacting Christians around the world especially in areas where they are persecuted minorities, as well as harming the stringent efforts to reinforce moderation in religious expression in countries like ours which are affected by terrorism”. The Episcopal Church’s promulgation of the new liturgies is, he writes, “at the least, unhelpful to those of us seeking to bring the Church of England’s deliberations to a good outcome.”
OK ... let's unpack a little.

#1 -- Everything we do as we continue on the journey toward making the 1976 promise of "full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church" to LGBTQ Episcopalians not just a resolution but a reality increases pressure on the CofE to go and do likewise. That's a given. That our differences on these matters become divisions is not.

#2 -- The "letter" written by Mr. Nye was in response to the Marriage Task Force's request for feedback ... and it has been duly received and included in our Task Force report. However -- and it's kind of a big however -- this clarifying caveat from Simon Butler ... a member of the Archbishop's Council Mr. Nye purports to speak for -- bears noting:
It’s worth making clear that, in my time on Archbishops' Council, we have never had a discussion on same-sex marriage, here or in the United States.

I’m not sure it is appropriate for a discussion among the Archbishops’ Council staff to be sent as a formal letter to another Province on AC notepaper.

If you have any connection with those who are doing the work on same sex marriage liturgies in TEC, please do let them know that, as a statement of the views of the Archbishops’ Council, it has no particular weight.

I have no problem with a statement of the current position of the Church of England being a broadly conservative one, but I am afraid it does not reflect the views of the Archbishops’ Council. We have never been asked.

Feel free to share. Let’s get the truth of the situation out there.

Simon Butler
#3 --  There has never, ever, for one single solitary moment been any question whatsoever that provision for what Mr. Nye names as "traditionalists in the Episcopal Church" is not being and will not continue to be provided.

No one ever has -- or ever will -- compel anyone to either participate in nor to preside at a marriage they do not believe is sacramentally efficacious. Canon 18.7 clearly states: "It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize or bless any marriage." Period. Full stop.

We currently have three marriage rites that may be used with couples who present themselves for marriage. The BCP rite has language that assumes one party identifies as a woman and one as a man; a second rite which patterns the BCP rite but uses gender neutral language; and a third rite Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage. The last two were approved for trial use by the 2015 General Convention and the proposals heading for the 2018 General Convention included continuing their use ... not incorporating them into the BCP as "the only marriage rite" as incorrectly stated by Mr. Nye.

The question on the table -- and one we will be deliberating and deciding in Austin at General Convention in July -- is not whether there is a place for traditionalists with a minority opinion on marriage equality in the Episcopal Church. It is whether those holding that minority theological perspective should have the power to deny access to the sacrament of marriage to couples seeking God's blessing on their marriage -- something that is currently happening in only 8 out of 101 dioceses.

The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets from July 5-13. We covet your prayers for our work on behalf of the Gospel.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Making Full and Equal Claim Full and Equal: The Journey Continues

I have had the privilege over the last six years of being part of the Episcopal Church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage. Our report and recommended resolutions have just been published -- and will be the source of debate and decision at our upcoming 79th General Convention in Austin, TX (July 5-13). Here -- for what it's worth -- are my two cents on what we're proposing and why.

Good people of deep faith can and do read the same Scriptures and come to a variety of conclusions on a whole host of issues — and what God’s best intentions are for God’s beloved LGBTQ people is definitely on that list.

In the Episcopal Church we have been on a 40+ year journey from the 1976 declaration that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.”

Since that time the church has moved forward — again and again — to turn that resolution into a reality. Just as with the ordination of women in the 1970’s not everyone has agreed … but part of our charism as Anglicans has been to claim our big tent heritage by making room for minority theological opinions. And the resolutions coming forward to the 79th General Convention in Austin maintain that trajectory.

No one will be compelled to participate in nor to preside at any marriage. Period. Full stop. At the same time, no one will be denied access to the sacramental rites for marriage offered by this church to its members. Period. Full stop.

It really is that simple. And it really is that Anglican.

As Anglicans we were formed in the crucible of the 16th century Reformation into a particular body ecclesial uniquely capable of being both protestant and catholic in a time when such a possibility was beyond imagining. We are, therefore, uniquely wired by our DNA to be a church that can hold together the tension of being both gay and straight ... and everywhere in between ... in the 21st century.

The question on the table -- and one we will be deliberating and deciding in Austin at General Convention in July -- is not whether there is a place for traditionalists with a minority opinion on marriage equality in the Episcopal Church. It is whether those holding that minority theological perspective should have the power to deny access to the sacrament of marriage to couples seeking God's blessing on their marriage -- something that is currently happening in only 8 out of 101 dioceses.

In the end the Gamaliel principle will determine the efficacy of the choices we have made as we respond to where we hear the Holy Spirit calling us into her future — and it will be God’s job to judge how we have responded to that call.

In Austin the Episcopal Church has the opportunity to lift up “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God” as the values that make a marriage holy. It has the chance to talk about marriage as vocation of holy love, grounded in biblical values of faithfulness and forgiveness.

And it has the opportunity to say we are a community of faith focused on supporting all who are called into the vocation of marriage – not discriminating against some who are called into the vocation of marriage. It’s a privilege to be part of that work.

Read the Blue Book Report here.
Read the Q&As prepared by the Marriage Task Force here.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Looking Ahead to Austin: Update from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage

It has been my privilege over the last three years to be part of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, appointed by the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church in response to General Convention Resolution 2015-A037

The expansive charge called for the Task Force to look at a broad range of relationships and households other than marriage that currently reflect the experience of one half of society and Church today, by means of a wide range of methodologies, disciplines and perspectives. At the same time, the Task Force was charged with the exploration of particular issues regarding marriage: the impact of the marriage of same-sex couples on our Church, and the relationship between Church and state in officiating marriages.

The Blue Book Report from our Task Force on the Study of Marriage -- reporting our findings and including our recommendations to the 2018 General Convention -- was posted to the General Convention website on April 3, 2018. That report ... in its entirety ... is available here.

In addition, the Task Force on the Study of Marriage prepared a document as a companion to its Blue Book Report to the 79th General Convention.

It serves as an executive summary of the key pieces of the Report, but does not presume to take the place of a thorough reading and study of the Report itself. In the experience of the Task Force, highlighting key points of the work and anticipating some questions the Report may raise has proven helpful to those who will receive the Report and be asked to respond to it. But the full Report gives depth and breadth to the work of the Task Force and contains links to the raw data that informed the Report’s conclusions and resolutions.

The work of the Task Force during the 2015-18 triennium builds on the work that preceded it. The proposed resolutions chart a course toward the conclusion of this work. Careful discernment by the Task Force now yields to careful discernment by the 79th General Convention. The Task Force modeled a process of thoughtful and caring listening to each other, of respectful disagreement while remaining together around the table of work and worship. We pray that our work meets a similar process as General Convention takes up the work we are given to do.

Here's a link to the PDF of the Q&A document. | Here's the text of the document:
Q&As on Marriage Task Force Report: GC2018

1. Q. What was the Task Force on the Study of Marriage (TFSM) asked to do?
A. Resolution 2015-A037 directed an expanded Task Force on the Study of Marriage (TFSM) to continue exploration of biblical, theological, historical, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage, as well as contemporary trends and norms, work that was begun by a task force appointed after the 2012 General Convention. The resolution also directed the TFSM to “study and monitor, in consultation with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the impact of same-sex marriage and rites of blessing on our Church.”

2. Q. How did the TFSM organize its work?
A. The Task Force organized the assigned work into four working groups based upon the various tasks set forth in the enabling resolution. Phrases in quotes, below, are taken from Resolution 2015--A037.
● Pastoral: “consult with individuals and groups” across a variety of relationships statuses “about their experience of faith and church life.”
● Ecclesial: “study and monitor … the impact of same-sex marriage and rites of blessing on our Church” and promote and study “the results of diocesan and parochial study of ‘Dearly Beloved’ toolkit” presented by the previous Task Force on the Study of Marriage to the 77th General Convention in 2012.
● Academic: “explore biblical, theological, moral, liturgical, cultural, and pastoral perspectives” on the contemporary trends and norms identified by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage in the previous triennium; “develop written materials about them which represent the spectrum of understanding in our Church”; and “provide educational and pastoral resources for congregational use on these matters that represent the spectrum of understandings on these matters in our Church.”
● Functional: explore, study and monitor “the continuing debate about clergy acting as agents of the state in officiating at marriages.”

3. Q. How did the TFSM consult with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) on the impact of same-sex marriage and rites of blessing?
A. A member of the SCLM was appointed as a liaison to the TFSM. The liaison met regularly with the Task Force and some of its subcommittees.

4. Q. What did the pastoral working group accomplish?
A. The pastoral working group received 170 responses to a survey on relationships, providing stories that reflect a variety of theological and political opinions on marriage and relationship. Vignettes from several of these stories are woven into the essays developed by the academic working group.

5. Q. What did the ecclesial working group accomplish?
A. The ecclesial working group learned that bishops in 93 of the 101 domestic (US-based) dioceses authorized use of the trial liturgies for marriage authorized in 2015. In some but not all of the 8 dioceses where the bishop did not authorize use of the rites, the bishop made provision for all couples seeking marriage in the church to have access to the liturgies, as directed by 2015 Resolution A054.

In response to a survey of leaders of other Anglican provinces and of full-communion partners, 6 Anglican provinces reported a negative impact in their context or that they do not approve of the marriage of same-sex couples, 1 Anglican province reported a positive impact and that it had taken similar action itself, and 3 full-communion ecumenical partners reported a positive impact.

A survey of the use of the “Dearly Beloved” toolkit for studying marriage, prepared by the TFSM during the previous triennium, found that 18% of respondents had used the toolkit, and the majority of those who used it found it helpful. Reasons for not using it included not knowing about it, deciding to use a different resource, or finding the toolkit not suitable for their context.

6. Q. What did the academic working group accomplish?
A. The academic working group developed a series of short essays exploring contemporary trends and norms: Biblical and Theological Foundations for Relationships; Culture, Ethnicity, and Marriage; Householding; Singleness; and Sexual Intimacy: A Complex Gift. To develop these essays, the working group consulted with faculty at all ten Episcopal seminaries as well as other scholars and pastors. Each of these essays concludes with a series of questions designed for groups that use the essays as a basis for study and discussion.

7. Q. What did the functional working group accomplish?
A. The functional working group examined the historical role of the Church in officiating marriage, studied the current debate about clergy acting as agents of the state, and recommended recasting the role of the clergy as agent and advocate for the couple rather than agent of the state.

8. Q. What does the report of the TFSM contain?
A. The TFSM report to the 79th General Convention brings together the work of these groups and proposes three resolutions. Two of the resolutions propose new liturgical and pastoral resources, and these are appended to the report.

9. Q. What do the resolutions call for?
A. (A085) Trial Use of Marriage Liturgies extends trial use of marriage liturgies first authorized by the 78th General Convention for the 2018-21 triennium; amends for trial use “Concerning the Service” for the Book of Common Prayer liturgies; adds Rite 1 and Rite 2 versions of a Preface for Marriage 2, and amends and expands the Catechism’s section “Other Sacramental Rites” concerning marriage. It also outlines options for how General Convention might proceed to make these proposals permanent additions and revisions to the Book of Common Prayer.

(A086) Authorize Rites to Bless Relationships, proposes adding two liturgies to the “Enriching Our Worship” series: “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” as revised from the liturgy first authorized by the 77th General Convention and “The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship”, responding to the experiences of Episcopalians who desire to form and formalize a lifelong, monogamous and unconditional relationship, other than marriage, in particular circumstances. The first of these (The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant) addresses same-sex couples who live in parts of the Episcopal Church where it is still not legal to marry; the second (The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship) addresses those for whom marriage would constitute a financial hardship (especially elders); and immigrants for whom a marriage could invoke legal problems.

(A087) Develop Pastoral Resources, recognizes the rising rate and number of U. S. adults in sexually intimate relationships other than marriage and calls for the development of resources that provide spiritual, teaching and pastoral guidance for these relationships.

10. Q. What exactly is “trial use?”
A. Under the provisions of Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, trial use means that the church is considering revision of a section of the Book of Common Prayer. Revisions to the Book of Common Prayer must be approved by two successive General Conventions.

11. Q. Since General Convention approved these liturgies for trial use in 2015, why aren’t they coming back for a second reading?
A. Article X of the Constitution requires that revision of the Book of Common Prayer must be proposed in one meeting of the General Convention, then sent “by resolve” to the secretary of the convention of every diocese, to be made known to the diocesan convention at its next meeting. Resolution 2015-A054 authorized trial use of the marriage liturgies but did not include a clause directing that the proposals be sent to every diocese. The resolution that the TFSM is proposing includes a clause directing that the proposed liturgies be sent to every diocese. It also proposes revision of other sections of the BCP (“Concerning the Service” of marriage, the catechism, and proper prefaces of marriage), so that the language about marriage is consistent throughout the book. Thus, this proposes the “first reading” of this material.

12. Q. Does General Convention have the Constitutional and Canonical authority to adopt the proposed revisions to the Book of Common Prayer?
A. Yes. Article X of the Constitution allows the General Convention to amend the Book of Common Prayer at any time. The provision for trial use explicitly allows a proposed revision to any section or office of the BCP, and Canon II.3.6, which stipulates conditions for trial use, indicates that these proposed revisions can be subsequently adopted as alterations or additions to the BCP. General Convention did just that in 2012 (A059) and 2015 (A067), amending the Proper Liturgies for Special Days (pp. 271-295) to incorporate readings from the Revised Common Lectionary.

13. Q. How does the work of the TFSM relate to resolutions coming from the SCLM regarding revisions to the Book of Common Prayer?
A. The current proposal for trial use of the marriage rites continues a process begun in 2009, when the General Convention directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop liturgical resources for blessing same-sex relationships (Resolution 2009-C056). The proposal for trial use, with the possibility of a “second reading” and incorporation into the BCP in 2021, would bring this process to its conclusion. In contrast, the resolutions coming from the SCLM propose processes related to the entire BCP, either beginning a 12-year process of revising the entire BCP, or engaging more deeply with the 1979 BCP.

14. Q. The TFSM reports that in 8 out of the 101 US dioceses, the bishop with jurisdiction has not authorized the liturgies for trial use. What would be the expectation in those dioceses if A085 is adopted?
A. The resolution proposes that the liturgies be available for use in every diocese of the Episcopal Church, without further conditions. If the resolution is adopted, these liturgies could be used in any diocese where the marriage of a couple is permitted by civil law.

15. Q. Doesn’t trial use have to be under the direction of the Bishop with jurisdiction?
A. Article X of the Constitution, which allows the General Convention to authorize proposed revisions to the BCP for trial use, does not set any limits or conditions for trial use. Canon II.3.6(a) permits the General Convention to specify any special conditions for trial use, but it does not require that there be any terms or conditions. As the 1979 BCP was being developed, liturgies were authorized in 1970 and 1973 for trial use throughout the church and did not require that they also be authorized by the diocesan bishop.

16. Q. What are the new resources proposed in the resolutions?
A. Liturgical Resources 2, proposed in (A085) Trial Use of Marriage Liturgies, includes
➢ the liturgies proposed for trial use, which may be used by any couple, same-sex or opposite-sex, where the marriage is permitted by civil law;
➢ short essays developed by the TFSM during this triennium, offering Christians perspectives on marriage and family life today;
➢ essays on marriage developed by the TFSM during the 2012-2015 triennium;
➢ the “Dearly Beloved” toolkit for studying marriage, developed by the TFSM during the 2012-2015 triennium;
➢ pastoral resources for preparing couples for marriage, adapted from materials in Liturgical Resources 1.

A new volume in the Enriching Our Worship series, proposed in (A086) Authorize Rites to Bless Relationships, would include:
➢ The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant, a revision of the liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships first authorized in 2012, for use in jurisdictions where the civil marriage of same-sex couples is not permitted;
➢ The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship, for couples in particular circumstances who seek the church’s blessing on their lifelong, monogamous relationship without entering into a civil marriage; ➢ essays on the blessing of same-sex relationships developed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music during the 2009-2012 triennium and published in Liturgical Resources 1;
➢ an essay about the rite for blessing a lifelong relationship, prepared by the TFSM during this triennium;
➢ pastoral resources for preparing a couple for a liturgy of blessing, developed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music during the 2009-2012 triennium and published in Liturgical Resources 1.

17. Q. Will the proposed changes create greater challenges for our relationships within the Anglican Communion?
A. There are those in our wider Anglican family who will disagree with any changes we make to be more inclusive and there will be those in our wider Anglican family who are watching us for leadership to help them move forward with similar changes. While there continue to be tensions and challenges around a variety of issues – including gender equality and human sexuality – the climate in the Anglican Communion has improved dramatically in recent years and we believe the ties that bind us are stronger than the differences that challenge us.

18. Q. Were the recommendations in the report unanimously agreed to by the TFSM?
A. During the triennium the TFSM was blessed with multiple opportunities to meet both in person and virtually for deep engagement across significant differences. The final report was adopted by all but one dissenting member, who filed a minority report. We are profoundly grateful to be part of a church where we can grapple with theological differences and which provides opportunity for minority perspectives to be registered and received.

19. Q. What does the minority report say?
A. The author of the minority report raises three areas of concern. First, a concern about deliberative process: that if the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church had added to the task force more people of color, representatives of Province IX, and those committed to a traditional view of marriage, the conversation may have been more beneficial. Second, two concerns about Prayer Book revision: that proposals for trial use liturgies typically come from the SCLM; and that in the minds of some Episcopalians, the proposed rites put the Church’s teaching in tension with Holy Scripture. Third, a concern about Anglican relations: that new rites that depart from traditional norms might have less of an impact on Anglican unity if they were given an authorized place that stops short of Prayer Book revision, or if they were the product of a Communion-wide prayer book revision commission.

20. Q. Where does the TFSM see the evangelism opportunity in its report to the Church?
A. The Episcopal Church has the opportunity to lift up “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God” as the values that make a marriage holy. It has the chance to talk about marriage as vocation of holy love, grounded in biblical values of faithfulness and forgiveness. And it has the opportunity to say we are a community of faith focused on supporting all who are called into the vocation of marriage – not discriminating against some who are called into the vocation of marriage.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

One more time: God is NOT a Boy's Name

And lo it came to pass that the Episcopal Diocese of Washington adopted a perfectly reasonable, well-thought out resolution calling on those considering revisions to our prayer book to (and I quote:)
... utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God.
I suppose in the Age of Trump I shouldn't be surprised by anything -- particularly anything that involves just how virulently patriarchy, misogyny and sexism infect our human family in general and our American psyche in specific. But I'll admit I was.

Oh, not by the IRD/Breitbart/Daily Caller crowd who never met a step forward toward a more expansive expression of God's inclusive love by the Episcopal Church they couldn't turn into a Sky Is Falling Click Bait Headline for their base to devour. We're a familiar target.

And it's not like I live in such a bubble that I don't know there are folks for whom the very notion of prayer book revision strikes terror in their souls, giving them PTSD flash backs to green books and zebra books and lions and tigers and bears ... oh my!  The last process for prayer book studies which led to the current (please, please, please do NOT call something published in 1979 the "new" prayer book) Book of Common Prayer began in ... (wait for it) ... 1950.

But seriously, people. This is 2018. It is long past time to explore how and where our finite language for our experience of the infinite can be expanded rather than limited by binary, gendered imagery for God. Yet, there is this comment by an Episcopalian on the ENS article on the Washington resolution ...
When God took the form of a human God chose to do so as a male. While taking the form of a mortal Christ taught us to pray to “Our Father.” This seems like a pretty clear self-identification by God with the male gender.
... and multiple others like it on various Facebook groups and  pages.

In 1973 Mary Daly famously wrote "If God is male then the male is God" -- a misapprehension feminists have been debunking for decades. And yet in 2018 -- as we're being called by our transgender and gender fluid siblings to look beyond binary language for gender in general -- in the church it seems that we sadly are still not past the debate about whether or not God is a boy's name. Seriously.

I’m imagining future generations (assuming we don’t flat out kill the planet and there are none) looking back at these discussions with as much bemusement as we do looking back at our forebears who threw Galileo under the bus

"Imagine thinking that just because the Bible only used binary language gender fluidity isn't a thing!" they will say -- shaking their heads in disbelief. "That's as bad as thinking that just because the Bible says the sun revolves around the earth Copernicus was crazy and Galileo was a heretic!"

Verna Dozier in her awesome book "The Dream of God" wrote: "I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today."

It took "the church" 350 years to realize that Galileo knew more and different things than his biblical ancestors did about astronomy and to get itself back on the right side of history by apologizing to him. Let's see if we can't do a better job of getting ahead of the curve on gender -- and putting the patriarchy behind us.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Traci Blackmon: Where are the dreamers?

I've been a church-goer my entire cognitive life and a priest for 20 years this week.

It would be impossible to count the number of sermons I've heard and a challenge to come up with the most profound among them -- as I have been blessed to receive from many of the most powerful, prophetic and pastoral preachers of our generation.

And then there was yesterday. Then there was Traci Blackmon. Then there was "Where Are the Dreamers?"

"Prophetic resistance is only possible for those who can still dream. They come with weapons of hatred and division that they have used for generations. But we who believe in freedom. We come in the name of love. We come in the name of justice. We come in the name of equality. We come with dreams of a better world. AND WE WILL NOT STOP COMING!"
Her words not only called for persistent vigilance for all of us as we face the ongoing systemic challenges we face as a nation -- they offered a profound reminder of what we are actually called to do as we challenge the church to not settle for what it has become but aspire to what God would have it be.

My words of gratitude fail me. Just watch.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"The question is, which is to be master?"

"Through the Looking Glass" is a phrase many of us have defaulted to over these last tumultuous months as we have experienced the normalization of "alternative facts" in the service of replacing our democracy with a plutocracy led by the Narcissist-in-Chief in the White House.

It turns out to be a very apt analogy. Check out this moment between Alice & Humpty Dumpty:
Humpty Dumpty: "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Alice: "The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things."
Humpty Dumpty: "The question is, which is to be master—that's all.”

And then listen and learn from these words from Jared Yates Sexton [@JYSexton on Twitter] --

Part of the reason Trump has been untouchable is because he’s been able to define the language and thus owns the situation, normalizing his behavior. The "shithole" situation is a perfect example.

Trump uses an offensive term that’s unacceptable, suddenly everyone is using it, even to criticize him. The word’s automatically normalized. When the word becomes widespread, suddenly Trump’s original comment isn’t as bad anymore because the word has now entered the lexicon. It’s on TV, in conversations, on social media.

We unwittingly buy into that paradigm, and when we do we enter the realm of ideas on HIS turf. He owns the game after that. When we traffic his language were only normalizing his behavior. We’re swallowing it, regurgitating it. It’s dragging us deeper and deeper into the mud and soon we’ll forget what it’s like outside of the filth.

This isn’t a strategy by Trump, but a matter of instinct and obsession/symbiosis with cable news. It’s ever changing talking points that infect daily discourse. When we parrot him, even to mock him, we’re giving power to his vocabulary that not only hurts our culture but moves this battle onto his terms. It’s quiet, but it’s of the upmost importance.

Try your hardest not to give it power. Don’t mock him with his crass, pathetic words. That’s lowering the bar. Attack Trump with the language of a society you’d like to have. Don’t accept this crude, twisted farce he’s creating.

We not only have the power to resist -- we have the responsibility to resist. Because Humpty Dumpty was right -- the question is which is to be master. And we are well and truly in the midst of the struggle to answer that question.

In that struggle it is our call, our challenge and our privilege to refuse to give hatred mastery over love -- to refuse to become the evil we deplore -- to refuse to allow racism, misogyny and oppression in any form triumph over equality, justice and compassion.

It is -- in the words of Assata Shakur -- our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.