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Should the Episcopal Church embrace marriage equality?

Should the Episcopal Church embrace marriage equality?

The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage is continuing its work, and ever more Episcopalians live in states in which marriage equality is now the law. Indiana joined the fast-growing group yesterday.

Yesterday, too, the task force released Dearly Beloved, a resource for study and discussion about marriage.

The accompanying release says:

Our hope is that many will take advantage of this moment in our history to be a part of discerning our way forward. In our day, what is God calling us to understand, to say, and perhaps to do in regards to marriage?

We can only answer this question if far more than 12 people get involved. Broad discussion will assist those deputies and bishops – representatives of us all – at General Convention 2015, when they receive our report and consider possible responses to our church’s call to deepen this conversation.

Meanwhile, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has reported to the church about its “two-and-a-half-day Indaba-style conversation on same-sex marriage June 3-5 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City,” which included “leaders from across the Anglican Communion, ecumenical partners, and lay and clergy representatives from Episcopal dioceses where civil same-sex marriage is legal.”

Marriage will be much on the minds of deputies and bishops when they gather in Salt Lake City in one year for General Convention. Do you believe that the Episcopal Church should adopt marriage equality as its norm at that convention? If so, how should this be done–through a new ritual, through gender neutral revisions to the Book of Common Prayer, or perhaps in some other way? We welcome your thoughts.


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Geoffrey McLarney

“My very first post mentioned “official” theology/doctrine. That’s what I’m after here. No goal posts have moved.”

Oh, I’m not sure: it seems to me what you mean by “official” theology is all over the map.

The “official” theological rationale for marriage is in the rite of the Book of Common Prayer. That is, as Dennis points out, as “official” as it gets for Episcopalians. According to that rationale, marriage is “is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.”

For Episcopalians, that’s the theological justification for marriage, whether you are gay or straight. Frankly, I don’t think it’s helpful to try and separate out same-sex marriages and look for some theological rationale independent of the rationale for marriage. Nevertheless, some have done very good work on those terms – you have already noted To Set Our Hope and I have already noted Br Tobias’s work.

If, as you seem to indicate, the former is what you mean by “official” theology, then I think you may overestimate the canonical weight of a theological study document in the Episcopal Church, and that also might explain my confusion about what you mean. Tobias’s work may be “hardly official doctrine” in that it isn’t one of the Articles of Religion but it is thoroughly rooted in Scripture and the Church’s doctrine of marriage.

That’s what I mean by shifting goal posts: you ask where the work is, and then when it is cited you discount it as not being “official”. But if it is “officialized” too quickly, you complain that GC and 815 are riding roughshod over us.

Adam Spencer

I have indeed read it, Ann. Thank you for sharing it again though! It is exactly the sort of work I’m talking about. “To Set Our Hope on Christ” is similarly good, in my opinion. It isn’t quite fair of me to say that we don’t do this sort of thing at all – just that I’d hope we might do more (and certainly not less) of it.

Ann Fontaine

Have you read this document- here is an excerpt. It is where we are with what we are doing theologically and in worship.

Adam Spencer


I believe you have me confused with someone else, I’m afraid. I’m not a former evangelical. Sorry!

But it was precisely the Episcopal Church’s commitment to tradition AND reason that made me think, “I belong here.” The liturgy, the emphasis on beauty, the richness (Scripturally and theologically) of the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer, the historic episcopate and sacraments alongside a polity that allows for doctrine and structure and the lot to be open to ever-fresh interpretation and amendment that yet which also seeks to preserve the everlasting truth and integrity of Christian tradition (in the Creeds and Sacraments). I agree wholeheartedly with you when you talk about the participatory nature of our particular sort of Christianity. And I would not feel welcome in this Church if it became truly confessional in the way that you discuss it. But that’s not what I’m proposing. I’m proposing making deep and bold theological statements as a Church that are true to who we are. “We are doing this because we believe this which is an extension of this long-held Christian belief.” Or some such. And when I talk about creating doctrine, I’m talking about creating a body of teaching that enriches, deepens, explains, yes, but also challenges our faith. Not never-changing. Not impenetrable or irrevocable. But out there. It is already there in the Prayer Book. There’s doctrine in there. We do indeed pray as we believe. I’m just saying, let’s SAY it proudly too. Let’s write it down. This is who we are. This is what we hold to. And, most important to my argument, here’s why.


(Not sure why the above double posted.)

Adam, I read some of your blog. In it you talk about leaving a home-based evangelical church. That sounds like it was a big step. I’m glad that you are with us.

Tell me this: what brought you to the Episcopal Church? What about the Episcopal Church made you think, “yes, these could be my people, I think I’ll join.” I would, in real sincerity and good will, encourage you to share that story. What stood out for you and brought you in the door?


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