Report of Task Force on the Study of Marriage

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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:

Introduction
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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163 Responses to "Report of Task Force on the Study of Marriage"
  1. Forgive me if I sound - oh, I don't know, maybe 'cynical' is the word - but I'm sitting here, shaking my head and seeing a Big Phat Irony. Then again, maybe it's just me. So, here it is:

    This study/report was initiated by the movement to Bless the Covenants of Same Sex Couples in the church and the Marriage Equality Movement in society.

    And, now - Now! - we ask questions like: "Are we are trying too hard to make something out of marriage and we
    are asking marriage to bear too much weight?"

    And: "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?"
    Not that these are not good questions, but, well, given the context as I see it. . . .

    Never mind. Carry on.

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    • I hear that Elizabeth. But the report does not set the quest for same sex marriage in church as the context. I know the history of how the Task Force came to be and think it was probably one more stalling of marriage equality. But since they have taken on the topic of marriage these are questions that I and others who have read the report have. And yes I hope there is funding to carry on.

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  2. While we were asked by General Convention to study marriage, you're asking good questions about factors that lie outside of our charge, and which are therefore not a substantial part of our report - other than in the last essay, on current trends and norms.

    That's why one of our proposed resolutions, currently A037, asks for authorization and funding to continue to study "those who choose to remain single; unmarried persons in intimate relationships; couples who cohabitate either in preparation for, or as an alternative to, marriage; couples who desire a blessing from the church but not marriage; parenting by single or and/or unmarried persons; differing forms of family and household such as those including same-sex parenting, adoption, and racial diversity; and differences in marriage patterns between ethnic and racial groups, and between provinces inside and outside the United States."

    It is our hope that by doing such a study in the next triennium, our church may then, in 2018, have something to say about the 50% who are single or in relationships other than marriage, and that General Convention will agree.

    Brian C. Taylor
    Chair, the Task Force on the Study of Marriage

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  3. "What is at the heart of our concern about marriage regulation and rituals?"

    Shouldn't the heart of it be about it's nature as a sacrament: a visible sign of an invisible grace?

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  4. “Are we are trying too hard to make something out of marriage and we are asking marriage to bear too much weight?”

    What a fascinating question. In the quest to produce neologisms like 'heterosexual marriage' has a new whig conception of 'marriage' emerged that will end up unable to bear the weight of late modernity and its general skepticism of rites and universals?

    Leaving that important question aside, can someone on the committee tell us whether the '79 BCP rite can still be used by those who so wish, with Preface and 'male and female' language intact? Or do all couples now find themselves before an emerging new rite that will leave those parts out in the march for what is being called 'equality'?

    I ask because my reading of the document referred to here appears to want to keep the '79 rite but treat its language as incidental. Let new canons allow for a malleable 'rite.' Is this a correct reading?

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  5. The resolution of the Task Force does not propose any change to the BCP. Nor does the canonical change authorize a parish priest to tinker with the language of the BCP. The opening clause clearly states that marriages may be solemnized by using any rite authorized by this church. That authorization is automatic for the BCP; provisional or trial rites, either already in use of yet to appear, will also be authorized for specific use, and that at present includes the rite in "I Will Bless You..." It is up to the SCLM and the General Convention to address the issues of what rites may be developed. The Constitution (Article X) does permit a bishop to authorize a rite for local use where the BCP does not provide a form -- as is clearly the case for same-sex marriage; this has also happened in some dioceses, who have chosen this course instead of using the provisional rite from "I Will Bless You..."

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    • The term 'Trial Rite' is carefully defined and also requires a majority of all Bishop eligible to vote in the quorum. I do not believe it can be ranged alongside the (newly devised) provisional rite without explanation.

      I was under the impression that the language of vows and preface was now under negotiation. I gather from your comment that this refers to the development of a *new rite* which will come alongside it post GC 2015, wherein these changes are put into place. For that to amount to a 'Trial Rite' would require more than the present arrangement for Bishops in individual dioceses to avail themselves of what is called 'provisional rites.'

      Is this what is being sought, then, at GC 2015? A new Trial Rite with changes in the BCP rite with respect to vows and preface, to be ranged alongside it (until such time that a new BCP emerges)?

      This is a major change so it would good to have all the facts in front of us.

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      • The situation is precisely as you describe it. A "Trial Rite" is not the same as a provisional or supplemental rite. I mentioned it as a possibility.

        It is, however, a possibility about which our Task Force offers neither prognostication nor proposal. Proposals will no doubt come from other sources, and it will be up to the General Convention to sort through them, including any proposal for trial use of an "alternative" or "revision of" a "portion" of the BCP.

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      • Thank you.

        For those of us old enough to remember, 'trial rite' was language that emerged with respect to the new 1979 BCP: it referred to those rites to be disseminated across the dioceses for a season in the run up to a final, wholesale, BCP revision.

        If you did not believe that the 1928 ought to be banished, you likely left. So the Trial Rites gave notice in general terms of where we were headed.

        The term did not refer to individual sub-sections of the BCP (like the rite presently being negotiated). But it appears that will not stop those who want piecemeal reform of this particular marriage rite and who may wish to use this language to move the matter forward, beyond the 'provisional rite' arrangements of the last GC.

        At issue will be (as was true in 2012 as well), 1) whether the necessary votes are there for a Trial Rite (or whether this will be finessed), and 2) whether 'throughout all the church' language re: Trial Rite means that individuals have access to a new rite no matter what the view of the Diocese/Bishop.

        One can well imagine the HOB wanting to give assurances that a rite for use throughout all the church will not take away a Bishop's discretion, or a diocesan canon's authority (we are speaking here not of individual priestly discretion but rather the view of an entire diocese qua diocese).

        But equally one can imagine individual priests and also couples wanting to say a Trial Rite overrides a Bishop or Diocese.

        We have no judicatory in TEC to sort this out. I hope due consideration will be given to this issue--not just within the HOB--at GC 2015 more broadly.

        It will be good to know if 'Trial Rite' language is going to be brought into play with respect to a single pastoral rite, how this use of the term will play out in the case of individual dioceses/Bishops.

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      • Here you are somewhat mistaken. The Constitution (Article X) provides for the trial use of alternatives or replacements both of the whole book and for portions of it. The revision process of the 1928 included separate "Prayer Book Study" documents of all of the various sections, distributed over years, including trial rites for particular sections of the BCP. These included, for instance, the separate little booklet, "Liturgy of the Lord's Supper" that was in use in the 60s -- and which I am old enough to remember having used.

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    • The main point is as I have stated it. The point of the Trial Rites was in full conjunction with an anticipated New BCP in its entirety. This was true even if the green book, zebra book, supplemental rites, etc covered individual sections. A completely revised BCP in its entirety was the project.

      That is not true in the present instance.

      Hence the relevance of the questions about individual dioceses. I look forward to having attention paid to the main issue.

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      • The Constitution was amended in 1961-64 to provide for trial use. The amendment was worded in such a way to allow both for wholesale revision of the whole book, or of individual parts of it. Here is the text of the Constitution as adopted in 1964 (emphasis mine):

        (b) Authorize for trial use throughout this Church, as an alternative at any time or times to the established Book of Common Prayer or to any section or office thereof, a proposed revision of the whole Book or of any portion thereof, duly undertaken by the General Convention.
        (White and Dykman, page 137)

        I am of the opinion that the ecclesastical authority of a diocese does not have the authority to forbid the use of a portion of the BCP, or any rite authorized for trial use. Others disagree. But until a trial use proposal comes up, this is a moot point, and certainly not one to be settled in a blog.

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      • Now you have succeeded in putting your finger right on the main issue. Thank you for that. You write:

        "I am of the opinion that the ecclesastical authority of a diocese does not have the authority to forbid the use of a portion of the BCP, or any rite authorized for trial use. Others disagree. But until a trial use proposal comes up, this is a moot point, and certainly not one to be settled in a blog."

        I believe the blog is precisely a good place to have all of these sorts of exigencies firmly in view.

        At issue is the office of Bishop; the place of diocesan canons; the deference of said canons to what the church has taught, as so too the Bishop as Bishop (what you have here termed the 'ecclesiastical authority').

        If we are entering territory where a Trial Rite will raise all these issues in its wake, we had better be informed at all levels about just what this will mean.

        And it would be best if all this was aired as widely as possible. We have just witnessed the tragic fallout from allowing special insider talk and arrangements to go on without full scrutiny.

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      • Sorry for the miscoding of the boldface in my previous note.

        It seems to me that you are raising a concern that is already addressed in the raising of it. That is to say, you recognize the difference between "provisional" use (subject to the local authority) and "trial" use which is general "throughout this church" and of its very nature not to be overridden locally (else how can it be general and "throughout"?) Except now you appear to want to argue whether it can be overridden. What, then, distinguishes it from "provisional" use?

        The reason I suggest this is a moot point is that no one has yet made such a proposal. I think that when the proposal is made perhaps some added notice of the distinction between "trial" and "provisional" use could well be made, but I think it is a distinction that all but a few already recognize and understand.

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      • PS--it would be useful to know where said disagreements arose; and what their character is.

        Obviously you are referring to a discussion that isn't off in the future but one that is relevant now.

        This is unsurprising as it sits right on top of major neuralgic points in our polity.

        Is a Trial rite "for use throughout the church " at the same time one a Bishop cannot disallow, as over against the BCP rite?

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      • The difference is clear.

        You are saying that a Bishop does not have the authority to deny a Trial Rite in favor of the BCP rite presently in place, even if she/he and a diocesan canon would judge the latter to be in conflict with the constitutional former.

        A 'provisional rite' is a made-up category so that bishops can operate with new rites they wish without having to get the votes for a Trial Rite and/or accept the logic of a Trial Rite as an individually created rite vis-à-vis the actual BCP still in constitutional force.

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      • My typing error. Should read "Even if she/he and a diocesan canon should judge the former be in conflict with the constitutional latter."

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  6. What about those parishes and clergy that wish to retain the current definition of Holy Matrimony and the service which is in the BCP now? Or would a future "gender-neutral" rite be forced on everyone?

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    • I suspect the reflex will be to say that no clergy person must do X or Y.

      But what does that genuinely mean, on the ground?

      'Exemplary ss couple' want to be 'married.' Priest says she/he do not believe that there is any dominical/scriptural/traditional warrant for marriage beyond what the church has taught and believed on these same grounds.

      Couple resist.

      Couple find another Priest to undertake the 'marriage.' Couple return to the parish in question.

      It is precisely these kind of pastoral complexities that will emerge.

      And I think more to the point is the integrity of Bishop and Diocesan canons. What if a Trial Rite becomes the GC 2015 outcome and a Bishop says No. Won't the couple referred to above say this is not tolerable? Who will referee this?

      I do hope these practical issues are faced into. Assurances that clergy can always say No to any marriage may have made a certain kind of sense in the former dispensation--not without its own difficulties--but that is the one we are beginning to exit, into this new conceptuality.

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      • And while a priest can say no or yes, would a deacon be forced to participate in such a rite for same sex couples? Do they fall under "clergy", because that isn't always clear.

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      • Ann, the reason I asked was because I've seen in places that "clergy" just refer to "priests and bishops" but thank you for the clarification.

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      • I do not think Priests will be able to say yes or no. See the above. This is a red herring.

        Moreover, if a Trial Rite is held to be uncontestable vis-à-vis the constitutional BCP, so far as a Bishop or diocesan canons are concerned, then a Bishop's hands are tied as well.

        Glad this is being clarified before GC.

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      • The canons are clear - clergy can say no to any wedding or blessing or other rite.

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  7. Of course they can.

    Until we are in the territory of 'class action' thinking.

    Then if one says No and explains why, couple will demand that the Trial Rite apply to them equally.

    Why is this particularly difficult to see?

    And if we get into a place where the Bishop's discretion and Diocesan Canons are voided before a Trial Rite, said Priest will soon find themselves isolated and without much space to adopt a different pastoral stance.

    But it is good to look at this through clear eyes.

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    • Since the expectation (maybe even requirement? - it is in my diocese) is that at least one member of the couple be a member of the Episcopal Church, wouldn't it be more likely that the couple in question is already part of a parish that welcomes them?

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  8. I am surprised that Mr. Haller, who is a member of the Taskforce, seems uninterested in the issue trial use of same-sex marriage rites, and their potential canonical force on bishops and dioceses. The Taskforce was charged quite explicitly to deal with canonical issues touching on marriage. It is hardly news that there are those in the church who are concerned that the kinds of changes the present proposal will lead to, will also form the basis for forcing bishops and dioceses the permit things do not agree with for very substantive reasons, or face discipline. None of this is "moot", but very much at the center of this discussion.

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    • Dear Ephraim, it is not that I am uninterested in the matter, but two things stand out for me in this discussion:

      1) Dr. Seitz's speculations are just that, speculations. I've said what I think the outcome would be should trial use be engaged rather than provisional use, but he -- and you -- appear not to fully understand the implications of trial use. To wit:

      2) Trial use in this instance (or any other) does not force any bishop or cleric to make use of any given rite. Since most liturgical decisions are made at the parish level, I am sure that many of the "trial use" portions of the BCP in transition from 28 to 79 never saw the light of day in any number of parishes.

      What is evident (to me) is that a bishop cannot forbid the use of any portion of the BCP or Constitutional "trial use" of an alternative or revision; which "trial use" is just as "constitutional" as the BCP itself, and which would be meaningless if bishops could interpose an outright ban on a text authorized for trial. It would then, as I say above, be no different to the supplemental or provisional rites that require permission from the local ecclesiastical authority.

      But even if a bishop allows the use of a trial rite no individual cleric can be forced to make use of it -- particularly the marriage rite, for which the particular clerical option to decline is spelled out.

      So it is not that I am uninterested. I just think there is little point pursuing an argument based on such fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of "trial use" -- if, indeed such a trial use is proposed, which, frankly, I doubt.

      Hope this clarifies both my position and my reason for not pursuing it further.

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      • A correction on rereading in the next to the last paragraph: the bishop does not need to "allow" trial use. It is "allowed" by the Constitution -- which is why the Bishop cannot forbid it.

        So the first sentence should read: "But even if trial use is adopted, no individual cleric... &c."

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  9. As is written above:

    "What is evident (to me) is that a bishop cannot forbid the use of any portion of the BCP or Constitutional “trial use” of an alternative or revision; which “trial use” is just as “constitutional” as the BCP itself, and which would be meaningless if bishops could interpose an outright ban on a text authorized for trial."

    This is an important opinion to have in the record.

    For it begs the question. A Bishop (and Diocesan Canon) can very well conclude that GC would be in error in not understanding a Trial Rite as itself on collision with the plain sense of the constitutional BCP rite.

    Bishops will indeed conclude this.

    If the position is being asserted that any Trial Rite confected by a committee is a natural extension of the BCP rite and not at odds with it, well that is exactly what is under scrutiny.

    It is good for Fr Haller to be so clear in his view well ahead of time and to have that in the record.

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    • Dr. Seitz, you are most welcome. I am also grateful for the clarity with which you and others of ACI express your speculation concerning what amounts to nullification.

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  10. I am not speaking for anyone but Bishops who may judge an assertion of congruity between a 'trial rite' and the plain sense of the BCP rite dubious.

    It is helpful to have you declare that this is self-evident. It will focus the discussion.

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  11. To make Jon White's point in a slightly different way: it's amusing to me that Msseurs. Seitz, Porter, and Radner believe that gay persons would have any desire to belong to the congregations they describe here - i.e., congregations that have no desire to see gay couples (and the individuals who compose them) flourish. Indeed, to be part of congregations who would apparently actively work against that goal.

    Sorry; no.

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  12. "2) Trial use in this instance (or any other) does not force any bishop or cleric to make use of any given rite. Since most liturgical decisions are made at the parish level, I am sure that many of the “trial use” portions of the BCP in transition from 28 to 79 never saw the light of day in any number of parishes.

    What is evident (to me) is that a bishop cannot forbid the use of any portion of the BCP or Constitutional “trial use” of an alternative or revision; which “trial use” is just as “constitutional” as the BCP itself, and which would be meaningless if bishops could interpose an outright ban on a text authorized for trial. It would then, as I say above, be no different to the supplemental or provisional rites that require permission from the local ecclesiastical authority."

    It seems to me that these two paragraphs contradict one another.

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    • No, Dale, they are two different things. Let me put it in clearer language concerning the present BCP, about which there is no present controversy. A Bishop is not "forced" to make use of The Prayer of Humble Access, for instance; but a Bishop cannot forbid the use of this authorized prayer in her diocese -- because it has been authorized by a higher authority: the whole church acting in General Convention.

      The same is true of "Trial Use" -- as spelled out in the Constitution. Trial Use requires a somewhat lower threshold of a single session of Convention; but it is not envisioned as a permanent change -- unless so adopted after the Trial Use.

      There is all the difference in the world between "Forced to use" and "cannot forbid the use." No one can force the past President to eat broccoli, but nor can he forbid other people eating it: these are different things.

      The question in hand is the putative authority of an individual bishop to override the decisions of the General Convention acting in accordance with the Constitution. I do not recognize this principle as in keeping with our polity.

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      • We saw a similar problem with Title IV (and it is further playing out in MD right now, concerning the role of the PB vis-à-vis fellow Bishops).

        Viz., what if GC seeks to adopt a formal position that others regard as actually at odds with the Constitution of TEC?

        Bishops will certainly be able to conclude that the argument (a Trial Rite is continuous with the BCP rite) is false. In so doing, they will seek to uphold the BCP as against the Trial Rite. The Trial Rite finds the BCP rite inadequate and so adopts certain novel claims over against it.

        Bishops and Diocesan canons will expose this problem.

        So before one begins to push for a Trial Rite it is imperative to recognize what it will do. Haller has himself made it clear: it will seek to tie a Bishop's hands. And in so doing, it will affect the individual Priest's pastoral care in his or her jurisdiction.

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  13. If they belong to congregations in dioceses where the Bishops will have to defer to 'Trial Rites' it won't matter which congregations they belong to or how welcomed they may themselves feel.

    But I can say unequivocally that lots of gay couples belong to parishes where they like the liturgy and feel content to worship. If the rector is not in favor of ss blessings and GC 2015 asserts that every parish must comply, you can be very sure they will make their presence felt. And why not.

    How is this surprising?

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    • What's surprising is that you seem to believe there's some sort of "pastoral problem" that needs solving in the very elaborate scenario you outlined above. I assure you there's not; such a gay couple would be very unlikely to worry for a moment about what the priest has to say about the matter. Why in the world would they?

      And I see now you have added a clause: that "every parish must comply." Where exactly did that come from, and what does it have to do with your original scenario?

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  14. What disappoints me is that the Taskforce -- if Haller's views are representative -- hasn't thought it necessary to deal with the potential fall-out of their canonical proposal as it touches, quite precisely, "trial usage". Of course there is no such trial rite at present; but the proposed canonical change will clear the way for such a rite. Surely that is the purpose, in part? But, as Mr Haller notes, as far as he is concerned, a trial rite will mean that a bishop -- or a diocesan canon -- cannot "forbid" its use. Given the recent history of the Episcopal Church, why in the world should traditional members of this church not feel deeply suspicious of the line being laid out here that will lead to yet one more basis upon which to discipline bishops? More litigation, more money, more acrimony. (Mr. Haller's use of the term "nullifcation" is impertinent to the question at hand.) The Taskforce, if I am to understand Mr. Haller at his word, was simply not interested in this question as part of its brief. But my point is: it should have been and it should be. It was charged with dealing with canonical and pastoral matters among others things.

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    • Ephraim, briefly, our proposal does not automatically foresee trial use. I consider it unlikely, as I've said. We are not proposing a change to the constitution to alter the scope of Trial Use, which is spelled out in language I should have thought easy to grasp.

      Your issue depends on unrealized possibilities, and only concerns those few (a vote for Trial Use requiring a significant majority) who would disagree with the decision of the larger body. This is part of a much larger pattern of dissent, but it is the concern of the dissenters, not of the majority, to address --- should that majority actually make the decision in question, which, once again, I suggest is unlikely. So my reason for relative lack of concern is about a matter that does not have impact on me, as I am willing to accept the decisions of the General Convention even when I disagree with them; and in this particular case I do not think the problem is going to arise. So I do not share either your concern or your anxiety, and would suggest calm rather than anticipation of the worst.

      It is astounding to me how this thread has been hijacked by a concern that has no present referent (as no Trial Use has been proposed) and may have none in the future.

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      • To the contrary, it is quite useful to have in the record:
        1. that you believe a Trial Rite has the force to compel a Bishop over against the BCP; one cannot uphold the latter over against the former;
        2. that you acknowledge your view is hardly equivalent to 'GC clarity,' as you admit even now there are disagreements about what a Trial rite is and isn't (see your remarks above on this, where you speak of disagreements with your own opinion regarding a Trial Rite);
        3. that because there are disagreements you here have acknowledged, it is important to determine the scope of any such Trial Rite and its canonical effect vis-à-vis a Bishop and Diocese.

        Far from hijacking anything, your own stated remarks have shown how front and center this matter is.

        It ought to surprise no one that Bishops are already discussing the matter on just these terms.

        So it is important to have the matter before us well ahead of GC.

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      • "The opening clause clearly states that marriages may be solemnized by using any rite authorized by this church. That authorization is automatic for the BCP; provisional or trial rites, either already in use or yet to appear"

        You were the first person to mention trial rites 'yet to appear.'

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  15. I second Professor Radner but add this footnote.

    What I am gathering from this thread--Haller spoke of a disagreement, the character of which I asked about and got no reply about--is that the Committee has indeed discussed the Trial Rite's implications vis-à-vis Bishops' discretion.

    But we who are not on the committee are to postpone our own concerns in the light of the fact that all is provisional...but not genuinely (hence disagreements that have surfaced).

    As you point out, there is no neutral reading of a Trial Rite and its implications, immediately following thereon -- for Bishops and diocesan canons. And for TEC as a healthy church.

    MD is showing us what it means for the necessity of wide public scrutiny. This thread is assisting in that.

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  16. I keep wondering why, if "traditional bishops of this church" (et al.) are so sure they are right on this matter, and if it's so serious and so central - well, then: why do they seem to be so unwilling to be disciplined for taking their principled stand?

    The whole thing is not at all convincing, I'm sorry to say.

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    • Why should they be "disciplined", first of all? I thought the point was to grant clergy the ability to preside over same sex unions, not to MAKE them do so.

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      • There is no intent to discipline or make clergy preside. The Canons are clear that clergy are free to accept or reject a couple's request. That is not changing. Christopher and Ephraim are wrong.

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  17. "If the rector is not in favor of ss blessings and GC 2015 asserts that every parish must comply ..."

    Question for Ephraim Radner: The above scenario is contrary to both the current canons and the proposed changes under discussion. Do you know something we don't know about some pending resolution that would tamper with the prerogative of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize or bless any marriage? If not, I think you're safe.

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    • There are very concerned people, despite being in the minority, that want to make sure that no bishop,priest,deacon, diocese, or parish within a diocese will be forced to take part of this in any way whatsoever. That needs to be made clear at General Convention this year. Just make it clear, that is all anyone is asking. No need to be on the defensive.

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    • The "current"canons are one thing, it's what people are trying to do in the future that raise eyebrows. No one is talking about "current" canons. Just tell the people giving the presentation to make it clear for everyone. Is that really too much to ask???

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      • It’s a moot point. The current canons don’t force anyone to do anything. But should there come a day in the future when a future GC should choose to change the canons, there isn’t anything that you can do today that would prevent that future from occurring.

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  18. Mr. Haller rightly underlined what is potentially at issue: a Trial Rite, once approved, he believes will prevent a bishop from forbidding its use in a given parish; it would override, he believes, any diocesan canons forbidding same-sex marriages in that diocese. This is not simply a matter about what this or that individual clergyperson decides about this or that wedding: it is about the scope of episcopal pastoral jurisdiction and diocesan canons. Susan Russell and others are being disingenuous if they think that this is not a matter of legitimate concern in those dioceses and among those bishops who currently view Christian marriage, in its traditional understanding, as a matter of common and communal practice, and not one only of individual and local clerical decision (such as the current and proposed canon indicate) , and thus see their pastoral duties as extending to the ordering of the diocese as a whole, as it does it many other areas of theological, ethical, and liturgial practice.

    Whether in fact canonical changes by GC can indeed, in and of themselves, constrain that jurisdiction, let alone dispense with the explicit meaning and authority of the BCP is another matter. I think not; but that is not what I am arguing here. Rather, because our church is clearly not on the same page about this, a failure to engage this area of disagreement can only lead to further fracturing and legal wrangling. That is hardly a prejudiced prediction! We have 15 years of ongoing evidence of this, and a depleted church and sullied witness to go with it. And so I am suggesting in all of this simply that the Taskforce be deliberate, open, and explicit about these matters, helping the church to see what are the issues involved, what some of the consequences could be, and so on. It is clear from this thread that there are those who would prefer to avoid the discussion. But that, I believe, would be both imprudent and irresponsible.

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  19. Haller has made it usefully clear that a Trial Rite would compel Bishops to comply with it.

    Many of us dispute this polity understanding.

    When Bishops or a Diocese cannot stand by their own canons, then why would individual clergy feel latitude to say No to a ss blessing?

    As Porter indicates, there is ample reason for concern.

    Bishops can now at least be about the business of determining just how far they wish to go on this matter.

    And knowing this ought to help inform the floor debate at GC.

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  20. Barbara--you are correct: 'Traditional Bishops' will likely be asked to be disciplined. And they should be willing. No one is saying otherwise.

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  21. For the few readers who may be unaware, Christopher Seitz is president and Ephraim Radner is senior fellow of the Anglican Communion Institute (not part of the the Anglican Communion).

    http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/contributing-theologians/

    Some earlier history (2007) of the ACI can be found here:

    http://www.sarahlaughed.net/anglicana/2007/04/when_is_an_inst.html

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      • I wrote this previously.

        I believe we have been fortunate that a substantive discussion has been allowed without the tactic of linking disparaging (and old) commentary.

        I am Senior Research Professor at the University of Toronto (Wycliffe College). Previously I was Chair of OT and Theological Studies at the University of St Andrews, and before that tenured Professor at Yale University. I count grandfather, father, uncle, and two brothers in the Episcopal Priesthood. I am Canon Theologian in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas where we are electing a new Bishop. So the effect of GC decisions is of paramount importance.

        My colleague Ephraim Radner is Professor of Historical Theology and an specialist in ecclesiology. He was asked to serve on the covenant work because of his expertise.

        I hope we can remain focused on the topic at hand.

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      • Ah. I found your most recent ones in the spam folder (automated). Since you wrote several giving the same comment, I hope it's OK that I approve just one of them.

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  22. I believe we have been fortunate that a substantive discussion has been allowed without the tactic of linking disparaging (and old) commentary.

    I am Senior Research Professor at the University of Toronto (Wycliffe College). Previously I was Chair of OT and Theological Studies at the University of St Andrews, and before that tenured Professor at Yale University. I count grandfather, father, uncle, and two brothers in the Episcopal Priesthood. I am Canon Theologian in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas where we are electing a new Bishop. So the effect of GC decisions is of paramount importance.

    My colleague Ephraim Radner is Professor of Historical Theology and an specialist in ecclesiology. He was asked to serve on the covenant work because of his expertise.

    I hope we can remain focused on the topic at hand.

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  23. Thank you. Re-submitting and re-writing notes when they don't appear is not something I have experienced here so wondered what was going on.

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    • I had the same difficulty last night on another thread. After several failed attempts to post a comment, and receiving the message that it was a duplicate, I e-mailed Jon White, who did post it. Perhaps my thumb had "stuttered" over the Post Comment button and triggered the spam filter. Anyway, it got sorted out.

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    • In case it wasn't clear by John's answer, it's completely automated; we use Akismet for comment moderation/spam prevention, & when someone accidentally submits more than once, it increases the 'spam probability' of the algorithm.

      Historically, the site didn't use spam detection, but instead made it incredibly hard (and manual) to become an approved commentator.
      Akismet has a few false positives (like the comments of yours), but has allowed so many more people to comment it's been a blessing; it's also detected something around 40,000 spam comments & blocked them, so besides the rare false positive, it's really worked well for us!

      I'm sorry about the automatic moderation, and I hope that I cleared up the issue.

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      • I submitted once and it didn't come up. (1st time that had ever happened).

        So I submitted again a rewritten one.

        Pesky things, those spam filters!

        Glad it is working OK now.

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  24. John -- Context for commenters is helpful. Thanks.

    For the record, I am a parish priest from Pasadena, a long time supporter of the full inclusion of the LGBT baptized in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church and a member of the Study of Marrriage Task Force.

    My concern with the direction of this thread is the seeming inability -- or unwillingness -- to receive that the answer to the question (and I'm paraphrasing) "Will Gc2015 force those who dissent to 'comply' by presiding at the marriages of same-sex couples?" is -- quite simply -- no.

    Would be delighted to discuss this directly with anyone offline at srussell@allsaints-pas.org.

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  25. As with many things, so with the work of this Taskforce, we benefit from knowing the wider historical context.
    1. When the language ‘Trial Rite’ and those many successive rites bearing that nomenclature arose, it was in the context of a whole-scale BCP revision;
    2. Many of these rites are now consigned to the dustbin of history. That was because their entire logic was governed by the purpose of creating an entirely new BCP;
    3. But we are not at such a moment today. Rather, the entire logic of the present discussion is finding a rite to bless a ss couple or their ‘marriage’; this is not part of any wider BCP revision for which the term ‘trial rite’ once made sense in that context;
    4. In that former context, the BCP was still in operation; so a single ‘trial rite’ was not in circulation to offer a particular new understanding of marriage, which in turn saw the BCP rite as unable to convey that new understanding ad literam;
    5. It is in the light of this very changed situation that we now find ourselves considering the proper way to speak of this specific development (for which the taskforce has undertaken its singular work);
    6. Though there was a discussion about using the language ‘trial rite’ at GC 2012 for a same-sex rite, this did not transpire; instead ‘provisional rite’ was proffered as an alternative (though what a provisional rite is meant to undertake was far from clear);
    7. It is therefore understandable that as we approach GC 2015, ‘trial rite’ (now in this very different understanding as against the 1979 BCP) is nomenclature searching for its proper use; or rejection; or modification;
    8. In this very different climate, then, questions arise which never participated in the pre-1979 usage, and that stands to reason: it is a different context altogether;
    9. So now we find opinions being put forth that a) a singular ‘Trial Rite’ cannot be set aside by Bishops (or diocesan canons) who instead wish to defer to the constitutional BCP; or b) a singular ‘Trial Rite’ must be used throughout the church . In point of fact, as originally designed and intended, the language never pointed to these sorts of circumstances at all;
    10. It is precisely for that reason, as a Taskforce seeks presumably to do more than reiterate the logic of ‘provisional rite’, that clarity on what any new use of the term ‘trial rite’ would mean to intend.
    11. If the Taskforce does not believe that is their remit, so it is. But it needs to be formally discussed all the same, before the GC undertakes to visit the matter of ss rites in 2015. It is obvious that if ‘provisional rite’ is nomenclature about to time-out, we need to know what will replace it, and understand that in its full canonical integrity.
    12. Everyone can appreciate assurances that all will be well and that Bishops will not be constrained, but if this thread has demonstrated anything, that is far from clear. If a ‘trial rite’ is adopted given the present sui generis circumstances, it has been made clear here that some believe quite precisely it should constrain Bishops and Dioceses. And so by knock-on, clergy will be impacted themselves as agents of pastoral guidance.

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  26. The Lead is to be commended for giving room for this important discussion to take place. As in MD, it is very important that transparency and wide public circulation mark our Christian witness.

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  27. Tobias,
    "A Bishop is not 'forced' to make use of The Prayer of Humble Access, for instance; but a Bishop cannot forbid the use of this authorized prayer in her diocese." Just how much can a bishop decide to leave out in Rite One? It seems to me that the rubrics dictate that the prayer of humble access is included as one of the elements of the service. Does this mean a priest can overrule his bishop and use of the prayer of humble access? Does the BCP even reflect the mind of TEC general convention in 2015?

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    • Dale, I said a bishop CANNOT forbid the use of an authorized part of the BCP. The Prayer of Humble Access, page 337, is an optional prayer which may be used. No one is forced to use it; nor can a bishop stop people from using it if they want to. At least that is my understanding of the relationship of the bishop to the authorized liturgies of this church.

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  28. I appreciate efforts of Mr. Chilton to offer "context" for the comment writers (not sure how this fits into a blog's normal protocol). In this case, however, the effort obscures rather than clarifies. "Not part of the Anglican Communion" -- what does that mean? ACI is not an official organization supported by the ACO. Is that the point? On the other hand, Seitz and I are both members in good standing in the Episcopal Church. We are, in fact, "members of the Anglican Communion" by anybody's reckoning. Second, Dylan Breuer's 2007 attempt to engage in innuendo over ACI's finances, etc. has been long superseded by events in the Diocese of Colorado, which engaged in a rather detailed audit, in the course of a lengthy legal battle with the former rector of Grace Church. There is no "trail" to follow in this case. Call them up. Rather than link to a discussion that in fact issued in a flurry of deadends, some other "context" might be more helpful?

    To Susan Russell: no, I am not "unwilling" to grasp the point that individual priests will not be forced to preside at same-sex weddings. I quite see that this is part of the Taskforce's recommendation. However, it is not part of the Taskforce's recommendation that dioceses and bishops be left alone to order their common life in accordance with traditional Christian teaching and practice on the matter of marriage. Mr. Haller has stated that, at least in his opinion, bishops and dioceses will be forced to permit same-sex marriages liturgies within their jurisdictions. Are you saying you disagree with Mr. Haller's opinion? If so, it would helpful to clarify this.

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  29. Full disclosure: My spouse, Carolyn Chilton, is a member of the task force.

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    • It does seem like everyone on the task force, please correct me if I'm wrong, are all in favor of same sex unions. Isn't that considered a bit lopsided to begin with?

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      • The membership: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/notice/presiding-bishop-president-house-deputies-announce-12-member-task-force-study-marriage

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      • The charge to the committee is: At the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012, Resolution A050 called for a Task Force on the Study of Marriage to be appointed by the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to study and consult broadly on the subject of marriage. They were asked to explore historical, biblical, theological, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage, and to do so in consideration of the “changing societal and cultural norms and legal structures” of our time.

        Resolution A050-2012 further asked for the following outcomes: tools for theological reflection and discussion at the local level; a way of addressing “the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such”; and a report on its progress to the 78th General Convention in 2015.

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  30. To Ephraim: I just about always agree with Tobias Haller -- and the "unwilling" comment was not directed at anything you posted.

    I guess I'd argue -- and expect you to disagree -- that the canons as presently constituted provide adequate protection of conscience for those who would disagree with a decision by the General Convention to end discrimination against the marriage of same-sex couples. And -- having learned from our history on women's ordination -- that the Episcopal Church does expect dioceses to allow clergy to comply with the canons.

    As for Nick's question on where folks on the task force came down on "supporting same-sex marriage," it might be helpful to remember that part of the charge from the A050 Task Force from General Convention 2012 was to "address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same- sex couple in states that authorize such."

    We were not been charged to debate whether that pastoral need exists. We were charged "to address it." And that's what the report did.

    In case anyone is interested, my own Q&A overview of the task force report is here: http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-episcopal-churchs-task-force-on.html

    I really do hope folks will take the time to read the essays -- especially the history piece which illustrates how complex a tapestry our "traditional Christian teaching and practice on the matter of marriage" actually is.

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  31. If I got this right, in 2012, A049 authorized bishops to use "generous pastoral oversight" to decide whether to allow marriage in Episcopal churches in their dioceses (in state where marriage is legal), using the "I Will Bless You" liturgy. Consequently, a lot of weddings are taking place in plenty of dioceses already.

    While some can argue that that isn't canonical marriage, straight people are being encouraged to use it, and it includes a Eucharist. One would have to be a pedant counting the number of angels on the head of a pin to deny the evidence that this is Sacramental. It is an outward and visible expression of an inward, invisible Grace. My spouse and I were blessed with that inward Grace for 23 years and finally allowed the outward expression, to the extreme joy of our parish.

    The horse has left the barn. God is not withholding Grace until TEC changes the canons. That is a bureaucratic issue, important as it may be.

    Priests have always had discretion on who'll they will and won't marry. Members of the Task Force have affirmed that as true and unchallenged by their work. Thus, the "conservative" clergy who hold the exclusive view are safe to decline.

    If General Convention passes the inclusive marriage resolutions, it seems to me that no diocese should be allowed to enforce diocese-wide exclusion. It is horrifically unjust to force couples to have to leave the diocese to get married in faith communities that are not their own. It's wonderful that Grace Cathedral and other places make themselves available, but there's really no place like home.

    I've only been married for 3 weeks. But it is amazing how it feels to have the same legal rights and the same inclusion in the church as everyone else. It is a shift that is beautiful and life giving.

    These conservatives know not what they do, nor of what they speak. The "conservative" view has lead to depression, bullying, suicide, murder, alienation, abuse, and a host of things that are not of God. Jesus told us that we could tell the real prophets by the fruits of the labors. Members of the Marriage Task Force, thank you so much for your work. It is life giving and opened a torrent of movement of the Spirit.

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    • Diocesan bishops should still have the right to decline that such unions take place in their dioceses, as well as all parishes and clergy in all orders. No priest should be forced to bless such a couple and no deacon should be forced to perform diaconal functions. To not ensure this in very plain language would make the current climate in the church that much worse. As for how people might feel about people that hold the traditional stances, we are all responsible for our own feelings and actions and we should own them. If certain people continue to search for validation in every other place but within, it will make no difference what laws or canons change, those individuals will never find it.

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      • Is that all marriage is then, Nick? A "search for validation in every other place but within"?

        My parents sought, and found, that "validation" in an Episcopal parish (St Marks, Berkeley CA), and for 51 years, until my mother's death, it uplifted them. I am thankful to God that Cynthia and her wife now have access to that same kind of support from the church*. And I'm not hesitant to say that eventually every diocese (as distinguished from individual ministers in a diocese) should be required to offer it (in the same way that every diocese is required to ordain women).

        * Not even mentioning the civil benefits of marriage here.

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      • @ Nick. This is an interesting thread to look in on from the outside. I would not presume to comment on the specifics as I am not familiar with the Task Force or the Canons of TEC. However there are a couple of very general values items in your post that are thematic of this issue as it is discussed elsewhere in The Communion.

        "Diocesan bishops should still have the right to decline that such unions take place in their dioceses, as well as all parishes and clergy in all orders. No priest should be forced to bless such a couple ...." This represents a kind of clericalism very similar to that found in most other parts parts of The communion in which the rights of socially conservative clergy are deemed to take precedence over the pastoral needs of couples. Anglicanism suffers more than any other denomination from clericalism. Conservative, usually privileged, males have access to the courts of the church, have voice and power, in a way that marginalized and often bullied and vilified groups, do not. Conservatives engage in a kind of verbal judo, making themselves the victims when it fact victimization belongs to GLBTQ folks. The Canadian experience on this same kind of issue is preceding along those lines.

        "If certain people continue to search for validation in every other place but within ..." I think if you talk with folks in the Gay Pride movement, or the Integrity organization, you will discover they have inner validation and self esteem. The problem lies with acceptance or rejection in the community. The church ought to be advocating community, building up community, recognizing the importance of community ethos for acceptance of others. You are correct when you note that one cannot require others to accept those who are different, but as a matter of justice, it is important to try.

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      • I agree, Rod; I'm not sure why some people think that the personal hurt feelings of clergy, who have a responsibility to minister and provide pastoral care to their congregations, trumps the spiritual needs of the congregation. Well said!

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      • Nick:
        Why should Bishops have the right to decline a ceremony purely because the couple is same-sex? Should we have the right to keep slaves, which is clearly permitted and even detailed in the Bible?

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      • David, not all clergy, bishops, priests, or deacons believe that holy matrimony defines anything other than a male/female couple. I don't understand why wanting to continue to teach that should be prohibited. Bishops are chief pastors. Why should they be made to teach something other than their beliefs, because forcing traditional minded bishops to all these unions would be that.

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      • Nick:
        Shouldn't a pastor serve the needs of their congregation? If their congregation wants to have same-sex ceremonies, why should they refuse them?

        If a Bishop disagrees with the Episcopal Church on the nature of Jesus and thinks that Mohammed is actually the son of God, would you support them in issuing the call to prayer five times a day?

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      • Rod, much like respect, no one is entitled to acceptance. If one is forced to respect or accept someone because of whatever someone's personal definition of "justice" is , it would never be organic. While the church may very well change the canons one day, there could never be one mandating individuals to accept holy matrimony as anything accept as the joining together of one man and one woman.

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      • "If certain people continue to search for validation in every other place but within, it will make no difference what laws or canons change, those individuals will never find it."

        The reference is unclear. But when I talk about the fruits of conservative thought unaffirming LGBT people as created equally in the eyes of God, I point to the impact that this awful rhetoric has on children, all children. Surely homophobic bullying amongst children is soul crushing for both the bullies and the victims? There have been epidemics of suicide amongst LGBT teens in places where "religious conservatives" actually put policies in place forbidding teachers and principals to intervene in homophobic bullying, on the grounds that it would "support the gay lifestyle/agenda." So of course, bullying went up and resultant suicide. Something like 60 percent of homeless teens are LGBT teens who've been cast out of their "conservative religious" homes, and a larger percentage of them suffer sexual abuse in the street.

        Children always suffer harshly for the sins of adults, and LGBT children suffer mightily at the rhetoric and nonacceptance of "conservative religious" people.

        How Nick, could you possibly "know" that God made an enormous mistake in creating LGBT people and YOU have the right to correct His/Her Creation? The best we can do is offer compassion to all, and exclusion is neither compassionate, nor just.

        And don't tell me "the Bible tells me so." If you do, I'll whip out my Greek Bible and translate it for you.

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      • Cynthia, I respect every individual's right to live as they see fit. I'm not going to waste my time protesting outside of parishes that made the decision to follow the world, that's not my style. But what I'm never going to do as well as the majority of people in my own parish, is go along with it. And no, we don't plan on leaving TEC. There has been people in the parish that have and its understandable, but we choose to remain. God the Father gave us all freewill, and I accept everyone's right to exercise it. To try to make someone do something isn't of God, that's totally true. I'm glad my wife and I were married long before this occurred using the current BCP rite as it stands right now .

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      • David, I don't see anyone name Nicole on this thread. Perhaps you meant to post your question in another one.

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      • Now that you've addressed the question to me, I'll be happy to answer you David. I would think that if I were priest of the congregation that wants to celebrate same sex unions, I could do a couple of things. I could call in a priest that would do the ceremony or I could search for a new call. The scenario you mentioned about a bishop trying to blend Christianity and Islam would be against, well, everything in their vows and what a Christian church is. But stranger things have happened, after all, John Shelby Spong should have been deposed but he wasn't.

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      • Doesn't a Bishop vow to follow the Church, though? General Convention and the rest of TEC have discerned that God's will is in extending the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples.

        I think if a Bishop is unwilling to go with the wisdom of their peers and follow the will of their Church, they should probably leave, right? I see my hypothetical Mohammad following Bishop & the Bishop who bans same-sex marriage as being very similar in forsaking the discernment of their peers and fellow Christians. In each case, an individual Bishop decides that their own views are more important than the rest of their Church.

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      • I don't think you could compare the two so I can't follow you there. In the case a few years back about a priest claiming she converted to Islam and wanted to still continue in the priesthood, she was promptly deposed. Spong openly preaches against traditional Christian teachings yet he a retired bishop in good standing. There are many clergy who practice "communion without baptism". My point is, why be so stringent about the marriage issue and not everything else? When I see a priest deposed for not following the canons about one of our MAIN sacraments, then maybe I could see your point.

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      • Marriage is not a MAIN sacrament in TEC. There are two sacraments; baptism and eucharist.

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      • Hey Bro David, read my comment in its entirety or you will end up looking silly with knee-jerk responses. That MAIN sacrament I was speaking of was Holy Eucharist.

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    • Sorry, do to the wording that wasn’t apparent to me. And I read the comment a number of times.

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      • It looks pretty clear to me what I was referring to if you look at the couple of sentences before the last. The context is there. In any case, I'm Anglo-Catholic so I accept the whole 7 as sacraments, not just the two principle ones.

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  32. "The horse has already left the barn" summarizes pretty well why Bishops and Dioceses need to take counsel and prepare themselves. Which has been the reason for this concern re: Trial Rite.

    If Bishops and Dioceses are now to be constrained to comply by means of things like adaptation of 'trial rite' logic, then we need to think through just what that means.

    I hope all Bishops and Dioceses are put on clear notice that they and their canons are without individual authority and integrity. We have latterly heard of plans for mandating giving that many *liberal* dioceses will resist and a large percentage of dioceses will be unable to pay (compliance is now around 50% as it is). This will soon no longer be an "Episcopal" Church but rather a Presbyterian/GC one.

    Mandating and constraining are the new watchwords. It is good to have this stated clearly. "The horse has left the barn."

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    • Exactly. I'm very glad this conversation is happening. In any case, I'm hopeful that General Convention wouldn't mandate bishops to allow this in their diocese that their conscience forbids. It would be a disaster.

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    • The horse left the barn in dioceses where the bishops themselves discerned a pastoral call to finally go with inclusive marriage.

      I don't see that every bishop is a Pope in his/her diocese that can refute the mind of the church as expressed via General Convention.

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  33. I think given what we have learned--or had confirmed--here, an important discussion will take place amongst the Bishops. Many dioceses (35%) are struggling to keep enough ASA to fund their operations at all. Many Bishops will rightly ask if they are simply agents of a triennial event a good number of those who elected them don't care about or know very much about anyway. At issue here is the role of a Bishop not as a lone individual but as guardian of the faith and chief pastor of those who have prayed and elected her or him. Their office also coheres with that of their fellow Bishops. Does that coherence issue into mandated uniformity, brought about not by themselves and their dioceses, but by a trienniel event? Many will not see this as a healthy way forward, and not just so-called conservative Bishops. A presbyerian polity is hedged about by rules of order appropriate to that polity. If an Episcopal polity is to exist and not one under dismantling--save the PB of course--it will need to face into what all the ramifications are. There was acommittee charged to examine the theological warrant fo SS-Marriage and SS-blessing. They reached an impasse. One has now been assembled so that that will not happen again, on the 'horse is out of the barn' logic here declared. So the question remains: do Dioceses have any ongoing logic beyond electing some delegates for a 'GC Church' where 'episcopal' refers to regional adminstrators of some ever-changing description. If that is to be so, we we soon need a new 'trial rite' for the consecration of Bishops that matches the 'trial rite' logic for marriage.

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  34. Thank you all for the discussion. I find this helpful. I've now finished reading through the Task Force's report, and I have a question about a portion of it for one of its members on this thread, if they're able.

    In Essay 5, which discusses the history of our marriage canons and offers a critique, I.18.4 comes up (see p. 83): "Shall clergy continue to have sole discretion to decline to solemnize any marriage?"

    The concern is then raised that if this is retained as a "conscience clause" for clergy who do not support same-sex marriages, it will permit "continued discrimination against a class of church members." But this appears to be prohibited by I.17.5, which states that "No one shall be denied rights, status, or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church" by virtue of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and etc., "except as otherwise specified by Canons."

    The analogy is then drawn with the previous "conscience clause" for women's ordination, which had "unsatisfactory results," and proposed conscience clauses to protect the jobs of U.S. civil servants who do not feel able to perform same-sex marriages; such clauses have been rejected thus far by the courts, it is noted.

    The essay concludes by stating that while the "potentially discriminatory aspects" of retaining I.18.4 are recognized, a better approach is to retain I.18.4 while amending I.17.5, such that the phrase "except as otherwise specified by Canons" is deleted, "thus banning discrimination against the enumerated classes altogether."

    My question then is this: Task Force members on this thread have stated that these proposed changes would provide "adequate protection of conscience for those who would disagree with a decision by the General Convention to end discrimination against the marriage of same-sex couples."

    But it would seem that the point of suggesting revisions to the non-discrimination canon would be to ban discrimination against the enumerated classes altogether. Which is understood, in this context, to mean that while clergy will indeed have discretion to decline to solemnize any marriage, it could not be on grounds that the non-discrimination canon bans, such as sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression.

    Susan, Tobias, others-- am I missing something here? I do not want to be sensationalist, but I am seeing a real tension between retaining the discretion canon and revising the non-discrimination canon.

    Thank you,

    Jordan Hylden
    Diocese of Upper SC

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    • I take it that if you are correct in identifying the effect of these changes, Jordan, a Priest could decline to undertake a blessing but could not do so on theological grounds, viz., that there is no dominical/scriptural/theological warrant for such a blessing. This would be discrimination and that is forbidden.

      Is this the issue you are raising? Thank you for reading this so carefully.

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  35. Jordan, as a priest I have on two occasions refused to officiate at weddings, not because those involved were members of the whole, discordant-couple class for whom there are BCP rites, but because there was a canonical impediment to their marriage. There is a distinction between discrimination against a whole class of people and discernment of an impediment to marriage whether the couple is straight or gay. The thing is, gay, by itself, should not be considered an impediment any more than straight should.

    Anyway, in spite of the smoke screen of academic sounding jargon, high dudgeon, and faux victimization, you have brought us back to the real issue of unwarranted discrimination against a whole class of people in spite of what Jesus had to say about loving one's neighbor and even healing the centurion's "boy."

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    • So priests shouldn't be able to exercise their conscience? Is that what you are alluding to?

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      • I'm asking you what the boundaries are on that; when their conscience causes them to split from the rest of their brothers and sisters in Christ and take an individualistic stand, is it really their conscience speaking?

        If the General Convention discerns God's wishes and decides that the marriage of same-sex couples is in God's will, and an individual priest says, no, not in my church; is that priest serving God's will or their own? Is it really that priest--or Bishop's--church? Is it their place to say that their Christian brothers & sisters are wrong in their discernment of God's will?

        It's a tricky position you articulate, much like the matter of women's ordination; again, I'm trying to figure out where you draw the boundary on the rights of the individuals versus the rights of the group. It seems like you draw a firm stance on the rights of clergy as individuals when it comes to the ordination of women and the marriage of same-sex couples, but you're not in favor of the rights of the individual congregant, nor the rights of the individual clergy who discerned God's will together in a collaborative process.

        It's a confusing position, and I'm trying to figure out the boundaries. Does that clarify what I'm asking?

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      • Those that want to preside at such unions, there will be nothing to stop them. If they are under a bishop that won't allow it, either seek DEPO or another call in another diocese. If such a priest that wants to preside at such a union is the rector of a parish where the collective mind of the whole parish doesn't want that to happen, the priest in question should seek out another call or respect the wishes of the parish.

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      • David, my mind is this: All clergy, bishops, priest, and deacons must have the right to decline to participate in the blessing of those unions. Dioceses should have the right to say no as well. I have a feeling that the House of Bishops would ensure this.

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      • Thanks for clarifying that; I'm trying to suss out your 'moral theory' about individual freedom.

        It seems to me that you see the rights of a Bishop as above those of their parishioners, and above the collective right of the Church to have a unified theology and practice.

        As an example:
        A same-sex couple in Houston gets engaged. Their priest is excited and happy to perform their marriage. The Bishop is excited.
        A family illness strikes, however, and the couple moves to Palo Alto to live with ailing parents. They find jobs and settle in. They delay their marriage.
        A year later, they decide to get married at their new church, but are told by the Priest that although she'd *love* to perform the ceremony, she can't, because her Bishop has forbade her.
        They ask about getting another Priest. She says, no, my Bishop won't allow this church to be used at all.

        So, in my (admittedly complex) scenario, this couple has to transport an ailing parent back to Houston to get married; although they'd assumed that, as cradle Episcopalians and an accepted couple in their old church.

        That type of scenario, implausible as it may be, strikes me as the antithesis of what the Episcopal Church is about. If the Episcopal Church doesn't have a unified and consistent policy, is it still TEC? Is it right to put a burden on this couple because my hypothetical Bishop in California is in disagreement with their colleagues?

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      • And my mind is that a betrothed same-sex couple should not have to travel to another diocese to have their marriage celebrated. I believe GC will see this my way (if not at this year's GC, then a subsequent one. But soon).

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      • JC Fisher, what if no parishes in that diocese will deal with such a couple? I have a feeling GC will never force that on a parish. Ever.

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      • Cathedral. Yes, I see GC making this happen. For the sake of the Gospel (and the Imago Dei made LGBT).

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      • That's your opinion JC Fisher. I guess for some people, anything less than 100% affirmation is a non-starter. You can't force bishop, priests and deacons to participate in what they believe goes against God's Word.

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    • David, I have to search for your posts because it ends up in the middle of everything which is why I don't respond sooner, but do you at least agree that individual parishes should have the right to turn them away and that priests and deacons shouldn't be forced to participate? We're not going to agree on the authority of bishops.

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  36. Dr Seitz,

    I think you're understanding what I'm getting at, yes. E.g., if the proposed changes are made, then priests would retain the discretion to decline to solemnize or bless any marriage, but not for reasons forbidden by the non-discrimination canon. And among those reasons are listed sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. And so it is difficult to see how retaining a 'conscience clause' as such effects the desired purpose.

    But this interpretation is at odds with what Susan and others have expressed about the desire to provide adequate protection of conscience for those clergy who dissent from the proposed changes of the emerging majority.

    It is possible that what we are seeing here is a tension borne from differing views held by various members of the Task Force. I wonder if they did not entirely see the tension between these suggestions. I would suggest that if the mind of GC2015 is to provide canonical protection of conscience for those who will dissent, that this is done with as much clarity as is possible. Alternatively, if it is the mind of GC2015 not to provide this conscience protection on the grounds that this would simply amount to allowing discrimination of sexual minorities to continue, I suggest that this be done with clarity also. I worry that the proposed formulation contains a tension and thus a lack of clarity.

    It is also quite possible that I am misunderstanding something! I'm a relative newcomer to canon law compared with some of you and so it is very possible that I am not seeing correctly how this is designed to work.

    Regards,
    Jordan

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    • Thank you. I have heard you correctly.

      1. As you can see above, subsequent to your comment, there are those who believe a conscience clause does not have any scope when it comes to ss couples.

      (And this is to the side of whether it is a correct reading of the Taskforce report, about which you are seeking clarity from members).

      2. This appears to be at odds with others who have said no priest can be told who to marry, and so worries about individual discretion are unfounded. Those people have not mentioned discrimination at all in the assertion of their view (I think in one case, Susan Russell, she is explicit at this point).

      Again, this does not answer the question you are posing about what the Taskforce has written.

      3. And then there are those who appear to ignore the place of a diocese/Bishop altogether when it comes to the matter. Some think of Bishops as 'individuals with views' whose 'views' are no better or worse than other 'views.' On this account, the idea that a trial rite might compel a Bishop and diocese to use new rites they judge at odds with the BCP isn't much in view. One person has been quite clear that a Trial Rite -- language for which was drawn up in the very different context of BCP revision in toto -- will constrain an individual Bishop and Diocese, though this does not appear in the Taskforce report as such.

      Nevertheless it helpfully takes the pulse of what is out there on the part of some Taskforce members.

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  37. A question for those expressing concern about the ability of bishops to block the use of same-sex marriage rites anywhere in their diocese: Is this a question you feel applies only to same-sex marriage, or is it an ability you feel bishops have, or ought to have generally?

    More specifically, do bishops have the ability to forbid the use of any trial rite whose theology they cannot support? Are dioceses able to do so through their canons? Can bishops and diocesan canons block use of portions of this BCP, or a theoretical future one? If the answer to any of these is no, should that be changed?

    It seems to me that the ability of bishops to prevent the use of rites approved for general use by GC creates issues beyond simply the question of same-sex marriage rites, including granting liberal bishops the ability to exercise liturgical control over conservative parishes.

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    • The question is wrongly phrased.

      Bishops who uphold the historical view of marriage in the BCP will continue to uphold that.

      At issue is whether they can be mandated by a trial rite to use other rites in their dioceses and against their own diocesan canons.

      There is also the question as to whether a trial rite as originally conceived was ever meant to be used in the fashion some here hold it should be used.

      I would be very surprised indeed if the HOB won't be thinking very carefully about how to proceed on this matter.

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      • C. Seitz,
        "At issue is whether they can be mandated by a trial rite to use other rites in their dioceses and against their own diocesan canons." Actually wouldn't the trial rite supercede the BCP rubrics also?

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      • That is precisely what I am confident the Bishops will now be taking a bead on.

        See my position above.

        The idea that a trial rite was to be used to obviate BCP rubrics is 1) without any logic, canonically, and 2) not how Trial Rites in the 60s were meant to function.

        The remarks above have to do with how any BCP revision was supposed to take place -- via two readings and Diocesan review.

        That is why the role of the Diocese/Bishop has been emphasized above.

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  38. Paul,

    I hope that I did not put up a "smoke screen" of academic jargon, faux victimization, and high dudgeon. This is a very difficult issue to discuss fairly and charitably. I honestly do intend to try to do so. If I have not, then I am very open to anyone who would point it out. As I keep writing about this I'll try to keep in mind how I come off. I try my hand at academics (I'm a grad student at Duke), and so I'm afraid I sometimes sound jargon-y and high-dudgeon-y without meaning to! I am trying to be careful, charitable, and precise in what I'm writing. The best judgment of whether or not I'm doing so is not in my hands.

    As for faux victimization: Well, I'm not much of a victim. I have a good life and I expect I'll continue to, by God's grace, one way or another. It would however I think be very painful for those clergy who would dissent from the proposed revisions to be subject to discipline for doing so. That said, I certainly acknowledge that very many persons with same-sex attractions have truly been victimized, in deeply painful ways, sometimes by church members and authorities. I do not mean to compare myself with them. As I said, I have a pretty good life.

    I am writing here because I do not want to unfairly interpret this Report later on in a more public and formal way. Task Force members here have said that they do not envision the report as having the consequences that I am envisioning. So perhaps I am just wrong.

    The issue of what constitutes "discrimination" here is, you are correct, very close to the heart of this issue. The term as usually used means irrational discrimination, of course-- e.g., a judgment that has no rational grounding in a natural reality. So if I say that people of a given race are inferior human beings, I am discriminating in an irrational way. There is no rational ground to say that.

    But is it discrimination of that kind to make a judgment about men and women in marriage? Right now, I'm reading a great book by Robert Song, titled Covenant and Calling. For Song (Prof. of Theological Ethics at Univ. of Durham), marriage is a creation good, intrinsically ordered toward procreation. This is what the tradition has largely held. And so it would not be irrational "discrimination" to say that the common good of marriage requires a man and a woman to achieve its end. Now, for Song, that does not mean that we might not also think about other forms of what he calls "covenant partnerships," for which procreation is not an intrinsic end. If marriage is a creation good, such partnerships might be eschatologically-ordered covenant goods. And so he offers some proposals for how the C of E, and by extension other Anglican and Christian bodies, might recognize them alongside traditional marriage.

    I think that is an interesting position with something to be said for it, and I would be glad to see TEC discuss it. I am not sure that the present Report engages well with this kind of proposal, however.

    This all moves along farther than the specific question I was asking, but obviously they're also important to discuss. I may not have time to discuss the deeper issues further here, but certainly welcome responses.

    Regards,
    Jordan

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  39. Jordan, actually I had Radner, Seitz and their ilk more in mind. I commended you for bringing up the issue of discrimination. This whole conscience bit is the latest smokescreen thought up by bigoted people to harass gay people. States have passed silly laws permitting bakers to refuse to bake cup cakes for a same gender wedding on the basis of highly suspect religious conscience.

    Now the same argument is being used to allow clergy, who have sworn to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the church, to exercise private conscience rather than be guided by the canons -- the collective conscience of the church. This is folly and should be called out and named for what it is just as Jesus told demons to shut up and cast them out thereby restoring wholeness to those possessed.

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    • The 'ilk' comment is useful for focusing where we now find ourselves.

      I think it may well be that Mr Woodrum ought to take on Susan Russell for suggesting a bona fide conscience clause still held ground.

      Let him direct his umbrage at her.

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      • "This is folly and should be called out and named for what it is just as Jesus told demons to shut up and cast them out thereby restoring wholeness to those possessed."

        There it is.

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      • He needs to take that up with the Task Force since they acknowledged supposedly, the right of conscience for all clergy.

        The essay concludes by stating that while the “potentially discriminatory aspects” of retaining I.18.4 are recognized, a better approach is to retain I.18.4 while amending I.17.5, such that the phrase “except as otherwise specified by Canons” is deleted, “thus banning discrimination against the enumerated classes altogether.”

        The Task Force must clarify this.

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    • By that same token, Spong should have been deposed as well as every single priest and bishop that openly boasts of giving communion to the baptized. Either apply the canons equally or just throw them all in the trash. No bishop, priest, or deacon should be made to participate in those unions, period.

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  40. I hope somebody can guide me in the correct direction On page two the report mentions that "the dioceses of El Camino Real and North Carolina have both recently undertaken studies of marriage, with reports available from the Digital Archives." I cannot find these reports. I went to www.episcopalarchives.org to search and could not any reports. Can someone help me access what is mentioned in the report?

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  41. El Camino Real's report is here: http://www.episcopalarchives.org/SCLM/diocesan/086_ElCaminoReal_2010.pdf

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  42. North Carolina's report is here:
    http://www.episcopalarchives.org/SCLM/diocesan/084_NorthCarolina_2009.pdf

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  43. Ilk simply means "of the same," in this case persuasion. No offense intended. And I do indeed believe private conscience has its boundaries where public obligations and services are involved.

    Marriage is a social structure and people marry each other for a variety of reasons, the most traditional being property and inheritance rights to which, as marriage was extended to common folk, we have added mutual joy, help and comfort and, when it is God's will -- and it isn't always -- for procreation that, in itself, hardly requires marriage nor is it always a part of a marriage. None of these purposes rules out once again extending the boundaries and benefits of marriage to same gender couples.

    As long as the conscience of the couple is clear and there are no civil nor ecclesiastical impediments, there is no reason any cleric or authorized civil servant should impose their own conscience and refuse to officiate and solemnize a marriage. Perhaps both sides should pause and reconsider these conscience clauses, their use and misuse, and the agendas for which they are being proposed, whether to sell gay marriage or to oppose it.

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    • I hope that your opinion is of a very very small minority. Those clergy could always send such a couple to another parish and priest to assist them, which I'm sure happens often. And usually when someone says "ilk", it's always in a degrading manner.

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  44. “This is folly and should be called out and named for what it is just as Jesus told demons to shut up and cast them out thereby restoring wholeness to those possessed"

    No offense taken.

    At least Haller and Russell and others didn't stoop to call us demons!

    Grace and peace to you Mr Woodrum.

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  45. A side note, off the main thread of the discussion here.

    In their history of the Title I marriage canon White and Dykman show the trajectory of what is now I.18.4 (the "conscience clause") as it is historically related to the evolution of regulation of the marriage in this church of divorced persons with previous spouses still living. It was recognized over time that within the frame of our church there have developed three basic positions on the matter: one, that such marriage (absent a formal finding of nullity) was not possible; two, that such marriage (absent a finding of nullity) was possible only to the "innocent party" of an adulterous breach of the marriage contract, as indicated in Matthew 19:9; and third, that there might be further exceptions allowing pastoral accommodation. What we have in I.18.4 essentially created, as regulation of remarriage was broadened, a "protection" for bishops, in their authority to consent to remarriage, and for clergy, in their pastoral decision about officiating, whichever of these positions they might hold.

    It would seem to me, then, that by proposing the removal of the language "except as otherwise specified" from I.71.5, which includes "marital status" as one of the protected categories, we would be stepping away from the historic accommodation that our church has had in this regard for both bishops and priests.

    I do at least understand that it has in the past been the practice of some bishops, for example, to indicate that they would generally give consent to a "first" remarriage on recommendation of the rector of the parish in which the marriage was to take place, that they would require a personal interview with couples where one or both was desiring a "second" remarriage, and that they would decline to consent to a "third" or any subsequent remarriage with previous spouses living. Should the "except as otherwise specified by canon" language be removed from I.17.5, then I imagine I.18.4 would no longer provide a ground for such categorical judgment.

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  46. Boys, boys, boys. Please! Why is it that conversations like this always come to this point where there is predictably a heated exchange of insults? And, when that happens, you can almost predict that someone will quote the bylaws or the canons.

    Sheesh! So, on that note, I will weigh into this already ponderously weighty discussion of what is, to my mind anyway, a very simple matter of faith.

    As I read my "job description" as a priest on Page 531 of the BCP, I am told by the bishop that I am given the authority at ordination to "proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion (your) life in accordance with its precepts. (You) are to love and serve the people among whom (you) work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. (You) are to preach, to declare God's forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God's blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you."

    No where does it say that I have to get anyone's permission - not the Vestry, not the Bishop - to do these things. I have, in the past and without my Bishop's permission or even knowledge, declined to preside at the marriage of hetero and LGBT couples, always giving them other options for officiants.

    The state defines and enforces the law. That is what it does. The church blesses that which is good and holy. That is what we do. Perhaps, because we function as agents of the state and the church - ironically, in America! - we've gotten a bit confused and the pharisee has overcome the pastor in us.

    Covenants made between two people that are about faithful, lifelong, monogamous relationships which embody mutuality and respect are good and holy. Unless, of course, in the infinite wisdom of the cleric to whom the couple has asked for a blessing, they appear not to be what they purport. And then, said priest is not compelled to pronounce God's blessing on that "covenant". That applies to heterosexual or LGBT couples.

    So, here's the bottom line for me: It's about covenants.

    We do not bless "couples". We bless covenants. We do not bless "lifestyles". We bless covenants. We do not bless sex acts. We bless covenants. We do not bless heterosexuality or homosexuality. We bless covenants. We do not bless cultural mores or prevailing attitudes. We bless covenants. We do not bless liturgical rubrics. We bless covenants. We do not bless laws - secular or church canon. We bless covenants.

    This is what these resolutions are asking us to do - to get away from secular notions of "marriage" and get back to the ecclesiastical role of "marriage" - which is a sacred covenant and bond between two people which the priest, in the name of God and by the authority given to that cleric by the church, is asked to bless.

    Spout canon and interpret scripture, hurl insults and personal attacks on each other till the street lights go on and we all have to go back to sit on our parent's porch, but here's the Bottom Line:

    This is about blessing a covenant between two people who promise to be in a faithful, lifelong, monogamous relationships which embodies mutuality and respect.

    If it is perceived not to be, don't bless it.

    If it is perceived to be, bless it.

    It's really a simple matter of faith.

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  47. Jordan: I believe the following is also relevant. Regarding the status of the BCP; rubrics; GC; Dioceses and Bishops:

    "As provided in Article X of the Church’s Constitution, it takes the vote of two successive General Conventions to change anything in the Book of Common Prayer—plus, each of the Church’s dioceses must consider the proposed change at one of its diocesan conventions in the three years between General Conventions.

    The rubrics of the BCP are thus superior to Canons of the General Convention, because the latter can be amended by the vote of just a single Convention, while the former require the vote of two, plus consideration by each and every Diocese in between.

    And the rubrics of the BCP currently define “marriage” as between “a man and a woman.” Not only that, but the entire ceremony of Holy Matrimony in the BCP is filled with references to “the man” doing and saying this, and “the woman” doing and saying that. The same is true for the “Blessing of a Civil Marriage Ceremony” that begins on page 433 of the BCP and for the “Order for Marriage” beginning on page 435."

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  48. David Streever,
    "If the General Convention discerns God’s wishes and decides that the marriage of same-sex couples is in God’s will, and an individual priest says, no, not in my church; is that priest serving God’s will or their own? Is it really that priest–or Bishop’s–church?" Is TEC now the church of General Convention? Is General Convention now preeminent over Scripture, Tradition and Reason in discerning God's will? Are the canons of General Convention now the magisterium of TEC?

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    • Dale, as noted, BCP revision was meant to involve diocese review and bishops evaluation, and two readings. The GC is hedged about by just these procedures. What we are seeing is an effort to get a result by another route.

      But having this set forth is extremely useful. It will aid the public discussion and put people on full notice.

      We are not a church of individual priestly discretion (maybe and then maybe not as well), but a church of constitutional identity, under God.

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  49. Elizabeth,

    I understand your point, and it has been the case for me also over the past three decades of ministry that from time to time I have indicated to an inquiring couple that I didn't feel I could officiate at their marriage. Sometimes I have referred them then to another possible officiant--and sometimes I have given them the name of a reliable counselor and a word of encouragement to continue to reflect if marriage is the right step for them.

    The question I'm asking here is what the church intends to regulate through its canon law when it comes to the discretion of clergy specified in I.18.4 when that canon is read in the context of the "access" guaranteed to protected groups in I.17.5.

    Clergy who don't believe in the remarriage of divorced persons, for example, or in the blessing or marriage of same-sex couples, could always of course continue to decline to officiate in those situations without giving any reason for their decision, but that actually just creates a situation where there cannot be sufficient evidence to demonstrate a violation. You can't prove a negative. But as several have pointed out, we have promised to follow the good order of this church--not simply to have figured out how not to get caught.

    So again, I understand that the revisions to I.18.4 under discussion would continue to protect pastoral privilege, and that the word "any" appears comprehensive. At the same time, I hope you would understand the query that arises with a proposal to remove the phrase "except as otherwise specified by Canons" in I.17.5. What you end up with then is one canon that says, "the pastoral discretion in this matter is absolute," and another that says, absolutely, "no person shall be denied access on account of." Seems to me you either want to say that I.17.5 is limited by the discretion allowed in I.18.4 (which is what the language in I.17.5 now does), or that the discretion allowed in I.18.4 is, henceforth, limited by I.17.5.

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    • Well stated, Bruce.

      The answer to your question, like Jordan's, is very important.

      As you say, no one wants to be put in a place where they cannot give a public account of their actions, because to do so would be to run afoul of contradictory canons.

      That is not Christian conduct.

      I hope this will get sorted out and am glad of the public discussion here.

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    • I am also very interested in the answer to this question and I hope that someone from the Task Force addresses it.

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  50. for c seitz ... "the rubrics of the BCP currently define “marriage” as between “a man and a woman.” Not only that, but the entire ceremony of Holy Matrimony in the BCP is filled with references to “the man” doing and saying this, and “the woman” doing and saying that ..."

    It is arguable that the rubrics currently "describe" -- rather than "define" -- marriage as between a man and a woman ... and it is an historical note that we faced the same challenge in 1976 when the canons were changed to end discrimination against ordaining women and the BCP was full of "he/him/his" language.

    We solved the problem in 1976. I'm convinced we can solve it in 2015. Cheers!

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    • Is the Taskforce claiming that the references to 'man' and 'woman' -- and every text read aloud (Genesis 1-2; Matthew 19; Ephesians) and vows and preface -- are just incidental to the logic of the rite?

      Why didn't previous generations not see this and just plug in whoever wanted a 'marriage'?

      At some point wouldn't it just be easy and straightforward to undertake BCP revision in the manner called for; have a first reading and Diocesan review; then a second reading; and get the rite desired?

      To try to claim that the BCP rite ad literam does not really refer to a 'man' and a 'woman' -- in preface, vows, readings, prayers -- is like saying bowling balls could also be used as plant holders. Well true enough. But they exist wand find their identity and purpose the framework of bowling and bowlers.

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  51. 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.

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    • "Amen" to [a] identifying "part of the problem" and [b] recognizing the solution.

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  52. 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

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    • 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.

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

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      • "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.

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      • 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.

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    • No.

      Read it carefully and will organize a full response.

      Grateful for your response in the public record.

      Grace and peace in Christ Jesus.

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  53. 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: http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2015/02/study-of-marriage-report.html

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  54. Susan,

    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.

    Regards,
    Jordan

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    • 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. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/conscience-clause

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  55. Speaking of marriage ... and in case you missed this a while back ... commenters Radner & Seitz offered this into the mix a few months back:
    http://www.firstthings.com/marriage-pledge

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