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Report of Task Force on the Study of Marriage

Report of Task Force on the Study of Marriage

Continuing the series on issues that will be heard at General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City. The Blue Book (all reports and resolutions) will be available here

The Task Force on the Study of Marriage has issued its report for General Convention. The task force was formed in response to Resolution A050) of the 77th General Convention in July 2012 for a group of “theologians, liturgists, pastors and educators to identify and explore biblical, theological, historical, liturgical and canonical dimensions of marriage.” Given a very small budget and making use of technology to meet and work, the Task Force has offered a lot of food for thought for the church and some resolutions for GC2015.

The Task Force did its homework on history of marriage and the church, the Scriptures, and tradition. The Report consists of seven essays, a study guide and two resolutions.

First the resolutions (from Susan Russell’s blog– a member of the Task Force):

One calls for changes to Canon I.18 (Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony) and the other to continue the work of the task force for another three years.

[1] The suggested canonical changes would make the Canon I:18 [a] ordered more practically in terms of pastoral practice; [b] focused on the actual vows made in The Book of Common Prayer marriage rite; [c] reflective of the theology expressed in the task force’s study and essays; and [d] inclusive of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
[2] Continuing the work of the task force would provide an opportunity for the church to study — and possibly respond to — the changing realities of marriage in our culture and in our congregations beyond the scope of what the wide-ranging A050 study allowed for.

The essays are by far the most interesting and thorough part of the report. Topics are:

1. A Biblical and Theological Framework for Thinking about Marriage

2. Christian Marriage as Vocation

3. A History of Christian Marriage

4. Marriage as a Rite of Passage

5. The Marriage Canon: History and Critique

6. Agents of the State: A Question for Discernment

7. Changing Trends and Norms in Marriage

Mary Frances Schjonberg, Episcopal News Service has an in-depth report on the resolution about the Marriage Rite.

Tobias Haller, a member of the Task Force writes on his blog

As I read the whole report I wonder (and I know this is outside their assigned task):

  • And what of the fact that about 50.2 percent of adults in the US are single? In 1950, that number was about 22 percent. What do they see in this report?
  • What about the reality of relationships that most parish clergy see. All those who can’t or won’t live according so some ideal norm? How does this report answer the questions of those who are considering divorce?
  • Are we are trying too hard to make something out of marriage and we are asking marriage to bear too much weight?
  • What is at the heart of our concern about marriage regulation and rituals? Marriage in the church is no longer about property rights or “protecting” women — or inheritance. Is it because we want to regulate sex and who can have intimate relationships? Should we be focusing on what it means to be Christian and in a relationship of any kind? Do we need to talk about sex and the church’s seeming need to control it? What ever happened to one of the better resources of the church Sexuality: A Divine Gift?
  • In my experience as a priest people really want to know “What are the qualities of ethical relationships?” “How do I live as a Christian in relationships whether sexually intimate or not.”

What are your reactions as you read the resolutions and the reflections?

Another place to discuss issues to come before General Convention is the Bishops and Deputies list serve. Click here to sign up. 

posted by Ann Fontaine

“Omne Bonum Royal6EVI104 Anulus” by James le Palmer / anonymous illustrator – British Library Royal MS 6 E VI, fol. 104. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 


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Susan Russell

Speaking of marriage … and in case you missed this a while back … commenters Radner & Seitz offered this into the mix a few months back:

Jordan Hylden


Thank you for following this thread all the way through. I clicked through to your blog post just now. If you have the time, I would appreciate clarification about the question I raised earlier in this discussion. I am very happy to be proven wrong in the concerns I raised. Though I have a number of thoughts that are not narrowly focused on this issue, it did seem to me to be a potential issue. I did not want to criticize the report on those grounds in a more formal way if I had misunderstood something.


Susan Russell

Have referred your canonical question to our canon experts … of which I am not one. But since I do have a history background, I will note that there was, in fact, never any canonical “conscience clause” when it came to women’s ordination — just an agreement between bishops.

Susan Russell

If there are folks who are interested in turning their attention to the content of the report — rather than dwelling on the speculation by those who clearly haven’t read it about what it does or does not portend for clergy opposed to marriage equality — I’ve excerpted the Introduction here as an overview:

Susan Russell

for c seitz: I can only assume from your comment about “bowling balls and plant holders” that you haven’t actually read the report. #PeaceOutDude

c seitz


Read it carefully and will organize a full response.

Grateful for your response in the public record.

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus.

c seitz

I know that the church watching and listening to your Taskforce will want to hear a substantive reply to substantive canonical issues.

Thanks for being responsible for this work on behalf of all of the church. We look forward to your reply.

Bro David

Language like this. “You lot” is bog standard English in the United Kingdom (and for all that I know, perhaps other nations of HRM’s realm), it has no negative connotation. It is the equivalent to “you guys,” “yous guys,” “you all,” “y’all.” etc.

BTW, English is not my native language and I have learned to use it from a number of sources. I’m sorry it doesn’t meet your approval.

c seitz

“as you lot”

It was extremely helpful for conservatives to be called down for language like this:

‘you lot’.

And rightly so, as they should be held accountable. Jesus Christ came for ‘all us lot.’

Te Deum.

Bro David

As manipulative as you lot have always been. Raising straw men issues and demanding that folks answer them.

Robert Huttmeyer

Perhaps I will take this to a whole other area, but isn’t this talk of who presides at the ceremony a bit irrelevant? In other words, from my understanding of sacramental theology, the priest is really acting more as an agent of the state than anything else and that the minister of the sacrament is the couple itself. Should not the rites reflect that and be changed accordingly, this would be true regardless of the gender of the couple? Perhaps a rite should be designed to show the primacy of the couple as minister of the sacrament. This would also get away from the idea of the priest as the all important person in the ceremony. I don’t know what this would look like or how it would fit into expectations of what is supposed to happen at a marriage in which I am including and all the other traditions that have been incorporated into a modern marriage ceremony.

Perhaps, part of the problem is that heterosexual marriage has been considered the norm and the elements that have been built around it have been largely unexamined or if they have been examined accepted because many do not want to deal with upset couples and parents. Maybe this could be a way to take back marriage from the corruption of the ceremony that has gradually taken place over the decades when couple choose a place to marry more because it looks pretty then as being a part of a Christian community.

Susan Russell

“Amen” to [a] identifying “part of the problem” and [b] recognizing the solution.

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