By Rebecca Wilson
Yesterday morning, on the last day of convention, the House of Deputies passed Resolution C056 on Liturgies for Blessings. The House of Bishops passed this resolution overwhelmingly on Wednesday afternoon.
The final resolution was a substitute for the original C056 and was crafted by a small group of bishops informed by a larger Indaba-style conversation that took place on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
C056 begins the process for the Episcopal Church’s response to various kinds of same-gender unions: committed relationships, domestic partnerships, civil unions and marriages. It also contains a provision for pastoral generosity in states with legal status for same-gender couples.
The ultimate power of this resolution will be determined by the strength of the process it sets in motion. That process—to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships—will be developed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops.
According to the resolution, the Standing Commission will “devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion.” The resources developed by the process will be reported to the 77th General Convention in 2012.
In speaking to the resolution this morning, Deputy Ruth Meyers, secretary of the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee, emphasized that the process would be “open and transparent” and that it would “expand the circle over the next triennium.” Supporters of C056 are particularly enthusiastic that the process encourages participation from people at all levels of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion: individuals, congregations, dioceses, and provinces.
By casting such a wide net, the Commission can include the work of other churches in the Anglican Communion, including New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, that are considering theology of and liturgical rites for same-gender relationships. Through those conversations, the Episcopal Church can continue to demonstrate that moving forward on inclusion actually strengthens some of our relationships in the Anglican Communion.
Thanks to the work of those who crafted C056, the Episcopal Church now has the chance to make progress toward full inclusion in the best possible way. Whether or not we take best advantage of the opportunity now before us is up to the Standing Commission, of course, but it is also up to people all across the church who care about both inclusion and communion.
We need to spend the next three years contributing to the process, fostering conversation, encouraging reflection and paying attention to the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. Throughout this Convention we’ve seen the Holy Spirit working through prayerful conversation, public narrative and Indaba-style groups. If we carry that spirit home and into the work of the next three years, we can both realize the promise of what has been accomplished in Anaheim and strengthen our relationships with one another and our sisters and brothers across the Anglican Communion.
Rebecca Wilson is the director of communications for the Chicago Consultation.