Is the HoB Theology Committee stalling?

The 2009 Blue Book online, has a report from the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops:


We have been asked by the House of Bishops to undertake a theological study of same-sex relationships in the life of the church. This is designed to reflect a full spectrum of views and to be a contribution to the listening process of the Anglican Communion, as well as to the discussion of this subject in our province. A diverse and balanced panel of theologians has been appointed by the Committee and is presently beginning this work.

This is a long-term, multi-step project that is designed to be completed in 2011 (see below for background on this project).

There is concern that this adds weight to efforts to delay action on same-sex blessings.

Some questions:
Who is on this “diverse and balanced panel of theologians?”

Will the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops consult with the House of Deputies or do they feel that their role is to write this for the whole church without consultation? Although the resolution for further study calls for lay persons, priests and deacons to be consulted -have these persons been consulted?

Studies have been underway since at least General Convention 1967. It is now 2009. One might wonder why it has taken so long?

The Bishop of Nevada, Dan Edwards, referred to the effect of the current Theology Committee's study in his blog from the Spring House of Bishops meeting (emphasis ed.):

The moratorium on same sex blessings is not likely to survive forever -- especially since Southern Cone and others have been violating the other moratorium with reckless abandon if not malice aforethought. They are now even in Nevada, though not in a particularly potent way. There will probably be some move to repeal the "restraint" resolution to comply with the moratoria at General Convention this summer. What to do?

On the one hand, if we just do a 180 and repeal what we did at last Convention, that will be destructive to the communion, tearing open a wound just beginning to heal. The theology committee is working on its report on human sexuality and that will not be out until next year, so taking dramatic action this year, just before the report is getting the cart before the horse.


It seems that some bishops do not feel that adequate study and theology has been done on this issue. There is no reference to the Theology Statement by Claiming the Blessing nor is the theology work on same sex blessings by the Anglican Church of Canada mentioned as a possible resource.

Members of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops appointed until 2009 are:
The Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Alabama
(serving on the Prayer Book, LIturgy and Music Legislative Committee for General Convention)
The Rt. Rev. David Alvarez, Puerto Rico
The Rt. Rev. Joe G. Burnett, Nebraska
The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, Bethlehem
The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller, MIlwaukee
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, resigned from TEC to join the Roman Catholic Church.

UPDATE: 4/1 Correction from the Blue Book
Report of the Theology Committee - members

The Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley, Chair
The Rt. Rev. David A. Alvarez
The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt
The Rt. Rev. Joe G. Burnett
Dr. Ellen T. Charry
The Rev. Dr. Sathianathan Clarke
Dr. Stephen E. Fowl
The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb
The Rt. Rev Robert W. Ihloff
Dr. Charles T. Mathewes
Dr. Joy A. McDougall
The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller
Dr. Kathryn Tanner


From To Set Our Hope on Christ:

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music devoted 28 pages of its 2000 Report to the requirement of Resolution 1997-C003s to continue its study of "theological aspects of committed relationships of same-sex couples."

Note:
"Immediately following adoption in the House of Bishops, a motion was introduced pledging the bishops to continue in dialogue and calling for a report from its Theology Committee:"
2000 B300 Resolved, That it is the mind of the House of Bishops that we continue study and be in conversation regarding issues of human sexuality by making use of the Theology Committee (under process of appointment by the Presiding Bishop) in consultation with the House of Bishops Committee on Pastoral Development. This committee, consisting of lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons, will make a report in the hopes that a Mind of the House resolution will result from their study. p. 112

A report called "The Gift of Sexuality" was presented to the House of Bishops in March 2003, and was offered "to the church for study and reflection."

The appendix of To Set Our Hope on Christ is a list of official studies and reports, from 1967-2003.

Comments (8)

I wouldn't see this necessarily as a stalling tactic. Given how divisive the issue is, we need to have as firm a foundation as we can get before preceding with official liturgies for same-sex unions. Of course, the hard-right conservatives won't accept it, but they've essentially taken themselves out of the conversation. This study needs to appeal mostly to those in the middle who might not completely agree with it but can at least live with the presence of such unions as long as there's sufficient background work.

It's fascinating to read the on-going excuses (they really can no longer be considered reasons) for delaying an intentional decision on same-sex blessings. It's been 42 years now, we've had studies on top of studies, and now we're concerned about opening a wound? Perhaps the HoB might consider the wound that they continue to inflict on baptized children of God, made in God's image, freely given God's grace and salvation, who also happen to be g, l, b, or t. I'm sure the bishops on the HoB theology committee are very nice men but they are not known for their stellar theological writings. And letting the cart go before the horse? When will our bishops finally figure out that the entire herd of horses stampeded out of the corral long ago while TEC sits quietly in its little cart, waiting for someone to take us someplace -- we know not who nor where nor do we want to make a decision about same.

Honestly. This situation could play quite nicely on SNL or Monty Python.

Liz Zivanov

The Bishop of Nevada, Dan Edwards, referred to the effect of the current Theology Committee's study in his blog from the Spring House of Bishops meeting (emphasis ed.):
"The moratorium on same sex blessings is not likely to survive forever -- "

I repeat my question from the time this was first posted (a few weeks ago): what "moratorium on same sex blessings" is Bp. Edwards talking about? :-0

(AFAIK, there is *no* TEC-wide moratorium on SSBs!)

JC Fisher

How is a committee of five male bishops--one of whom has abandoned the denomination for the Roman Church--supposed to represent the whole denomination? What theological work needs to be done to affirm the baptismal covenant to "respect the dignity of every human being?" Marriage equality flows (I dare say "flow") out of this basic principle of the dignity of every person--the very principle which was used to outlaw slavery and, more recently, racial apartheid in South Africa and the exclusion of women from ordained ministry. Perhaps the Episcopal Church should strike those clauses in the baptismal rite which call for serving Christ in all persons and respecting the dignity of every person. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" should also be struck. Not including lay people and women and LGBTs on a body which is supposed to look at the relationships of same-sex couples shows no love of neighbor. "Gracious restraint" needs to be shown as a strange sadomasochistic cult presenting itself as a faith.

JC Fisher reminds us that there is no moratorium on blessing same-sex unions.

The time has come to live the equality the church preaches. The quality of a relationship is more important than the legal sex of the spouses.


Gary

How is a committee of five male bishops--one of whom has abandoned the denomination for the Roman Church--supposed to represent the whole denomination? What theological work needs to be done to affirm the baptismal covenant to "respect the dignity of every human being?" Marriage equality flows (I dare say "flow") out of this basic principle of the dignity of every person--the very principle which was used to outlaw slavery and, more recently, racial apartheid in South Africa and the exclusion of women from ordained ministry. Perhaps the Episcopal Church should strike those clauses in the baptismal rite which call for serving Christ in all persons and respecting the dignity of every person. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" should also be struck. Not including lay people and women and LGBTs on a body which is supposed to look at the relationships of same-sex couples shows no love of neighbor. "Gracious restraint" needs to be shown as a strange sadomasochistic cult presenting itself as a faith.

JC Fisher reminds us that there is no moratorium on blessing same-sex unions.

The time has come to live the equality the church preaches. The quality of a relationship is more important than the legal sex of the spouses.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Ok, I've got a question:

I actually went to the Blue Book report, and this is the membership of the committee as listed:

The Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley, Chair
The Rt. Rev. David A. Alvarez
The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt
The Rt. Rev. Joe G. Burnett
Dr. Ellen T. Charry
The Rev. Dr. Sathianathan Clarke
Dr. Stephen E. Fowl
The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb
The Rt. Rev Robert W. Ihloff
Dr. Charles T. Mathewes
Dr. Joy A. McDougall
The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller
Dr. Kathryn Tanner

This committee, as you can see, is composed of both bishops and non-bishops (incl. lay people) and both men and women. As for the panel of theologians, it would be nice to see the names before criticizing its makeup.

Kevin

Thanks Kevin for the update. I was taking the list from an earlier one.

I am encouraged to see a more varied committee.

My point stands, however, that dithering on whether to bless/marry same-sex couples contradicts the principle of the dignity of all persons. How ironic that the Unitarians and other liberal movements which generally no longer baptize have kept the principle, while mainline Protestantism, which has continued the outward forms, has a hard time standing for equality.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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