The Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has released excerpts from its “I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing: Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships,” report, including the text of its proposed rite of blessing.
In addition to the proposed rite, the excerpts released March 8 include a theological reflection on blessing same-gender relationships and two related legislative resolutions that the SCLM will recommend to General Convention when it meets in Indianapolis July 4-12.
“We really wanted to give bishops and deputies in particular an opportunity to understand the material prior to General Convention, and providing it to the wider church then allowed bishops and deputies to hear from the wider church as part of their discernment about how they might respond at convention,” the Rev. Ruth Meyers, Hodges-Haynes professor of liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and SCLM chair, told Episcopal News Service in a telephone interview shortly before the excerpts were posted.
The SCLM’s work comes in response to General Convention’s 2009 mandate (via Resolution C056) that it work with the House of Bishops to collect and develop theological resources and liturgies for blessing same-gender relationships and report to this summer’s 77th meeting of convention.
The proposed rite is titled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.” Marriage is specifically not mentioned because, as Meyers has frequently pointed out, C056 called for development of resources for blessing same-gender relationships and not solemnizing marriages of same-gender couples. However, the introductory page of the rite notes that “to comply with the laws of the civil jurisdiction in which the rite is celebrated, the priest shall consult the bishop, who may authorize modifications in the Pronouncement” section of the rite.
Meyers told ENS that the commission wanted “to leave leeway for” bishops in such settings who have already or may yet decide that clergy in their dioceses may officiate at the civil portion of a marriage or civil union. She said such a decision may necessitate a change in the wording of the portion of the liturgy in which the presider says “Inasmuch as N. and N. have exchanged vows of love and fidelity in the presence of God and the Church, I now pronounce that they are bound to one another in a holy covenant, as long as they both shall live. Amen.”
The rite, meant to occur within the context of the Holy Eucharist, includes a suggested extension of the opening acclamation; an exhortation (which traditionally begins “Dearly beloved:) specific to the nature of the rite; four suggested new collects; lists of appropriate Old Testament and Epistle lessons, psalms and gospel readings; a new preface to the eucharistic prayer and a new post-communion prayer.
The “witnessing of the vows and blessing of the covenant” section includes newly written additions to a structure and elements that echo to the Book of Common Prayer’s marriage rite.
Meyers told ENS that the commission’s liturgical task group received “hundreds” of blessing rites, some dating to the 1970s, submitted by Episcopalians in response to a request from the SCLM. Based on a set of liturgical and theological principles for reviewing the rites, they read each one and borrowed from some of them, she said. A sampling of the rites is here.