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Diocese of Texas sees qualified momentum in same-gender blessings

Diocese of Texas sees qualified momentum in same-gender blessings

From the Diocese of Texas:

Texas Bishop Announces Plan to Navigate Proposed Rite


The Bishop of Texas, C. Andrew Doyle, announced his response to the likely approval at this summer’s General Convention of the blessing of same-gender covenants today at a special meeting of diocesan clergy. Bishop Doyle outlined his plan to help unify the Diocese of Texas, addressing both liberal and traditional congregations’ positions at the gathering at Camp Allen April 24.

Bishop Doyle began working with former Secretary of State James Baker in 2010 to develop the outline of his plan. He has since received support for his leadership from people in the diocese who represent the broad diversity of opinion on the blessing of same-gender covenants.

“My plan does not ask for further debate or require approval,” Bishop Doyle told the clergy gathered at Camp Allen. “I have not asked people to change their positions or even to like the plan that I am setting before us,” he explained. “It is my deepest desire to offer a generous breadth of pastoral care for our members throughout the diocese.”

The plan contains several options:

1. Congregations may choose to take no action, one way or the other.

2. Traditional congregations/rectors may state that they will not conduct or participate in rites for blessing persons of the same gender, sponsor for ordination anyone or employ any clergy who are in a non-celibate relationship outside holy matrimony.

3. Following General Convention, one congregation in Houston and one congregation in Austin will be granted permission to bless same-gender covenants. Both the rector and the congregation must support such a liturgy and must complete the congregational education portion of the process. Additional congregations may request permission in the future. A provision for clergy who wish to do blessings of same-gender covenants outside the church is also included.

Current Texas law does not recognize unions of same-gender couples therefore no representation may be made that the blessing liturgy either creates or solemnizes any marriage, civil union or other legal relationship.

Noting the predominant traditional stance in the Diocese of Texas, the Bishop said that he will vote against the resolution to approve rites for blessing a same-gender partnership and that he will abstain from voting on the election of bishops living in a same-gender partnership. Additionally he stated that he personally will not bless any same-gender covenant.

In a 120-page document, Unity in Mission, with a foreword by Secretary Baker, the Bishop provides his in-depth perspective on the unity of the church, his leadership, foundations in traditional marriage and a discussion of opposing views as well as what he believes is a proper response. A detailed description of his plan to provide different responses while maintaining the unity of the Church provides several options. Also included in the paper is a letter of support from a broad and diverse group of clergy and lay leaders. They note that the real cost of the conflict over the last several decades has been “the mission of the gospel” and state their support of the bishop and acknowledge his plan as a way forward. Supporters say the plan is “an earnest offering to live into our Lord’s Prayer that ‘we all may be one’” while they acknowledge that not everyone will be happy with it.

Bishop Doyle has made provision for clergy and congregations to change their position at any time. Guidelines will be available in the fall of 2012 to help clergy and congregations respond pastorally.

“I hold our work for the Lord Jesus Christ to be paramount in who we are and in everything we do. Our mission and ministry have been dogged by our disagreements and conflict over the blessing of same-gender couples for too long at the expense of the mission of the gospel. I pray that this plan will help to guide us beyond conflict and give us the ability to refocus our attention on the hurting world around us. I am hopeful that we will learn from one another and deepen our respect and love for one another throughout this process,” Bishop Doyle said.

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Nicole Porter

Individual parishes should always remain free to call only the clergy that they believe should serve,period.

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A Facebook User

It may seem a small point semantically, but it's meaningful in application. The Episcopal Church is not 'standing for equality;' it is standing against discrimination. Until the Church adopts an authentic non-discrimination policy for clergy and lay employees, equality still does not exist. The only non-discrimination canon even somewhat related to clergy is the one related to persons seeking admission to the process of discernment for Holy Orders.

There continues to exist in this Church the power for a diocese or a bishop ordinary to prohibit the employment in said dioces of non-celibate and partnered gay clergy. This power is being used.

This is the definition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, yet there is exactly nothing in the national canons to stop this practice. The Church's move forward and the progress in the Diocese of Texas, of which I am a member priest, is real indeed. Thanks be to God. This is mighty step forward, and I commend my bishop for taking it. It almost without precedent. But this merely one step on the way that remains before us to genuine inclusion and that holy destination where we will celebrate our differences as much as we appreciate all that we have in common.

Jim Stockton +

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Gary Paul Gilbert

Thank you, Donald, I hope you are right about the Diocese of Texas. I am from Maine and went to a college founded by abolitionists. And I live in a state which has civil marriage equality. Reading through the text the Bishop of Texas wrote, I felt uncomfortable when I saw him citing the Windsor Report. This sounded like more Rowan Williams nonsense.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was pragmatic but he could also be bold as when he pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1954 and said, "Johnson told Kennedy aide Ted Sorensen that "I know the risks are great and we might lose the South, but those sorts of states may be lost anyway." Whatever we do the Episcopal Church may lose certain states. I think standing for equality is better than pandering to the worst in people.

Treating same-sex couples like all other couples does not harm anyone. Making it seem as if they are hot potatoes does.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Donald Schell

Gary Paul,

I get where you're coming from, but this 'too little, too late' is likely how change will look as it comes to Africa and even Rome.

I wish we'd seen comparable politically savvy compromise from Rowan Williams as it was becoming clear that the American Church was going to confirm Gene Robinson's election.

What Andy is doing in Texas acknowledges the possibility that possibly unprecedented change in the life of the church just might be the Spirit of Truth at work AND he does it while manifesting his determination to continue to acknowledge and respect people who haven't seen it yet or see change otherwise. As we've seen, Rowan's version seems to have cancelled his own conscience by attempting to stop, silence, and even censure those he actually agreed with. Andy exercises leadership by respectfully making space at the same time as he's saying the bishop's job is to hold and serve the whole community.

I can see how the question of how we failed (repeatedly) to address the question of racial justice is relevant, and that's the real question, not 'what if we did something like this with race. We did a lot worse. Positive change initially looked like ordaining black clergy for a separate but equal church. But, more like recent 'leadership' from Canterbury, we kept the church 'together' after the Civil War by deliberately and explicitly refusing to speak to slavery or emancipation at all.

Texas's solution to this one is a very pragmatic, patchwork pastoral compromise that old style (LBJ) Texas politics can appreciate.

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Gary Paul Gilbert

This is too little, too late. Unity bought at the price of discriminating against one category of person is unacceptable.

http://www.epicenter.org/mediafiles/unity-in-mission.pdf is the url.

or

http://tinyurl.com/7tcynhd

Jeffrey, We don't even have a national list of Episcopal congregations which have voted to support LGBT equality, whereas the American Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans (ELCA), the United Church of Christ, and the Unitarians do.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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