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Bishop of Georgia authorizes a rite for same sex blessings

Bishop of Georgia authorizes a rite for same sex blessings

Updated at bottom with Rev. Susan Russell’s response

Bishop Scott Benhase has released a pastoral letter and a rite for blessing same sex relationships. He writes:

I also pointed out that my understanding of Holy Matrimony is that it can only be between a man and woman, regardless of what secular governments understand it to be. Secular understandings of marriage should not shape how the Church understands Holy Matrimony. Of course, we know that the culture does shape our thoughts, at least to some extent. It is nearly impossible to hermetically seal the Church off from cultural influences. Nevertheless, I must make decisions as free of cultural influences as possible and rather focus all discernment through the lens of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and his grace bestowed in the New Covenant. Thus, in my judgment, any Blessing Rite that is authorized in the Diocese of Georgia had to be plainly distinguished from Holy Matrimony in order to receive my approval.

The Rite approved by General Convention in July of this year failed, in my judgment, to plainly distinguish between Holy Matrimony and a Blessing. The enabling resolution for the Rite that was passed, however, provided Diocesan Bishops with the ability to “adapt” the Rite for use in their respective dioceses. I had hoped the language would have authorized something more expansive than “adaption,” but that did not happen. So, we must work within the structures of what the Church has decided. None of this is perfect. We all look “through a glass darkly,” as St Paul reminds us. I am unconcerned by what is politically, socially, or culturally expedient, or what will be the majority opinion. I am concerned with doing what is right in the eyes of God.

I have discerned that we in the Diocese of Georgia will offer a Rite of Blessing for our homosexual sisters and brothers using the adapted rite found in Appendix 1. This will be the only Rite authorized in the Diocese of Georgia. In Appendix 2, you will find criteria for how the Rite may be offered in the Diocese of Georgia. These criteria are not suggestions. They are expected provisions and guidelines required of clergy and lay leaders who discern within their congregation that they should offer the Rite.

The Rev. Susan Russell, who served on the Standing Commission and legislative committee that drafted the rite has responded to Bishop Benhase on her blog. (As has Bishop Gene Robinson in the comments here.) She writes:

It’s my day off — and cruising through the blogs this morning over my coffee I was struck by the post over at Episcopal Cafe entitled “Bishop of Georgia authorizes a rite for same sex blessing.”

WOW, I thought! Now that’s progress … until I read the bishop’s “pastoral letter” which raised the bar on self-righteous condescension.


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Jim Naughton

JC Fisher, we don’t send moderation notice. Your speaking rudely does not impose duties on us. We don’t care for the phrase Mr. Hammond used either, but it doesn’t give us license to say more about him than that we think he used inappropriate language.


“[edited here]”

{Checks Inbox: no moderation notice sent to me}


Mr Hammond used the hideous phrase “homosexual and lesbian lobby”, and I (pretty respectfully, IMO) called him on it. If my person—my human dignity—is going to be reduced to a “lobby”, then I don’t feel I’m being treated as a friend. In good conscience, I stand by the assertion (but wish I didn’t have to take the time to type it again!)

JC Fisher

P.S. If the Bishop of Georgia should happen to be reading, that goes to you, too. You don’t have to like me (does anybody? ;-/), but if you’re being true to your baptismal (nevermind ordination) covenant, respect my human dignity!

Gary Paul Gilbert

The Diocese of Georgia has a strange history. They segregated their parishes from 1907 to 1947. The same diocese is promoting Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander for inclusion in Holy Men, Holy Women. She was the first African-American deaconess will be considered for inclusion by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music.

Alas, Episcopal polity means diocesan bishops can do pretty much what they want! Too bad we don’t have alternative episcopal oversight for liberals living in such dioceses.

Contra the Bishop of Georgia, one can no more transcend one’s culture than one can jump out of one’s skin. Incarnation would suggest that there can only be infinite embodiment of the ideals of the tradition.

Gary Paul Gilbert


Wow, you could call that “blessing” the “We reluctantly acknowledge you’re sharing an apartment—we really HOPE w/ separate bedrooms!” liturgy, huh?

No vows (and no “forsaking all others”): would any opposite-sex couple accept that?

And in the very FIRST line:

“Let us pray for N. and N. in their life together and for the concerns of this community.”

For the ***concerns*** of this community??? [Church as homophobic Concern-Troll Congregation! O_o] Given equal emphasis w/ the couple IN their 2 minute “blessing”??

There’s one word for this, and the word is FAIL.

JC Fisher

[edited here]

Jim Hammond

I find it interesting that those who argue for inclusion are so quick to pounce when moderates make an attempt to be responsive. Case in point is the way the homosexual and lesbian lobby is excoriating the decision of Scott Benhase, the Bishop of Georgia, to permit same gender blessings under his directions. No good deed goes unpunished. His approach is mercilessly attacked because it is deemed insufficiently gracious in the minds of those who want everything their way.

The verbal grenades tossed at him are reminiscent of the same hurled at Ed Little, the Bishop of Northern Indiana, when he announced his method of dealing with the same issues within his diocese. As one who leans left, I find the response of some within the gay and lesbian lobby inappropriate, inconsiderate, unthoughtful, unhelpful, non-inclusive and, indeed, unchristian. Shame, if there be any, does not rest with the Bishop. of Georgia, but on those who simply cannot tolerate any ideas other than their own.

Jim Hammond


Warrenton, VA

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