All Sacraments for All People in Diocese of Tennessee

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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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Julie and Johnny Erwin
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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.

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Tom Downs
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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?

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Lynne McFarland
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Lynne McFarland

I agree with Prof. Seitz (below), and I imagine all other members of ASAP would as well. His view has been fully voiced in our Diocese by faithful members of the church and ASAP here; his stance is my stance, too. Yet do we silently watch our brothers and sisters suffer exclusion here if there is a path to inclusion now? However theologically indefensible, I've concluded for myself for this moment to try to help draw a circle that takes them (the excluders) in. At our last ASAP meeting, one of the members,, Ali, showed a clip from the Spielberg film Lincoln, in which Thaddeus Stevens, a true abolitionist who deeply believed in the equality of all, forced himself to limit his speech in Congress to help promote the 13th Amendment. Tommy Lee Jones played the Congressman, and his powerful portrayal expressed the inner conflict Stevens must have felt giving that speech. I long for the day when all sacraments are available for all people period.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

The idea that this was going to be workable because individual clergy conscience was the bottom line, not Bishops, always struck me as a bit of strategic chess on the part of progressives. If a gay couple wanted to get married and a priest said he or she could not do that, we'd just be back to the justice and "sacraments for all" coal face. So thank you for being straightfoward about that.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

I hope that people watching this realise without any doubt. This is not about the office of Bishop in TN. The message here is that there can be no grounds for anyone being 'unable to enjoy sacraments' who represent themselves as loving same sex couples. If that is so, then obviously individual priests and individual congregations cannot withold this 'enjoyment. ' There can be no priestly discretion or congregational discretion that would have recourse to scripture, conscience, whatever to deny this sacramental 'right.' On what possible grounds could this be defended? The problem isn't 8 or X number of Bishops. It is the teaching of the church full-stop, whether in the hands of an individual priest or wherever.

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