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Bishops in NY differ on marriage equality

Bishops in NY differ on marriage equality

The New York Times summarizes the positions among the bishops in New York state since the passage of the marriage equality law.

The Episcopal Church, which has been strained by gay-rights issues since the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire eight years ago, is now divided over how to respond to the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.

As a result, gay and lesbian Episcopalians will be allowed on Sunday to get married by priests in Brooklyn and Queens, but not in the Bronx or Manhattan or on Staten Island; in Syracuse but not in Albany.

That is because the church has not taken a firm position nationally on same-sex marriage, leaving local bishops with wide latitude to decide what priests may do when the law takes effect in New York State. In the state, with six Episcopal dioceses, the bishops are split: two have given the green light for priests to officiate at same-sex marriages, one has said absolutely not, two are undecided and one has staked out a middle ground, allowing priests to bless, but not officiate at, weddings of gay men and lesbians.

The bishops of the Long Island and Central New York Dioceses have authorized priests to preside at same-sex weddings; the bishop of the New York Diocese (which includes three of the city’s five boroughs) is allowing them to bless but not officiate at such rites; the bishop of the Albany Diocese is barring any involvement by priests; and the bishops of the Rochester and Western New York Dioceses remain undeclared.

Read more here.

Letter from NYC-Metro Integrity is here or below.

What do you think the bishops should do?

Dear friends,

Both the Associated Press and The New York Times have recently released articles on the state of the Episcopal Church’s response to the New York State change in same-sex marriage.

We at Integrity/NYC-Metro are very happy that the elected representatives of New York State have recognized lifelong commitments between people of the same sex, as marriage. We pray for the day that this recognition will take hold in every state in our country, and at the federal level of government.

Integrity’s vision for the Church is this: “all the sacraments for all the baptized.” We understand this as meaning that one standard–prayerful, thoughtful, and equitable–should be spelled out and applied to both heterosexual and LGBT people.

We recognize that the different bishops of the dioceses in New York State are interpreting the “generous pastoral response” permitted at General Convention in 2009, in varying ways. While Integrity would rejoice if all bishops were to immediately solemnize marrriages, we realize that this is not immediately likely for varying reasons, and we urge charity and pastoral engagement on all sides in other dioceses.

Vindictive language and attribution of evil motives on any side are profoundly unchristian, wound the heart of God, and provide fodder to anti-Christians who believe the church is evil. (sic)

The Episcopal Church has existing canons regarding the solemnization of marriage. While these use male-female language that we believe needs changing, Integrity does not see any reason to request that clergy exempt same-sex couples from the reasonable and healthy requirements contained in these rules, among them:

• Each partner is free to marry, freely consents to the marriage, and intends that the marriage be lifelong.

• The couple intends that the marriage take place in the context of the Christian community that is the church.

• At least one of the parties is baptized.

• The couple has completed appropriate pre-marital counseling from the cleric performing the marriage or some other approved person.

• Any (and all) previous marriages and/or domestic partnerships have been dissolved legally and evidence of this has been provided to the cleric.

• Any former spouse(s) and children have been and are being treated justly. (In some parishes, this is understood as being current on any and all child and spousal support.)

• Where necessary, the appropriate bishop has given consent.

• Thirty days’ advance notice has been provided to the cleric. (The canons state this can be waived for a serious reason. Since there is no reason at this point to expect that the right to marriage in New York is going to be revoked soon, there would need to be a more weighty reason than a strong desire to be among the first married under the new law.)

All clergy, church lay people, and seekers wishing to be married should remember that both the state and the Episcopal Church are very, very clear that no cleric should feel pressured into performing any particular marriage–by a couple, their families, friends, or ethnic/cultural mores.

We urge all parishes, regardless of their stance on same-sex weddings, to update their websites with accurate, complete, and current information regarding their wedding policies, so that seekers may find and read it before making contact.

Peace,

Mary O’Shaughnessy

Convener

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revsusan

All of this is a REALLY good argument for getting organized in Indianapolis and amending our canons to end marriage discrimination.

IMHO.

Susan Russell

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Gary Gilbert

Jim, I am not surprised about Trinity Wall Street because it has an unelected board rather than a vestry. One might argue that a church with that much money would tend to be conservative but the Riverside Church has about the same amount of money and it has already moved on to full inclusion in marriage, both civil and religious, for same-sex couples. Having dealt with Trinity many times, Murdoch and I are not disappointed because we never expected Trinity would be the first to move on LGBT issues. Like the larger Episcopal Church, it waits for other people to do the wait. At least it is not the last to embrace justice.

Murdoch and I read the Episcopal canons on marriage as a joke, given we were together twenty-two years before we married at the Montreal Court House in 2005. I suppose we would need a lot of premarital ghostly counsel to marry in the Episcopal Church. Mary O'Shaughnessy's citing of a thirty day waiting period for same-sex couples who have been denied marriage equality for decades makes no sense for us older couples. If we had waited for the denomination to discern how to respond to the world around us we never would have done anything. Thirty days is not going to make much difference for couples who have been together forever and who have already merged their finances and their lives. The church should probably get out of the marriage business completely. I tend to agree with Luther that the church got into the marriage business to control people's lives.

"Thirty days' advance notice has been provided to the cleric. (The canons state this can be waived for a serious reason. Since there is no reason at this point to expect that the right to marriage in New York is going to be revoked soon, there would need to be a more weighty reason than a strong desire to be among the first married under the new law.)"

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Jim Naughton

From the Times: "He and Father Crawley worship at St. Paul’s Chapel, which is part of Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. In keeping with the local bishop’s directive, Trinity’s priests will not officiate at same-sex marriages, and the parish has not decided whether to allow them to bless such unions."

I had no idea Trinity was so gutless about this. Very disappointing.

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joebrewer

This latest step of forbidding priests to preside at civil weddings of same-sex couples is unacceptable unless he forbids them from presiding at any civil weddings.

Integrity New York is supposed to lobby for LGBT rights,not do damage control for a bishop and a diocese trying to play catchup with a civil law which is light years ahead of church law.

Amen.

Disappointed in Bp. Sisk. Disappointed in Integrity.

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Gary Gilbert

Is anyone familiar with the Diocese of New York and Mr. Sisk surprised at his lukewarm embrace of same-sex couples? I enjoy the irony that the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which usually trails New York and Newark (the most liberal of the three dioceses in the metropolitan region), is now ahead of New York in that it will allow priests to officiate at civil weddings in church as well as bless them in church. Larry Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island, is just starting out, which may explain why he is more modern. He has told his clergy in same-sex relationships they must marry within 9 monhts, not 90 days. Bishop Sisk has always been less than exciting. This latest step of forbidding priests to preside at civil weddings of same-sex couples is unacceptable unless he forbids them from presiding at any civil weddings. Integrity New York is supposed to lobby for LGBT rights,not do damage control for a bishop and a diocese trying to play catchup with a civil law which is light years ahead of church law. I also don't remember Sisk doing much to help us win marriage equality in New York State. He wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times this year saying he supported Governor Cuomo's marriage equality bill but he never used the words "gay," "lesbian," or "LGBT." He referred to the bill as "the bill," so as to prevent his being quoted out of context. Six years ago when Murdoch and I got involved in the marriage equality movement in New York State, we did not see many people from the Diocese of New York. There were lots of Reform Jews, Unitarians, Quakers, United Church of Christ, and some Episcopalians. This is my subjective impression. I also remember Union Theological Seminary came out officially for civil marriage equality, while General Theological Seminary was unable to support the cause officially. General did gives us some prominent activists, however.

The bigger problem is that the so-called generous response resolution, C056, is ambiguous and cedes authority to the bishops on whether and how to recognize same-sex couples in jurisdictions where civil law provides some form of recognition. For years now New York State has recognized Murdoch and me as married but only this year has the Diocese of New York begun to recognize civilly married same-sex couples.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. I didn't expect much from New York, certainly under Mr. Sisk. I am somewhat encouraged by Mr. Provenzano.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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