Monday, August 13, 2018

I'm on Vacation But the Resistance Is Not

I am super gratefully on vacation. After a long program year, an awesome but exhausting General Convention and the kind of family challenges managing the needs of aging parents bring it is a deep privilege to have a season of unscheduled time to do whatever I choose to do whenever I choose to do it -- including choosing to do nothing at all.

Today that meant the privilege of a day at home catching up on beach trip laundry on a warm summer day cool enough to not need the a/c with sleepy Corgis who are happy to have a mommy home all day. And it meant being able to "Facebook Live" from my couch the rally hosted by my congresswoman Judy Chu  opposing the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court -- a rally where my rector Mike Kinman was one of the speakers.

And because I'm on vacation and have time to do what I want to when I want to I have time to share his remarks with you ... remarks which bear reading, sharing and quoting as we move forward together and continue to resist those forces working to dismantle the progress that has been made toward making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge we say but a reality we live.

So I give you Mike Kinman and "We Are At A Moment of Grave Threat to Liberty." Because I'm on vacation but -- thankfully -- the Resistance is not!

=======



“History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.” 

 Those words were written nearly 30 years ago by a Supreme Court justice who understood that the greatest danger to liberty was not an outside military force but the power of those with power to use fear, hatred and mistrust to convince us to surrender our liberty for their own prejudices and prosperity. That Supreme Court Justice was Thurgood Marshall.

It’s because of justices like him that insidious doctrines like separate but equal were struck down and the basic human right of women to control their own bodies at last was recognized and enshrined into law in Roe v. Wade.

 We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a president who was swept into office by using the power of fear, hatred and mistrust seeks to shape a Supreme Court that will enshrine that fear, hatred and mistrust into law for generations to come. We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where the president and others who like him seek to govern by prejudice and for personal profit.
Where a president and others like him who see the Constitution as a system to be gamed for the benefit of wealthy white men, seek to appoint a justice in Brett Kavanaugh who will use that Constitution to secure their privilege rather than assure the most basic promises of liberty and justice for all.

We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a President who is under investigation for colluding with a foreign power to assume that office is trying to shape a Court that will impede if not terminate that investigation. We are at a moment of grave threat to liberty.
Where a president who is in the process of fulfilling campaign promises to ravage the environment, target Muslims, immigrants and people of color, expand mass incarceration, and dismantle access to affordable health care is now turning his sights on some of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the past three-quarters of a century.

 What could be more fundamental than our freedom to marry whom we choose?
 What could be more fundamental than every American being able to cast a ballot?
 What could be more fundamental than a woman’s right to control her own body?

That these liberties are under attack by people who would pervert and distort the life and teachings of Jesus to suit their own prejudices, fears and desires for domination is for me a point of great pain and great shame and also a call to action. Not because I wish to impose my faith on others but because I believe no one should have their freedoms restricted because someone wishes to impose their faith on them.

And so, together, we must stand up.
 We must stand up against this grave threat to our liberty. And we must not only reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court but we must not rest until the Senate is presented with a nominee who promises to defend the very liberties that are under attack by this nominee and this administration.

The right to access birth control.
The right for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex people and more to marry whom they choose and to live free of discrimination at home and in the workplace.
The right to clean air and clean water.
Workers’ rights.
Immigrants’ rights.
Privacy rights.
The right to have the voice of those among us who are poor have the same weight as those among us who are rich.
The very right to vote that is the bedrock of our democracy. 
And yes, the right to safe, legal abortion

 We must reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, but that is not enough.

This is a time of grave threat to liberty where the power of fear, hatred and mistrust are in ascendancy, and we must reject those powers as well. We must stand up and we must speak out. Not just against this nomination, but against the very fear, hatred and mistrust from which this nomination springs.

For, as Justice Marshall said nearly a quarter century ago: “Democracy just cannot flourish amid fear. Liberty cannot bloom amid hate. Justice cannot take root amid rage. America must get to work. In the chill climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing wind. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” 

My friends, we are the America that Justice Marshall was speaking about.

We must tell our Senate to reject this nomination. We are America. And we must tell our Senate to reject any nomination that puts our most cherished liberties at risk. We are America and we can do better. We are America and we have no choice but to do better. We are America. And today we commit to each other and to our children: We will do better.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Sixteen Years Later: Still Claiming Blessings


Sixteen years ago today I moved into the corner cubicle in the "temporary building" in the north driveway on the campus of All Saints Church in Pasadena to begin a new chapter in my ministry as Executive Director of something called Claiming the Blessing (CTB). It was from that "corner office" I would spend the next 18 months traveling around the church giving more parish halls presentations, attending more strategy meetings and logging more travel miles than you could shake a stick at. (Case in point this moment from the Anglican Consultative Council "command appearance" in Nottingham in 2005.)

Claiming the Blessing was convened as an intentional collaborative ministry of leading Episcopal justice organizations (including Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion and the Episcopal Women's Caucus) in partnership with the Witness magazine and other individual leaders in the Episcopal Church focused on: promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.

Those were our official marching orders.

We were also convened by some very smart equality activists -- LGBTQ and straight allies -- who not only recognized the truth that we were wasting precious energy competing with each other from our different "silo" organizations and ministries ... and that the way we were going to make a difference was to [a] tell the truth about that [b] work to come up with achievable goals and then [c] collaborate on strategies to achieve them.

Since 2002, our advocacy has included liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships, equal access to all orders of ministry by qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates and supporting civil and sacramental marriage equality.

I could tell lots and lots of stories about how that journey has played out over the last 16 years. Some of them can be found on our website. Others you're going to have to wait for the book.

But suffice to say it is absolutely a true thing that the course of the history of the Episcopal Church ... and I would be so bold as to say the wider movement for LGBTQ equality ... was influenced by the decisions made at those first round table meetings at Vails Gate and the College of Preachers.

By the willingness of leaders to tell the truth to each other in order to triumph over turf wars and to forge partnerships and friendships that have stood the test of time. And the test of General Conventions. And the test of Lambeth Conference. And ...

Well, you get the drift.

There are a boatload of pictures here. They end at General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City where the Supreme Court made marriage for all legal in our nation and our General Convention changed the marriage canons and authorized liturgies for marriage for all couples.

No the work isn't done yet. But today -- August 1, 2018 -- I'm remembering showing up at All Saints Church with a couple of plastic crates of files and letterhead in my car and the warnings of some of my clergy colleagues in my ears that I was making a terrible mistake ... that if I stepped out of parish ministry I'd never get back in ... that I'd be marginalized as an "activist" and never get to exercise pastoral ministry ... that I was limiting my options and ...

Well, you the drift.

I'm delighted they were wrong. I'm delighted that sixteen years at All Saints have given me more opportunities and challenges than I could ever have "asked for or imagined." And most of all I'm delighted at the extraordinary privilege of being able to do this gospel work with a truly amazing cloud of witnesses over the year.

Ed Bacon, Katie Sherrod, Jim White, Sandye A Wilson, Elizabeth Kaeton, Michael Hopkins, John Clinton Bradley, Christine Mackey-Mason, Joseph Lane, Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, Peggy Adams, Cynthia Black, John Kirkley, Louie Clay, Kim Byham, Jason Samuel, Mike Clark, Bishop Gene Robinson ... OMG .. this is like an Oscar speech ... who am I forgetting?

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues ... that's the truth.

But so do the blessings, my friends. So do the blessings!

Monday, July 30, 2018

What Religious Liberty Is and Isn't

Religious liberty is once again trending on Twitter this morning — and not in a good way.

Whether the debate is about achieving marriage equality or ending employment discrimination and whether the issue is LGBTQ equality or women’s reproductive rights it seems that someone, somewhere is convinced that their religious liberty is under attack because not everyone agrees with them. This is not a new phenomenon ... it's been going on since Pat Robertson launched the Culture Wars with the speech that drove me out of the Republican Party in 1992. But I digress.

The reason religious liberty is trending on Twitter this morning -- and not in a good way -- is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new "religious liberty task force" which is nothing less than a wolf-in-sheep's clothing effort to attack the equal protection guaranteed all Americans by privileging the religion practiced by some Americans.

So here’s a little reality check: Religious liberty is NOT the liberty to impose your religion on everybody else.

The First Amendment protects us from any laws “impeding the free exercise of religion” thus guaranteeing that each and every American has the liberty to believe — or not believe — absolutely anything he or she chooses about what God wills or intends, blesses or condemns.

It also — thank God — protects the rest of us from any other American imposing those beliefs on us.
For example: A Jew has the religious liberty to keep a kosher kitchen — but not to take away your ham sandwich.

A pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic had the religious liberty to abstain from meat on Friday — but not to confiscate my pot roast.

And an Evangelical Christian has the right to believe that God doesn’t bless same-sex marriages - but not to deny equal protection to the marriage of the lesbian couple next door.

So when our Justice Department is making decisions about equal protection for LGBTQ Americans the question isn’t what the Bible says but what the Constitution says. And nobody’s religious liberty is under attack when the answer is equal protection isn’t equal protection unless it equally protects everybody equally.

The Constitution already protects the right of any clergy person to make decisions about whether or not they preside at a marriage based on their own “free exercise of religion.” No orthodox rabbi has ever been compelled to solemnize an interfaith marriage. No Roman Catholic priest has ever been forced to marry a previously divorced couple. And nobody - priest, pastor, rabbi, minister or Imam — is ever going to be required to marry a same-sex couple.

The First Amendment is doing its job protecting our religious liberty. And anybody who tells you otherwise needs to do a little remedial reading of the Ninth Commandment. (I’ll save you having to look it up: that’s the “shall not bear false witness” one.)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What A Difference A Decade Makes


I was looking for some data to respond to a history question follow up to some of our work in Austin and came across this link on the Episcopal Church’s website. (click on picture below to go to page)
 
https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/gallery/lambeth-conference-opening-eucharist-changing-attitudeintegrity-service

It is an album of photos from the Lambeth 2008 Conference.

What is remarkable (to me) about it is that it includes both the Official Opening Service at Canterbury Cathedral and our Integrity/Changing Attitude “fringe Eucharist” up on the hill … what we called our “Strangers at the Gate” service.

A flood of memories came rushing in but the primary feeling was some awe at how far we’ve come in 10 years … and true amazement that the official archives of the Episcopal Church represents these images as equivalent parts of our Episcopal Church history.

I think it’s fair to say we could not have even begun to imagine that could be the case when we gathered on that hill overlooking Canterbury Cathedral … a place where +Gene had literally been locked out and we were truly the strangers at the gate.

We may not be “there yet” as a church or as a communion -- but we are where we are at least in part because of everyone who worked to make that moment on that hill possible … and all the moments before and after. And that includes not just the folks who were there but those who supported us in getting us there and in all the work ... before and after and still before us.

Just sharing the moment on a hot July afternoon ten years post Lambeth 2008. La lucha continua.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Episcopal Church Says "We Do" to Marriage Rites for the Whole Church

Making all sacraments available to all people was a key goal at this 79th General Convention -- and with the action today by the House of Deputies on Resolution B012 that goal was achieved. It was, however, a hard won compromise.

Because it fell short of changing the language regarding marriage in the current prayer book there are for those who believe our actions continue to fall short of the full and equal claim for the LGBTQ baptized promised in 1976. And because it removes the ability for dissenting bishops to prohibit same sex couples from access to the liturgies in their home churches, there are those who see our actions as a bridge too far away from their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

And yet, it was a compromise that received overwhelming support from both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops: something those of us who have been at this work for quite literally decades could not have imagined even a few short years ago.

Eighteen years ago at its 73rd General Convention in Denver the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution acknowledging "there are currently couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in marriage and couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in other life-long committed relationships." And today we adopted a resolution stating that "provision will be made for all couples desiring to use these marriage liturgies in their local congregation or worshipping community."

We have gone from being a church where simply acknowledging the existence of same-sex couples in our midst was a controversial and deeply divisive issue to being a church where an overwhelming majority embraced marriage for all, ending what was de facto sacramental apartheid for same-sex couples in some dioceses.

We have done that over many years, with many steps forward and some steps back and -- in the action today -- we have done it in a resolution that protects both theological conscience and sacramental access for all.

In his opening remarks to this 79th General Convention, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry challenged us to stay as focused on Jesus as Starbucks is on coffee.  Adopting  B012 will better equip us to do precisely that. It will enable us to move forward from Austin more fully the church we are striving to be. It will help us become a church where love truly is the way: a church where whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith there is a place for you.

Whether you're a double espresso or a mocha frappuccino ... or a grande drip with room for cream -- as Bishop Curry keeps reminding us:  there's plenty good room in God's Kingdom and in the Episcopal Church.

The hard won compromise achieved today finally making all sacraments available to all people in the Episcopal Church is work well done.  I am both deeply proud to be an Episcopalian and deeply grateful to all those on whose shoulders we stand as we start this new chapter -- moving out of the trenches of the Inclusion Wars and forward together into God's future as part of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

Monday, July 09, 2018

B012 -- "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" -- Adopted by #GC79 Deputies



The work of continuing to make the full and equal claim promised LGBTQ Episcopalians in 1976 not just a resolution but a reality continued on legislative day five of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. By an overwhelming majority, the House of Deputies adopted an amended version of Resolution B012 entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church." The resolution will now go to the House of Bishops for action.

Questions are still swirling about the intent and impact of this important resolution. Here is what I said when I spoke to it on the floor:
I rise in favor of B012 — a resolution that will move us beyond the seemingly intractable challenge of living together as a church where the sacramental marriage that has been authorized for all couples in the Episcopal Church is irreconcilable with the theological conscience of some members of the Episcopal Church.
Make no mistake about it: it contains costly compromises that come with very real pain. Pain for those who will experience this action as falling short of the full and equal claim for the LGBTQ baptized we have been striving for since 1976. And pain for those who will experience this action as a bridge too far away from their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The question for this General Convention is whether the gift of walking together forward into God's future as members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is worth the painful compromises we are mutually being asked to bear in order to make that possible.

I believe the answer is yes and I urge support for Resolution B012 as Proposed by Committee 13 so that we may continue to walk forward together.
One of the primary questions I'm getting is a form of "What about DEPO?"

Here's what I've got ... a bit on the fly between legislative sessions:

DEPO -- Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight -- was part of the original version of B012 and was changed via amendment by Legislative Committee 13. As a member of that committee, I can attest that the changes we made were in response to hours of testimony from both proponents of same-sex marriage from the eight dioceses where marriage for all is not yet a reality and from seven of the eight bishops with jurisdiction in those dioceses.

What we heard was that the relationships between the bishop and dissenting parishes are not irreparably damaged -- simply challenged on this issue of sacramental marriage. In response, this carefully crafted compromise language -- crafted in consultation with bishops from across the theological perspective -- recognizes that reality and seeks to provide an option that protects both theological conscience and sacramental access for all.

For more clarity, I turn to these wise words from Deputy Christopher Hayes:
B012, if adopted by the House of Bishops in the same form, gives the Rector or Priest-in-Charge of the congregation full authority to use the marriage liturgies for same-sex couples. If the officiating priest or the couple for some reason need pastoral support of a bishop, and the diocesan bishop has theological objections, another bishop should be invited to provide that pastoral support.
This is not DEPO, which presumes a broken relationship between the bishop and the congregation, so that another bishop must take over the pastoral relationship and ecclesiastical authority over that congregation for all purposes. B012 does not provide for that. It provides only for another bishop to be invited in if, and only if (1) the officiating priest needs pastoral support for the particular marriage (rarely), or (2) permission is needed for marriage after prior divorce.
Note that the priest officiating at a marriage rarely needs to consult with the bishop for any reason whatsoever (as long as neither of the betrothed was previously divorced)
Some other important points to note:
  • B012 is a carefully crafted compromise that balances couples' access to liturgies for marriage, including same-sex couples, with room for all to agree or disagree. 
  •  While this decision defers adding the trial liturgies for marriage until prayer book revision is completed, it provides improved access to the liturgies in the meanwhile.
  • It clarifies role of Rector and provides options for bishops to invite other bishops to assist in pastoral work, without prescribing exactly what that looks like in every situation.
Finally, there's this:



As Rachel would say: Watch this space.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Dear #GC79

Dear #GC79,

We came to Austin to address -- among other things -- the seemingly intractable challenge of living together as a church where the sacramental marriage that has been authorized for all couples in the Episcopal Church is irreconcilable with the theological conscience of some members of the Episcopal Church.

This morning the legislative committee charged with the high calling of addressing that challenge responded by reporting out a compromise resolution which will be a bridge too far for some and a disappointment to others.

According to Merriam Webster, a compromise is defined as "an agreement or settlement that is reached by each side making concessions" -- in other words, a profoundly Anglican solution to intractable challenges. And that is precisely what will be brought to the House of Deputies for its consideration on Saturday morning, July 7.

Entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" Resolution B012 protects the conscience of those who cannot embrace the marriage of same-sex couples while making liturgies for marriage available to all couples in all dioceses in their home churches.

To achieve this compromise, those who had hoped to finally see the Book of Common Prayer revised with gender neutral language for marriage will be asked to concede that goal at this time. And those who had hoped to continue diocesan policies of sending same-sex couples to other dioceses to be married will be asked to change that policy.

The resolution provides bishops who do not embrace marriage for same sex couples the creative option of inviting another bishop to assume episcopal oversight on matters-relating-to-marriage for congregations in their diocese wishing to make marriage available to same-sex couples. It allows the bishop to exercise his or her conscience while allowing all couples seeking Holy Matrimony in the Episcopal Church equal access to the sacrament of marriage. It continues the trial use of the liturgies authorized in 2015 and preserves the canonical authority for any member of the clergy to decline to solemnize or bless any marriage.

Make no mistake about it: these are costly compromises that comes with very real pain. Pain for those who will experience this action as falling short of the full and equal claim for the LGBTQ baptized we have been striving for since 1976. And pain for those who will experience this action as a bridge too far away from their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The question for this General Convention will be whether the gift of walking together forward into God's future as members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is worth the painful compromises we are mutually being asked to bear in order to make that possible.

I believe the answer is yes and I urge support for Resolution B012 as Proposed by Committee 13.

I am convinced that just as 16th century Anglicans were able to walk forward together in spite of the seemingly intractable challenge of being together in a church that is both protestant and catholic, 21st century Episcopalians can walk forward in spite of seemingly intractable challenge of being together as a church where the sacramental marriage that has been authorized for all couples is irreconcilable with the theological conscience of some members.

We've got this. We're Anglicans.

Faithfully,
Deputy Susan Russell
Diocese of Los Angeles

Monday, July 02, 2018

We're Anglicans. We've Got This.


It has been over 40 years since the Episcopal Church declared 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.” [1976-A069]

Since that time the church has been moving forward — sometimes an inch at a time — 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 resolution (A085) coming forward to the 79th General Convention in Austin from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage maintains 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.

And yet, as we gather in Austin there is an effort afoot to push back on that profoundly Anglican, both/and proposal. Seductively entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" an alternative resolution (B012) is described as seeking to "find a lasting way forward for all Episcopalians in one Church."

What it actually does is enshrine a separate and ergo inherently unequal status to the sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples. And it does that by privileging the theological consciences of some Episcopalians over the baptismal covenant of others. B012 is hardly a “compromise” when it proposes that dissenting bishops will agree to provide access for all couples (as they were charged to do in 2015 by A054) in return for consigning marriage for same-sex couples to perpetual second-class trial use.

The question on the table in Austin in 2018 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.

And it is a patently false dichotomy to suggest otherwise.  The inability to exercise a right created by General Convention results in discrimination. The inability to impose one's theology on everyone else in the diocese is not discrimination, it is simply a  denial of unearned privilege.

Conservatives are free to believe whatever they wish and -- under the current canon law --free to decline to engage in rites they see as untenable. But they are not free to impose their vision on everyone else.  As Juan Oliver put it so concisely: The conscience of individual bishop does not go beyond the individual. It may not be used to refuse their diocese what the assembled Church has decided. There is in fact an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are.

Theology — by definition “the study of God” — is at its core the yearning of finite creatures to understand the infinite creator of all being … something arguably ontologically beyond our capacity to understand to begin with. And yet we try. We study. We conjecture and we come up with our best guesses. Where we go astray is when we start investing our best guesses with the authority of the God we’re best guessing about. And in the process we can end up with a kind of “theological fragility” which — like its second cousin white fragility — sees diversity as threat rather than blessing and in so doing rejects the very comprehensiveness that is a hallmark of Anglicanism. 

The late, great Urban T. Holmes wrote in "What Is Anglicanism: " We often speak of Anglican "comprehensiveness." If this is a way of making relativism palatable or a means of accommodating all shades of opinion with no regard for truth, then it needs to be rejected. If by comprehensive we mean the priority of a dialectic quest over precision and immediate closure then we are speaking of the Anglican consciousness at its best.

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 folks were being burned at the stake over disagreements about doctrines and dogmas. We are, therefore, uniquely wired to be a church that can hold together the tension of being both gay and straight ... and everywhere in between ... in the 21st century. We can do that because theological diversity is part of our DNA ... theological fragility is not.

We're Anglicans. We've got this.

Friday, June 29, 2018

B012: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


So just when you thought you were down to "finish laundry and pack for Austin" on your to-do-before-General-Convention list this ENS story hits your inbox: "Bishops propose solution for full access to same-sex marriage rites"

The "solution" is Resolution B012 ... proposed by several bishops as an alternative to Resolution A085 proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. It is seductively entitled "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church" and described as seeking to "find a lasting way forward for all Episcopalians in one Church."

What could possible go wrong?

For starters, there's this from Bishop Tom Ely ... Bishop of Vermont:
I think there is some genuine well intended effort behind this resolution, but I think it is limited in scope and effectiveness. I wish there had been some conversation with bishops and deputies who served on the Task Force for the Study of Marriage (I was one) in the same way that there appears to have been conversation with some Communion Partner Bishops. I would also add that following the 2015 GC, the Presiding Bishop appointed a "Communion Across Differences" Task Force of bishops, to which the bishop members of the TFSM reached out for conversation. Sadly, those conversations never materialized. Calling for such a Task Force in resolution B012 might be a good thing but would be better proposed (IMO) as a separate resolution. Let the substance of B012 as it relates to A085 be considered by Legislative Committee #13.

My first reading and reflection on B012 is that it continues to relegate marriage of same-sex couples to a 2nd class status (not BCP) and the DEPO language used is vague and begs the question of whether every couple desiring to be married in The Episcopal Church, will be able to do so in their home church, by their local priest. I look forward to the thoughts of others and to conversation in Committee #13, of which I am a member.
Then there's this fulsome response from Joan Geiszler-Ludlum -- Deputy, East Carolina and Chair of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage -- which includes:
Resolution B012 offers open-ended trial use without any eventual amendment of the Book of Common Prayer. Providing the liturgies for marriage for trial use in this manner relegates the liturgies for marriages of same-sex couples to perpetual second-class status. At some point, preferably sooner rather than later, these liturgies need to stand beside the current Prayer Book marriage liturgy as authorized alternatives. Baptized committed members of this Church and the LGBTQ+ communities have been waiting over 40 years for this Church to value and bless their committed, lifelong relationships on the same footing as the Church values and blesses the committed, lifelong relationships of different-sex couples. How much longer will we make them wait? 
and
Resolution B012 further proposes an application of DEPO (Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight) stating, “congregations may request, and when requesting shall receive delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) by a bishop of this Church who shall provide access to these liturgies.”Joint Rule III.11 state: No proposal for legislative consideration which approves, endorses, adopts, or rejects a report, study, or other document that is not generally known by the members of the House or readily available may be considered by the General Convention unless such material is first distributed to both Houses. It is the responsibility of the proposer to provide the necessary copies to the Secretary of each House. DEPO in its current form is a policy enacted unilaterally by the House of Bishops, and implemented by and between bishops. As such it lacks fulsome discernment by the full polity of this Church. If it is to apply to trial use of the additional liturgies for marriage, it should be revisited and adapted for this specific context.
In her comment on the ENS website Ruth Meyers (Dean of Academic Affairs and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at CDSP) offers this important clarification:
The bishops’ resolution deals only with the marriage liturgies approved for trial use in 2015, not other revisions proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. Resolution A085 would also change “Concerning the Service” of Marriage and the Catechism to state that marriage is a solemn and public covenant between two people. This language allows room for broad interpretation: those who understand marriage to be available to same-sex couples as well as different-sex couples, and those who understand that the two people must be a man and a woman. The trial-use liturgies would be added to the Prayer Book, not replacing the current marriage service, and so not requiring anyone to use the gender-neutral versions of the rite.
Finally, here's my take:
B012 is a well-intentioned but badly framed effort at compromise that creates more problems than it solves. It enshrines a separate and ergo inherently unequal status of second class access to the sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples. And it privileges the theological consciences of some Episcopalians over 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 the LGBTQ baptized.

We can do better. As laity, clergy and bishops working together we can craft legislation that guarantees that no one will be compelled to participate in nor to preside at any marriage -- and at the same time assures that no one will be denied access to the sacramental rites for marriage offered by this church to its members. I believe A085 gets us a long way toward that goal and look forward to the work of Legislative Committee 13 as we work together to listen to the Holy Spirit as she continues to call the Episcopal Church into God's future.
And now ... back to the laundry. Tick Tock #GC79

Monday, June 18, 2018

Is There a Place for Conservatives in the Episcopal Church?


That's the question being asked in an article posted earlier today in The Living Church.

In case anyone is interested, here's my short answer: Yes.

In case anyone is still interested, here's my longer answer: I was raised in a family where my Aunt Gretchen (who lived with us) was a member of one of the parishes that tried to leave the Diocese of Los Angeles over the ordination of women (Holy Apostles, Glendale) and died with a "Save the 1928 Prayer Book" bumper sticker on her car. ... and yet she never "left the church" and we still went to communion together. All that to say I never remember a time when we have not been a tradition challenged by differences. The issue is whether those differences are inevitably divisions -- or if the DNA of Anglican Comprehensiveness is sufficient to embrace them.

There is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. As a faith tradition formed out of the crucible of the Reformation with the radical innovation of insisting it is possible to both catholic and protestant, it is arguably antithetical to our historic Anglican ethos to insist that one's criterion for being included is being agreed with. So yes: there is room in the Episcopal church for conservatives and progressives -- just as there has always been room for catholics and protestants. What there is not room for is confusing exercising one's theological conscience with imposing one's theological conscience. The former is part of our heritage; the latter is not.

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.