Bishop of Georgia authorizes a rite for same sex blessings

by

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.

Dislike (0)
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail
Bishop Gene Robinson
Guest
Bishop Gene Robinson

If I were a committed gay couple and looked at this, my reaction would be: "Is that it? Is that all? A 2-minute sidebar diversion, buried in a eucharist?! The blessing of a new altar frontal takes longer!". And can you imagine what committed straight couples would say if this were all THEY were offered in blessing their relationships??!!

I suppose the Bishop of Georgia has the right to do what he has done, in "adapting" the authorized rite -- although even in Parliamentary Procedure, when a resolution is so profoundly altered that the original is no longer remotely present, it is not an "amended" resolution, but a "substitute!"

IMHO, Bishop Benhase offers a "substitute," and a deplorable, weak and unacceptable one at that!

Follow me on Twitter @BishopGRobinson

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Paige Baker
Guest
Paige Baker

I can be happy and grateful that my LGBT brothers and sisters in GA will have the opportunity to have their relationships blessed—and still be offended by the ungracious and autocratic way in which that opportunity was offered.

I think that the good bishop might benefit from a refresher CPE course.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
GrandmèreMimi
Guest

It is nearly impossible to hermetically seal the Church off from cultural influences.

And why would we wish to? What was the purpose of the Incarnation? Jesus immersed himself in the culture of his day. In the midst of the real world he lived in, Jesus taught his followers to love God and love their neighbors as themselves and to do as they would be done to. As I see it, the teaching applies to followers of Jesus to this day.

I am concerned with doing what is right in the eyes of God.

As are those of us who wish to see marriage equality in the Episcopal Church.

June Butler

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
laurenstanley
Guest
laurenstanley

"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."

I understand what the bishop thinks he is trying to say, but it is, at heart, delusional to say we are not formed by our culture. JESUS was formed by HIS culture, and no one seems to have minded THAT! PAUL was formed by HIS culture - and we argue over that all the time.

This marvelous blessing that we call "life" never takes place in a vacuum. And neither does God. God does not simply "exist" outside of everything - God exists in US.

So please: If you don't agree, that's fine. But please don't pretend that we can ever exist outside of our existence (which is another way to say, "culture.")

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Elizabeth Kaeton
Guest
Elizabeth Kaeton

As if the culture isn't in the church and the church isn't in the culture in "traditional marriage".

Honest to Pete! When will the institutional church and its purple princes learn that you can dress it up in fancy vestments, use theological language and blow holy smoke from a turible all around it but that won't change a thing. It still looks and smells like prejudice.

Then again, I'm thinking at least some of the folks in GA are quite familiar with "separate but equal". Separate water fountains and sitting in the back of the bus were eventually ruled for what they are "prejudice". As I recall, the church assisted in the process of helping the government to see through the charade and to look at the injustice.

Isn't it interesting that now that the shoe is on the other foot in another issue, the church is the one saying, "Segregation yesterday. Segregation today. Segregation forevah."

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
1 2 3 5