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.