B012, “Marriage Rites for the Whole Church”: Who will qualify for alternative episcopal support?

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Resolution B012, in its final language, aims to extend marriage equality to parts as yet unreached by offering alternative episcopal pastoral support to clergy and congregations whose bishops do not currently permit them to solemnize same-sex marriages. A statement from the Communion Partners of the Episcopal Church appears to turn the tables, stating that, “Congregations that maintain the traditional teaching on marriage, no matter what their diocese, have an equal claim upon the pastoral care of the church. We offer our own ministry of pastoral care in such congregations as bishops in furtherance of that goal.”

For Bishop Daniel Martins of Springfield, “there must be a robust firewall between a community that receives same-sex marriage into its life, along with its clergy, and the rest of the diocese, including and especially the Bishop.”

In plainer language, here’s what this means: If a Eucharistic Community of the diocese wishes to conduct a same-sex wedding, it will first, through its rector or senior warden, inform me of this desire. We will then arrange an in-person meeting between the Mission Leadership Team, the Rector, and me. The first purpose of this meeting will be to discern whether there is indeed a consensus around the desire to hold such a ceremony. If a consensus is evident, we will discuss the terms, conditions, and length of the relationship between that Eucharistic Community and another bishop of the Episcopal Church. It will then be my responsibility to find such a bishop, to whom I will refer all the routine components of spiritual, pastoral, and sacramental oversight, including regular visitations, for an agreed-upon season. In temporal matters, such as participation in synod and payment of assessments, nothing will change.

This is harsh; there’s no denying it. Should we come to such a point with any of our congregations, it will be a source of deep personal sorrow—indeed, heartbreak–for me. I profoundly love all of our worshiping communities, and it would be a grievous loss to be in an impaired relationship with any of them. Nonetheless, these painful measures are vitally necessary. Precisely because all liturgical and sacramental ministry is an extension of the ministry of the Bishop, and implicates the entire diocese in whatever is done, there must be a robust firewall between a community that receives same-sex marriage into its life, along with its clergy, and the rest of the diocese, including and especially the Bishop. This does not have to mean that there is anger, rancor, or anything but sincere love between such a congregation and the diocese. The need for differentiation is not driven by emotion. But the rupture is real, because it deals with first things: the authority of Sacred Scripture, and the very doctrine of creation, which is the first article of both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.

You can read the bishop’s letter, including more details of how B012 will apply in Springfield, here.

Bishop Martins was among nearly a dozen bishops, active and retired, who signed an Austin Statement on behalf of the Communion Partners of the Episcopal Church at the end of Convention. While generally positive in tone about the compromise offered by the resolution, the bishops make an interesting pivot towards the end to offer their own alternative episcopal pastoral support to congregations and clergy in dioceses of the church who are permitted by their bishops but not by “theological and pastoral conviction” to offer same-sex marriage within their parishes:

8 As bishops, we claim our apostolic ministry as teachers of the Faith, and our role as chief pastors within our dioceses, clearly articulated in the Book of Common Prayer. As Communion Partner bishops, we affirm without reservation the traditional teaching that “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and the man enter into a life-long union” that is “intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another…; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (BCP, pp. 861, 423). This is the teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Anglican Communion, articulated in resolution I.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998. At the same time, we recognize that other Christians of good will and commitment hold contrasting convictions about marriage. There is deep disagreement, which leads to a difference in teaching and practice among dioceses and congregations of our church.

9 The General Convention has, through Resolution B012, made liturgies for same-sex marriage available for all congregations that wish to use them, as authorized by their rectors or priests-in-charge (§7). How this will be dealt with in each diocese may differ. B012 has also provided (at §8) a structure that, in the face of our profound differences in teaching over marriage, preserves the role of bishops as chief teachers, pastors, and liturgical officers by allowing us to call upon the ministry of other bishops of the Episcopal Church, in exercising supplemental episcopal pastoral care in those congregations of our dioceses that desire to use these liturgies and seek this form of oversight. This creates a helpful space of differentiation, set within the wider communion of baptism and faith that we continue to share, however imperfectly.

10 Our church is called episcopal in order to indicate the primacy of bishops and dioceses within our polity, an ancient catholic principle. The diocese, not the congregation, forms the basic unit of the Church. We believe that the provisions of B012 for supplemental episcopal pastoral care enable the local adaptation of the historic episcopate, as provided in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, as a means toward unity within our church and with the wider Anglican Communion.

11 The convention has also acted to protect clergy and congregations who cannot, for reasons of theological and pastoral conviction, affirm such rites. Resolution B012 clearly underlines the canonical pastoral responsibilities of rectors and priests in charge (§7). Congregations that maintain the traditional teaching on marriage, no matter what their diocese, have an equal claim upon the pastoral care of the church. We offer our own ministry of pastoral care in such congregations as bishops in furtherance of that goal.

Read the Austin Statement here.

In comments to Dallas News at the end of Convention, Bishop George Sumner of Dallas sounded a positive note:

“I think we’ve come out of this with something that lets everyone stay true to their conscience,” Sumner said. “That’s not bad in America in 2018.”

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

+Love has issued a statement for Albany.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

The language "turning the tables," while sinister in tone, likely points to the concrete reality that a conservative bishop choosing a colleague to come into the diocese will mean that same colleague having challenges of his/her own on the conservative front. Sumner has said something similar in EDOD about the colleague he will be working with. So perhaps the source of the "problem" is to be found in this relationship of exchange amongst bishops.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

Sumner's response is posted below at 13 July GC entry. One supposes the CP bishops face different diocesan realities.

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Michael Whitman
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Michael Whitman

Bishop Sumner of Dallas released this video https://vimeo.com/280226740

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Gwen Palmer
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Gwen Palmer

“...’a life-long union’ that is ‘intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another…; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.’ “

When I read this, and then read that, if those two people are a SS couple, then support for that otherwise exact same union is a “contrasting conviction about marriage,” I feel tears form because of how very far apart we are. So much heartbreak.

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John White
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John White

Those of us, gay and straight, might feel tears of joy instead. Read the quote again. It applies with equal force to same sex as well as opposite sex marriages, for all married couples may, "when it is God's will," care for and nurture children, help and comfort one another, and find mutual joy in each other. Rather than highlight differences, these same words underline the universal nature of marriage, in all its joys and responsibilities, for both straight and gay couples who join together in love of God and for each other.

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Wayne Helmly
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Wayne Helmly

Those same tears likely form in the eyes of same-sex couples when they learn that their "mutual joy" is condemned by people who don't even know them.

Those same tears may come with the knowledge that the "help and comfort they give one another," and the desire to raise their children in the love of God through Christ in a loving, nurturing local parish, is a source of scorn for some of same-sex couples' siblings in the church.

I highly suspect that there are far too many tears on both sides.

Indeed you are right, there is so much heartbreak.

Yes, loving Christians can disagree, but this compromise gives both sides space.

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R Creamer
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R Creamer

The tears are also from God himself, when he says "depart from me I never knew you." We should let the Bible be the last word and give Him the glory. NOT some council of men.

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Gwen Palmer
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Gwen Palmer

That’s certainly what I intended to say. I started my quote of the BCP *after* the “man and woman” phrase precisely because the rest of its description of marriage is completely NOT dependent on the couples’ genders. Yet opponents call support of SS marriage a “contrasting conviction” as though the entire passage is altered by changing “the woman and the man” to “two people.” It’s not changed at all. I’m glad they acknowledge that we are “Christians of good will and commitment.” But our views are not contrasting.

I’m your basic cis white woman married to a man in a ceremony in TEC. I can’t claim to know firsthand the pain of anyone in different circumstances and the ugliness they are subjected to. But I know many, and have tears for them, and have tears for the difficulty of reconciliation with people whose sincere concept of God Is both so cruel and makes no sense.

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Fred Loving
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Fred Loving

Great. Now I am totally confused. Can somebody break this down into simple language ?

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

I can try. There are a number of domestic bishops (we can leave out Province 9 for now, as they are opposed and united both) who will invite bishops from other dioceses to have oversight spiritually over those parishes doing same-sex marriages in their dioceses. One can imagine the selection will favor friends, good working relationships, etc. EDOD and OKL come to mind. It is being intimated that in the light of this, conservative bishops may play a role in neighboring dioceses as well, but obviously only if the bishop in question felt it was appropriate. The questions surrounding all this involve how parishes become same-sex blessing venues, by what mechanism (vestry vote?), can anyone really have access no matter what the parish wants, and so forth. What of parishes were clergy on staff and rector disagree, etc. Canon III.6.9(a) lready give rectors control over all worship so that remains in place.

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