November 16, 2011
There is really no reason that you would have heard of the IALC, otherwise known as the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation. Since the last General Convention the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has been working on developing a rite or rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. At the annual Presbyters Conference of our diocese w were taken through the process of by which such a rite is being developed, including various theological principles underlying the potential and to-be-proposed rites without being allowed to look at the rites themselves. This all amounts to painstaking politics, apparently covering every base so that those who do not like and do not want to see such rites developed in the first place cannot engage the old game of attacking the process. I suppose it is necessary, but it is dull beyond words for those who have made peace with what is happening one way or another (some by leaving the Episcopal Church altogether) and have moved on.
The primary complaint that led to the development of the proposed Anglican Covenant was that The Episcopal Church did not ‘consult’ with official Anglican bodies of varying kinds at varying levels on the place of homosexual people within the church before proceeding to ordain and consecrate Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. This complaint offered in spite of the wide and long standing conversation with Anglicans throughout the world who were willing to engage such a conversation.
So back to the IALC, a group made up of representatives of many, but not all Anglican provinces, with a predominant Western and professional academic representation. Our own Bishop is a part of that group and attended the most recent gathering of the Consultation in New Zealand last August. The main agenda was to be about marriage rites and particularly the thorny issue of whether or not we should be contracting a marriage as well as celebrating it. Bryan Spinks of Yale reports (in The Living Church, October 23, 2011 p.24-26) that our friend Mdimi Mhogolo of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika presented a paper lamenting the suppression of indigenous marriage customs through laws modeled on those of the United Kingdom. Into this mix those overseeing the agenda shoehorned a conversation about our proposed rite for the blessing of same sex unions and it is clear that from Dr. Spinks’ perspective this was unfortunate. Those who really don’t want any such rite and really don’t want to talk about it and certainly don’t want to imply any imprimatur from the IALC beg for a consultation (in the words of Dr. Spinks) in a “serious, charitable and fully informed manner across the communion”. This sounds good and would be if the communion wanted such a consultation. Dr. Spinks report suggests that this is precisely not the case and so perhaps a single morning of consultation within a consultation is the best we are going to do before the General Convention is asked to act next year.