Discuss: Same-sex Rites
  • Thursday, March 8, 2012

From the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs:

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of the Episcopal Church has forwarded to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies excerpts from its report, “I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing”: Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships.

The report, nearly three years in the making, was prepared by the SCLM in compliance 2009-C056, “Liturgies for Blessings,” a resolution approved by the General Convention (GC) of the Episcopal Church in 2009 which directed the SCLM to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships through an open process.

Excerpts from the report are being made available for discussion at the upcoming House of Bishops (HOB) meeting in March. Members of the House of Deputies (HOD) will discuss the excerpts in the online forum on the website of Bonnie Anderson, HOD President.

The discussion on the Deputy Online Forum will take place March 16-23 and is available to the public for viewing.

In addition, excerpts are also being made available to the wider church on Anderson’s website.

“Since 2009, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has consulted widely throughout the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion,” said the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and chair of the SCLM. “Providing our report to the church’s two legislative houses, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, is the next step in our open process. We look forward to their discussions and to presenting our report to General Convention in July.”

The excerpts released March 7 include a theological reflection on blessing same-gender relationships, a proposed liturgical rite, and the legislative resolutions that the SCLM will recommend to GC12 in Indianapolis July 5-12.

The Report

The report’s theological reflection notes that the SCLM has reviewed more than 30 years of General Convention’s deliberation on same-gender couples, especially resolution 2000-D039, approved in 2000, that identified characteristics the Church expects of couples living in marriage and other lifelong committed relationships: “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.”

“Such covenantal relationships can reflect God’s own gracious covenant with us in Christ, manifest the fruits of the Spirit in holiness of life, and model for the whole community the love of neighbor in the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation,” the report states.

Resolutions Proposed to General Convention

The first of the two resolutions submitted by the SCLM asks GC12 to commend the SCLM’s report for study by the church and to allow trial use of its liturgical rite beginning on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the church’s liturgical year. The trial use period would include an open process for review and a report to GC in 2015.

This resolution also requests that GC12 extend the provision of “generous pastoral response,” first provided in 2009, particularly to bishops in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal. This provision has allowed bishops to use their discretion in allowing clergy to officiate at the marriages or civil unions of same-gender couples in states where those unions are legal.

The second resolution asks GC12 to create a “task force of not more than 12 people, consisting of theologians, liturgists, pastors, and educators, to identify and explore biblical, theological, historical, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage.” This task force, explained Meyers, would help the church study the issues raised by the marriage equality debate in civil society.

The full set of resources the SCLM has developed includes an introduction explaining the process that has been undertaken, a survey of legal and canonical matters, pastoral resources for preparing a couple for a liturgical blessing, a discussion guide for congregations, and an overview of GC legislation. These, along with the excerpts released March 7, will be published in April as part of the reports to GC12 from all official commissions, committees, agencies, and boards of The Episcopal Church, known as The Blue Book.

For more information contact SCLM at sclm@episcopalchurch.org

Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music

Same-sex Blessing Rites

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