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Diocese of Tennessee awaits pastoral direction on same-sex marriage

Diocese of Tennessee awaits pastoral direction on same-sex marriage

More than 100 Episcopalians in the Diocese of Tennessee co-signed a letter this week asking their bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Bauerschmidt, to release his pastoral directives for the use of same-sex marriage rites in the diocese.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies; and the Rev. Susan Russell, co-chair of the Task Force on Communion Across Difference, all received  copies of the letter sent to Bauerschmidt, who co-chairs the Task Force on Communion Across Difference with Russell.  The signatories also sent a different letter to the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry informing him of their communication with Bishop Bauerschmidt; Russell, Clark, and Bauerschmidt also received copies of this letter.

The signatories of the letters are members and supporters of All Sacraments for All People (ASAP), a grassroots organization founded by members of the Diocese of Tennessee who are working for marriage equality and access in all dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

Resolution B012, passed at last summer’s General Convention, authorizes the use of same-sex marriage rites in all dioceses of the Episcopal Church and requires dissenting bishops to make provision for members and congregations who wish to make use of these rites.  The resolution states:

“…in dioceses where the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority (or, where applicable, ecclesiastical supervision) holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples, and there is a desire to use such rites by same-sex couples in a congregation or worshipping community, the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority (or ecclesiastical supervision) shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites…”

The resolution was to be implemented by the first Sunday of Advent, 2018, but as of the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2019, Bishop Bauerschmidt had yet to release guidelines for how the resolution would be implemented in the Diocese of Tennessee.  

In their letter directed to Bishop Bauerschmidt, dated January 7, the members of ASAP expressed the longing felt by LGBTQ+ church members and their families as they await pastoral direction on their access to marriage in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, writing: 

“At least one couple and their rector have in good faith reached out to find out how you would like to structure episcopal oversight for their marriage. They continue to wait for an answer. Other committed couples anxiously wait to make their vows before God surrounded by the communities who love and support them. Grandparents, parents, siblings, extended families, and friends are eager to bear witness to these unions in church, taking seriously their role in promising to ‘do all in (our) power to uphold these two persons in their marriage.’“

In their communication with Presiding Bishop Curry, dated the same day, the signatories also expressed their frustration with the delay, noting,

“It is disappointing that the bishop tapped to co-chair the Communion Across Difference task force – an official, interim body of the Episcopal Church – has, to date, failed to work within the agreed upon parameters set by the governing body of that church.”

The Task Force on Communion Across Difference, co-chaired by Bauerschmidt and Russell, was established by General Convention to

“…[seek] a lasting path forward for mutual flourishing consistent with this Church’s polity and the 2015 ‘Communion across Difference’ statement of the House of Bishops, affirming (1) the clear decision of General Convention that Christian marriage is a covenant open to two people of the same sex or of the opposite sex, (2) General Convention’s firm commitment to make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to authorized liturgies; and also affirming (3) the indispensable place that the minority who hold to this Church’s historic teaching on marriage have in our common life…”

In an email to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, Bishop Bauerschmidt indicated that the guidance on use of same-sex marriage rites in the Diocese of Tennessee will be available later this month.

Despite his delay in releasing guidance on the use of same-sex marriage rites, Bishop Bauerschmidt released on January 3, 2019 a Pastoral Teaching on Marriage on the diocesan website, which echoes his earlier statements and sentiments about marriage.   The document, which is more than 4,800 words long, seeks to “offer a theological account of the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage to members of the Diocese of Tennessee.”


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George Schneider

Many years ago I left the Roman church due to a perception right or wrong hat they had a “do as I say, not as I do” theology. I was “unchurched” for over 30 years before realizing I had a huge emptiness and came to the Episcopal Church. Once I saw and realized all I had been missing, I became very involved with numerous ministies including several licenced lay ministries, vestry, etc. I am currently in one of the more conservative diocese, Springfield, and very much agree with the Bishop of Albany. It seems once again I am not going to be leaving a Church but the Church will be leaving me.

Fred Loving

Ref. to above this thread has to do with Diocese of Tennessee. Please re -read the comments policy as you are really pushing the limits. If the moderator does not want to point this out I will.

Fred Loving

George, you are not alone. There are more of us, we are just spread out all over. I just happen to be in a liberal diocese.

Cynthia Katsarelis

I am truly sorry that you feel that you need to leave the church because my wife and I felt called to the sacrament of marriage. We are very active in the church and the sacraments mean something to us. It was an occasion for joy in our parish and in our common life. I don’t understand why my/our joy is a problem for you, or why you would feel the need to sever your relations with your conservative communities over it. God is God and can work out the particulars. I do wish you would stay put and live with difference (which may never come to your parish), just live with it as a Christian in the Body of Christ. I think you’ll find that it isn’t so catastrophic, even so, we are all called to live in community with people of all sorts and conditions. It’s worth a try.

Eric Bonetti

Regrettably, silence is all too often how TEC bishops respond when confronted with challenging or difficult situations. When this happens, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they are playing games, versus being servant leaders.

Leo Schuman

It is sad to see that the bishop and chief pastor of a Diocese will respond to USA Today on this question, while simultaneously ignoring a request for pastoral oversight from members of his own diocese, made in line with the directive from General Convention.

This leaves me questioning his capacity to serve as co-leader of the Task Force on Communion Across Difference.

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