A tale of two churches

Comparing and contrasting the decision by Washington National Cathedral to perform same-sex marriages and the University of the South’s decision to do so only if the bishop in the place where the couple lives approves.

SCG writes on the blog “Wake Up and LIVE.”

I was delighted to open up to my Facebook page and to see the announcement that the Washington National Cathedral, the site of so many state celebrations and funerals for presidents and a major tourist attraction in the nation’s capital, will be making use of the new blessings for same-sex couples in the Episcopal Church. …For Episcopalians such as myself, this is a momentous occasion. To have such a visible symbol of the church open its doors so completely for the LGBT community is very hopeful and encouraging.

Especially in light of another story I read about involving the chapel at one of the Episcopal seminaries and how it is handling the new blessing rite.

The University of the South, more commonly called Sewanee, is an Episcopal university and home to All Saints’ Chapel, an equally stately, beautiful, Gothic cathedral. Sewanee’s School of Theology, which produces the Education for Ministry program, is one of the preferred seminaries for postulants from the southeast. When the General Convention overwhelmingly adopted A049, the resolution to allow for the same-sex blessings, Sewanee was faced with a dilemma. While located in Tennessee, it’s governing authority is a chancellor, a position that rotates among bishops representing 28 dioceses of the Episcopal Church. Many of those bishops were among the 41 who voted against A049, including the now rogue Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina, and Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard of Florida, Sewanee’s chancellor. Now, they had to make a decision: would Sewanee allow a gay or lesbian couple, who meets the basic requirements to request use of the All Saints’ Chapel for a wedding, the opportunity to have their union blessed there? Commence hand-wringing now.

“An absolute yes or an absolute no was just not possible,” John McCardell, Jr., vice-chancellor and president, said. The college feared its chapel could become a sort of Las Vegas for blessings of gay unions — an end-run for couples whose bishops wouldn’t permit the rite in their own diocese.(“Going to the Chapel?” by Libby Nelson, Inside Higher Ed., Dec. 19, 2012).

Stop right there. End run? A ‘sort of Las Vegas’ for LGBT couples?? Are they serious???

Yes, obviously, they were serious. Seriously afraid of what might happen if they were to open up the use of the chapel for LGBT couples who are affiliated with the school.

I read that statement and I was appalled.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. Michael Hartney

    When I was a student at Sewanee the Tenor Section leader of the Sewanee Choir was V. Gene Robinson, of recent notoriety. As an all male undergraduate university at the time I can assure you that the Gay community was well represented in the student body and faculty. And not all Bishops of Province IV (whose Dioceses are the owners of The University of the South)voted against the provisional rite for the blessing of same gender couples (Bishop Leo Frade of SE Florida is one example). Perhaps the good Vice Chancellor could be reminded of the University’s motto: Ecce, quam bonum and get on with life.

  2. Gary Paul Gilbert

    Is anyone really surprised by the onoing ambivalence of this denomination to LGBTs?

    Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard was vicar at Trinity Church Wall Street for several so it is disappointing to read that he voted against blessings at General Convention.

    Disappointing but not surprising.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  3. leeborden

    As a wholehearted supporter of gay marriage in a parish generally opposed to it, I have some appreciation for the tenderness of this issue. Our own Alabama bishop Kee Sloan voted in favor of permitting same sex blessings but has decided at least for now not to permit them in the Diocese. I suppose that means Sewanee will say no to same sex couples from Alabama.

    Lee Borden

    Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Tallassee

  4. Harrison West

    Please note dear reader that the Las Vegas bit is unattributed. The VC (Vice-Chancellor=University President in Sewanee-speak) is a Christian gentleman of the first-order, and he would never use such language. The University Chaplain was a classmate of mine at the University’s School of Theology, and neither would he use such language. The University is in fact reflecting the local-option pattern of the Episcopal Church as an institution governed by 28 dioceses. While I wish an absolute “yes” were possible, I’m grateful equal marriage will be available to those whose home dioceses permit it.

    Harrison West+ T’90

  5. Shane Lyle

    I think it also notable that The Rt. Rev. George D. Young III, Bishop of East Tennessee (the Diocese in which Sewanee is geographically located) voted in favor of the use of the liturgy/blessing in addition to several other Bishops of Province IV. Though this is frustrating, I find joy in the overall movement toward progress & equality in our church, and our Province, as a whole. We are overwhelmingly moving forward despite the few dissenting voices in the minority. May the Holy Spirit continue to work and speak in The Episcopal Church USA!

    Sincerely & in Peace,

    Shane Lyle

    Member, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church – Maryville, TN of The Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee

  6. Gary Paul Gilbert

    John McCardell, the Vice Chancellor, must have said something about Las Vegas weddings because the quotation from Inside Higher Ed is a lengthy paraphrase. What comes across is a fear that lots of same-sex couples will want to have their relationships blessed in the chapel at Sewanee with a simultaneous admission that that is highly unlikely.

    The couples are to be seen as property of the diocesan bishops. What a charming way to advertise Sewanee!

    Gary Paul Gilbert

    Inside Higher Ed http://tinyurl.com/dxbvspn

    “An absolute yes or an absolute no was just not possible,” McCardell said. The college feared its chapel could become a sort of Las Vegas for blessings of gay unions — an end-run for couples whose bishops wouldn’t permit the rite in their own diocese.

    The compromise: Gay and lesbian couples who meet the other eligibility requirements for a Sewanee wedding will be able to have their union blessed in the college chapel, as long as their bishops are supportive.

    McCardell described the decision, reached by the college chaplain, dean of the School of Theology, and the two bishops on the Board of Regents, which oversees university governance, as “the only sensible thing.”

    Weddings at Sewanee are relatively rare, and McCardell said he doesn’t expect a flood of requests to bless gay unions. (Tennessee, where Sewanee is located, doesn’t permit gay marriage.) At least one member of the couple must be a student, graduate, member of the faculty or staff or a governing board, or a full-time resident of Sewanee. They must also be part of a church, with a letter from their minister, and both members of the couple must write letters about why they wish to marry at the university.

  7. Terry Pannell

    Would someone please provide me a list of Episcopal Churches that have become Las Vegas style chapels for gays weddings? I serve a parish in a town that is euphemistically called Sodom by the Sea in that ultra-liberal Diocese of Massachusetts. Obviously we must be doing something wrong because the gays are not lining up for blocks for their turn at the altar.

    The Reverend Terry Pannell,

    Vicar of Sodom and graduate of the School of Theology at Sewanee

  8. Gary Paul Gilbert

    As I said when this came up in another lead item, the reference to Las Vegas is not innocent but seems to be a citation of Mitch Romney’s bragging about how, when the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts decided Goodridge v. the Department of Health in favor of the right to marry in 2003, as Governor he dusted off an old anti-miscegenation law from 1913 to prevent out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their home states would not marry them. Last February in front of a conservative audience the Presidential candidate said he “prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.” I suspect Sewanee was channeling Romney.

    The position of Sewanee seems to be to allow bishops who feel like Romney (at least when he spoke to conservatives) to prevent such marriages from taking place in the chapel at Sewanee, while bishops who don’t share this fear may give permission.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  9. Jonathan Galliher

    Honestly, that post comes across as something of a thoughtless whine. It seems to boil down to “Oh why couldn’t the bishops of Province IV act like folks in the DC diocese”. As if leadership meant doing what liberal folks, like me, would prefer.


  10. Terry Pannell

    Thoughtless whine? Being dismissive does not negate the fact that fear has been a primary motivator in many of the church’s decisions regarding the place of people whose orientation is not heterosexual. Whether or not anyone is channeling Mitt Romney is not the point. Back to my original post, where is the concrete evidence of Episcopal Churches becoming revolving doors for gay weddings?

  11. Jonathan Galliher

    I don’t disagree about the quality of Sewanee’s decision, but the original post would have been improved by either dropping the comparison to the National Cathedral’s decision or actually taking the time to dig into why the National Cathedral chose a different policy from Sewanee, asssuming that there’s anything more to say than that one answers to a much more liberal constituency.

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