Friday, November 16, 2012

Breaking News on the "Blessings" Front

It's my day off -- and cruising through the blogs this morning over my coffee I was struck by the post over at Episcopal Cafe entitled "Bishop of Georgia authorizes a rite for same sex blessing."

WOW, I thought! Now that's progress ... until I read the bishop's "pastoral letter" which raised the bar on self-righteous condescension:
The Rite approved by General Convention in July of this year failed, in my judgment, to plainly distinguish between Holy Matrimony and a Blessing. The enabling resolution for the Rite that was passed, however, provided Diocesan Bishops with the ability to "adapt" the Rite for use in their respective dioceses. I had hoped the language would have authorized something more expansive than "adaption," but that did not happen. So, we must work within the structures of what the Church has decided. None of this is perfect. We all look "through a glass darkly," as St Paul reminds us. I am unconcerned by what is politically, socially, or culturally expedient, or what will be the majority opinion. I am concerned with doing what is right in the eyes of God.
The Bishop of Georgia then goes on to offer an "adapted rite" that the Bishop of New Hampshire describes as a "substitute" that is "deplorable, weak and unacceptable."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Let's not do political, societal or cultural ... let's do Bible. Jesus did not send the Syrophoenician woman away with crumbs from under the table – he healed her daughter. And yet that’s what the Bishop of Georgia offers the LGBT baptized in his diocese – crumbs from under the table rather than the rite for blessing authorized by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Methinks the Bishop of Georgia’s concern about “doing what is right in the eyes of God” would be well served by doing a little remedial reading on the work and witness of the Radical Rabbi of Nazareth.

My heart aches for those who will receive from these cavalier and condescending crumbs offered by this “pastoral letter” another slap in the face from the institutional church rather than a welcoming embrace by the Body of Christ. By offering this pathetic substitute -- which the Bishop of New Hampshire has called “deplorable, weak and unacceptable” -- the Bishop of Georgia has perpetuated the heresy that LGBT people have some kind of second-class baptism that entitles them to only a percentage of the sacraments.

Having the “right” as bishop diocesan to make this choice does not make it the right choice – for the proclamation of the gospel or for the LGBT people in his pastoral care -- and it is precisely an act like this that draws into sharp relief how much work there still is to do to make the 1976 promise of “full and equal claim” to the LGBT baptized a reality and not just a resolution in the Episcopal Church.


Matthew said...

However, I DO wish that general convention would (and I hope at some point in the future will) simply call is out plainly and in writing: Holy Matrimony/Marriage in the Church
etc, etc. Or, simply call it a blessing for all couples and change/revise the Book of Common Prayer so that the M word does not apply to straights either. My view is not only "all the sacraments for all the baptized" but "the exact same words to describe the events in question for gays and straights." I worry sometimes that we don't march forward aggressively enough on that front because we want the votes of people like the Bishop of Georgia to vote in favor of resolutions that are better than nothing and move us forward. But I applaud all the work you have done Susan. I am simply not political enough to be an effective voice on these issues in general convenvtion because my tone and message turns off moderates.


You are exactly right -- and for over a decade now we (those working for full inclusion) have been tranparent about our deeply held conviction that nothing short of marriage on the prayer book is good enough for Jesus or for us.

And ... it's a journey.

If nothing else this moment points out -- as I said in the blog -- how much work there still is to do. And some of that work IS building forward on incremental victories. Failed resolutions get us nowhere. But neither does failed resolve.

An inch at a time ... :)

IT said...

My take over at Friends of Jake

"You know, at some level, it's more honorable just to say, "Nope. Not in my Diocese." Because to do it like this--with the Rite de-emphasized, and the "signing statement" makes it a deliberate slap on the face. "

JCF said...

Wow, you could call that "blessing" the "We reluctantly acknowledge you're sharing an apartment---we really HOPE w/ separate bedrooms!" liturgy, huh?

No vows. No "forsaking all others".

And in the very FIRST line:

"Let us pray for N. and N. in their life together and for the concerns of this community."

For the ***concerns*** of this community??? [Church as homophobic Concern-Troll Congregation! O_o]

There's one word for this, and the word is FAIL.


But wait ... there's more! I hadn't "clicked through" enough to read this part ... but "IT" did over on Friends of Jake. Check it out:

And if that's not bad enough, they must also sign the following: (PDF)

"We, ________________________________________________________,
desiring to receive the blessing of God in the Church and having committed ourselves to
a life-long relationship characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection, respect,
and holy love, acknowledge and understand that this Rite bestows upon our relationship
God’s grace-filled blessing. It does not bestow upon our relationship any legal status in
civic life or from any civil authority. The Canons of the Church state: “Holy Matrimony
is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the
community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it
be lifelong” Canon 1.18.1(2)(b). We understand that this Rite is not Holy Matrimony."

Because -- adds IT -- we wouldn't want you homos CONFUSED that you are actually MARRIED or anything like that. Just admit that you are second class scum of the Church and be thankful we are letting you get noticed.

Seriously. No wonder Jesus wept!

bob said...

It's always surprising to see Anglicans surprised at Anglicanism. You'd think you were used to it. This rite is a very vague thing. It can be invoked on any group > 1. It might be a same sex couple or 2-3 people about to paint the parish hall, or a scout troop about to go on an outing. It is vague because (please note) Anglicanism is vague. Someone complained it was "buried" in the eucharist. Well, that Anglican eucharist is the gold standard of vague, where else would you want a vague rite buried? the Anglican eucharist means whatever anyone wants it to mean, so does this rite. You can't complain about it. Same sex unions also mean whatever people want them to mean, some "exclusive" and some pretty decidedly not. If you want definite you came to the wrong place.

SCG said...

Rev. Susan,

I am glad that the position of +Scott Benhase has raised your ire. I would have liked a full acceptance of the language adopted by the church without the need to nuance it in any way. But then, Blakely, GA, is not Berkeley, CA. And I note that at least there is a rite allowed in Georgia. In the diocese of Florida, headquartered in Jacksonville, there's nothing. There isn't even a dialogue. The decision was made to vote NO at the General Convention and the answer is No now... and will continue to be No.
To the west of us, the diocese of the Central Gulf Coast received praise for adopting the position of allowing churches to use the rite that was passed. However, many of us were very disappointed that in order to access the right to have the rite, we would have to meet with a priest, receive consent from the vestry, and the bishop himself would have to give the final OK. Do straight couples have to jump through these many hoops? Yet, it's understood that Pensacola isn't Pasadena.
As you've said, the stance that +Benhase has taken indicates that we still have many miles to go before we sleep to reaching full equality for all the baptized in the Episcopal Church. Some of us living in this part of the United States are growing weary of receiving the smiling post cards from General Convention with the message, "Wish you were here!" As long as these steps toward equality are done with the understanding that bishops can "adapt" or do what they believe is "generous pastoral care," then there will continue to be pockets of the church that will be left behind.
Time for the Good News to reach the Deep South.


SCG ... I hear your frustration -- and yet the reality is that's how The Episcopal Church works. Bishops with jurisdiction have broad discretion -- bordering on autonomy -- and even when General Convention does what it can to move the church forward there are, sadly, going to be footdraggers on LGBT equality just as there were on the ordination of women -- just to name one example.

I know some great people doing important grassroots work in let's just call it "less progressive" parts of the church so the struggle continues.

Indie Pereira said...

I feel it too, SCG, down here in the South where the rite is not an option, where our bishop spoke against it on the floor and our entire delegation, including those I care deeply for, voted against it. For days my Episcopal friends were lighting up Facebook with rejoicing and my left-the-church friends were saying maybe they'd give church, our church, a chance. Meanwhile, I was having a hard dialogue with one delegate who voted against it and ultimately moving to a parish that stands up for what's right. The Rite that was passed was scraps in the first place, scraps that many of our folks down here are not even allowed to scavenge for.