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All Sacraments for All People in Diocese of Tennessee

All Sacraments for All People in Diocese of Tennessee

The Tennesseean reports:

The Episcopal bishop in Middle Tennessee does not allow priests to officiate same-sex weddings even if they want to, but supporters are trying to change that.

They want a resolution passed at this week’s Annual Convention for the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee that urges the national church to let clergy make their own decisions on whether or not to marry gay and lesbian couples in their parishes. …

If passed, the resolution will be sent to the General Convention, the governing body of the church, that meets in July in Austin, Texas.


Currently it is up to the Diocesan Bishop to allow priests and congregations to perform weddings for same sex couples. In the Diocese of Tennessee clergy cannot “officiate weddings and those canonically connected to the diocese cannot perform them elsewhere either. They also cannot happen on church property.” Eight Bishops deny or restrict marriage equality at this time. This is the most restrictive position. Some of the others have agreements with other bishops to permit clergy to officiate elsewhere. This resolution calls for a national policy to allow local churches to make the decision.

A grassroots organization called All Sacraments for All People formed in December 2015 in response to the bishop’s ban. The group wants everyone to be able to belong to a congregation that allows them to receive all the sacraments, including marriage.



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Susan Powell

OMG I am an Episcopalian in the diocese of North Carolina. I belong to the Episcopal Church because they don’t ask you to check your brain at the front door but I have a feeling that does not apply in all diocese. I thought all those people joined the Anglican Church. All our information is preceeded by “The Episcopal Church Welcomes Everyone.” By the way, my husband is a retired priest and our current home church has officiated at two gay weddings of our church members. Amen! Jesus and God are Love!S


You mean there actually is a conservative Bishop left in this church? Wow.

Ann Fontaine
Julie and Johnny Erwin

We wish to restate that our Bishop of TN is doing a great job…it’s just in this area where we respectfully disagree. Therefore our group was formed, ASAP, to foster conversation among those of diverse opinions and support to the LGBTQ Episcopalians who are left behind by our Bishop’s decision. We feel by refusing the sacrament of Holy Matrimony to LGBTQ people we are effectively leaving them out of a full sacramental life as an Episcopalian. Our resolution was met with a lot of discussion, and we want to stress this was a diverse group of men and women with a lot of opinions, yet we had a respectful and painfully honest, conversation. A new resolution was crafted which was more palatable for the majority and ultimately passed with only one no vote. We came together because we all want to remain a united diocese and in that way the Spirit was truly among us and led the way. But, the conversations will continue and we look forward to the General Convention.

Tom Downs

It’s complicated. The bishop’s traditional role over liturgical practice is to insure liturgies are correctly practiced and the rubrics followed. While the rubrics require that the Eucharist is to be the principle Sunday service, no bishop could forbid the use of Morning Prayer according to the BCP at other times. Neither could a bishop insist that all the churches in the diocese use an Anglo-Catholic missal (other than what is found in the BCP) for worship. She/he also must insure that canon law is followed. Authorized liturgies are the jurisdiction of General Convention. So the question becomes, if there is a General Convention authorized service, could the bishop refuse its use in the diocese? No, unless the GC added that qualifying condition to it’s authorization. (Assuming the other canonical conditions for a marriage are met.) Consider: should a bishop decide that marriages between the races was against God’s law (as some once did), could he forbid such marriages?

Ann Fontaine

Yes– unfortunately the bishops always make an “out” for their fellow bishops. I doubt this will change in 2018.


You may be right, Ann. If the GC authorization included an “out” for those bishops that disagreed, then the onus would be on the particular bishops that demurred. They would rightly receive increasing social sanctions from their peers and the rest of the Church (to say nothing about the political pressure and bad press). Of course, we know how that turned out for those who refused to accept the ordination of women. Forbidding the local use of an authorized liturgy is not likely to be a long term strategy that will work.

Ann Fontaine

That is how it is now

Prof Christopher Seitz

ASAP believes it can bring a halt to that. Are you saying this won’t happen?

Marshall Scott

A change such that a bishop cannot require a blanket prohibition for a diocese of a rite permitted by General Convention? I think it will happen. A change such that an individual priest can be compelled to perform a specific rite in violation of conscience? I believe that won’t happen. I haven’t had this specific concern, but I have observed in a number of circumstances that it is easier to say, and perhaps easier to hear, “I can’t in good conscience,” when that can be followed with, “I can refer you to a colleague who is [here or half an hour away],” instead of, “you might find someone in the next [diocese, state, etc]. Just don’t let the bishop find out.”

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