Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rites for Same Gender Couples Continued

September 24, 2008

It is clear after only one day of preliminary conversation and response that naming such rites as ‘marriage’ is still immensely controversial (even when the resistance is more emotional and intuitive than rational) and so stands a good chance of getting in the way of our getting to the important issue of consideration of liturgical rites. I’ve therefore revised the proposal (with a little help from my friends)to show proper form and what I believe to be a required explanation, as follows:

Resolution to enable the development of liturgical rites for same gender unions

Resolved: This 102nd Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta approves the following resolution to the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Anaheim, California in 2009; and be it further

Resolved: This council directs the Secretary of Council to transmit the following resolution to the Secretary of the General Convention:

Resolved: The House of __________ concurring, the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church authorizes the Standing Liturgical Commission to develop appropriate rites for the celebration and blessing of the sacred unions of gay and lesbian persons, taking into account the variety of civil arrangements for such unions available in the regions served by the church; and be it further

Resolved: that such rite or rites shall be presented at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.


In light of events following the Lambeth Conference of 2008, it is clear that our charitable restraint and response to the Windsor Report in the matter of our declining to develop a rite or rites to allow the celebration and blessing of sacred unions for people of the same gender has not had the effect of preserving unity and civility between those who believe such unions may be good and moral and those who cannot conceive as such a possibility being within the bounds of Christian faith and the Anglican Tradition. It is also clear that while a great many Episcopalians remain undecided about their own beliefs in these matters, they recognize both the desirability of allowing those who desire to make such commitments in the midst of their community of faith to do so; and that the reality that the cost of our charity has been at the expense of one clear minority within our church; and further that there is no compelling reason that these brothers and sisters should have to continue to bear the burden of that charity.

Further, the development of such a rite or rites by and for the whole church will allow a restoration of decency and order from diocese to diocese under the guidance of each bishop, the ensuring of theological integrity to such rites and the capacity of the church to ‘sanction’ and declare such committed relationships among people of the same gender to be both moral and fully within the bounds of our common life.

That said, I believe that the trajectory of where we are heading (maybe in a generation of two) is toward marriage. I am not among those who really mind what we name these unions, nor do I have a problem with naming them marriage. I rather suspect that the resistance to the idea is residual unwillingness to allow gay and lesbian relationship s to be somehow ‘equal’, preferring something that is, in effect, ‘separate but equal’. It is also possible that such unions might be something other than an emulation of a heterosexual institution. That remains to be seen even though I fear that we will have to go on talking about these matters until that question is resolved by a developing consensus one way or the other.

What I know now is that when I participate in celebrating a union (with all of the nuances of not pronouncing but rather invoking blessing and so on) people will come up afterwards and say things like ‘what a lovely wedding’ regardless of what the invitation named the ceremony. There is a certain level on which if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is a duck.

Comments welcome and encouraged as ever.

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