Bishops Accept “Statement of Clarification” about Marriage

The 78th General Convention approved two marriage liturgies for trial use, along with a revision of the marriage canon, allowing same-sex couples to be married in The Episcopal Church beginning on First Sunday of Advent 2015, when both resolutions take effect.

Episcopal News Service and the House of Deputies News carried the story.

The trial-use marriage services are to be used “under the direction and with the permission of the diocesan bishop.” While bishops can decide not to authorize use of the liturgy in their diocese, all bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority must “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies.”

On July 2, 2015, the House of Bishops accepted the following “Statement of Clarification Regarding Marriage and Blessing Liturgies in The Episcopal Church”:

“The 78th General Convention (2015) authorized three liturgies for use beginning Advent I 2015.

1. ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of a Life-long Covenant,’ authorized for use under the direction and with the permission of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority. This liturgy is only intended for use with same-sex couples in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is not legal.
2. ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage,’ authorized for trial use (per Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6) under the direction and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop. This liturgy is intended for use by all couples asking to be married in this church.
3. ‘The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2,’ authorized for trial use (per Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6) under the direction and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop. This liturgy is intended for use by all couples asking to be married in this church.

“In addition, Resolution A054 states that ‘Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies.’ How provision is made for this is left to the discretion of the Bishop. Suggestions mentioned for dioceses where the bishop does not grant permission for the trial use of these liturgies include making arrangements with a neighboring diocese for clergy to officiate using these liturgies in the neighboring diocese, and/or inviting clergy from another diocese to officiate in the diocese using these liturgies either in church buildings or other venues. Other ways in which provision is made might be shared among the bishops.

“Prior to Advent I 2015, ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of a Life-long Covenant,’ authorized for provisional use by the 77th General Convention (Resolution A049, 2012) under the direction and subject to the permission of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority remains in force, along with the other provisions of A049, including that:

1. ‘Bishops, particularly those is dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.’ The Supreme Court expanded the number of dioceses in which this is now the case.
2. ‘Bishops may authorize adaptation of these materials to meet the needs of this church.’

“This is understood to mean that the liturgy authorized in 2012 for provisional use is still in effect until replaced by those authorized for use beginning Advent I, 2015, and that bishops may adapt that liturgy to meet the needs of this church, including adapting them for marriage, as many bishops have done during the past triennium. Some may wonder if the 2015 version ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage’ can be considered an adaptation for marriage of the 2012 liturgy, and it would seem that the answer is yes. However, the 2015 liturgy ‘The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2′ would not be, since it is based on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and not ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of a Life-long Covenant’ as authorized in 2012.

“The 1979 Book of Common Prayer ‘The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,’ along with ‘The Blessing of a Civil Marriage‘ and ‘An Order for Marriage‘ from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer remain liturgies for use with different-sex couples.’The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2‘ as authorized for trial use by the 78th General Convention is available for use by all couples beginning Advent I, 2015.

“The House of Bishops received this document from Bishop Ely with appreciation and referred it to the members of the House of Bishops individually to be used by them in their respective dioceses with the provision that it may be used in its present form or modified as each determines is in the best pastoral interest of his or her diocese.”

Informe de Aclaración Concerniente al Matrimonio y las Liturgias para la Bendición en la Iglesia Episcopal

2 de julio de 2015

La 78.ª Convención General (2015) autorizó tres liturgias que se usarán a partir del Adviento I de 2015.

  1. “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” (Testimonio y bendición de un pacto de por vida) autorizado para usarse bajo la dirección y con el permiso del obispo que ejerce la autoridad eclesiástica. Esta liturgia está prevista para usarse solamente con parejas del mismo sexo en jurisdicciones donde el matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo no es legal.
  2. “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” (El testimonio y la bendición de un matrimonio) autorizada para usarse como ensayo (de conformidad con el artículo X de la Constitución y el Canon II.3.6.) bajo la dirección y con el permiso del Obispo Diocesano. Esta liturgia está prevista para usarse con todas las parejas que pidan casarse en esta iglesia.
  3. “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2” (La celebración y bendición de un matrimonio 2) autorizada para usarse como ensayo (de conformidad con el artículo X de la Constitución y el Canon II.3.6.) bajo la dirección y con el permiso del Obispo Diocesano. Esta liturgia está prevista para usarse con todas las parejas que pidan casarse en esta iglesia.

Además, la Resolución A054 dispone que “todos los obispos que ejerzan su autoridad eclesiástica o, cuando corresponda, su supervisión eclesiástica, dispondrán que todas las parejas que pidan casarse en esta Iglesia tengan acceso a estas liturgias”. Queda a discreción del Obispo la manera en que se ejecutará esta disposición. Entre las sugerencias que se han hecho sobre las diócesis en las que el obispo no otorgue permiso para el uso de ensayo de estas liturgias se incluye: hacer arreglos con una diócesis vecina para que los clérigos oficien estas liturgias en la diócesis vecina, y/o invitar a clérigos de otra diócesis para que oficien con estas liturgias ya sea en espacios religiosos o en otros recintos. Los obispos pueden intercambiar ideas de otras maneras en que pueda ejecutarse esta disposición.

Antes del Adviento I de 2015, The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” (Testimonio y bendición de un pacto de por vida), autorizada para uso provisional por la 77.ª Convención General (Resolución A049, 2012) bajo la dirección y sujeta al permiso del obispo que ejerza la autoridad eclesiástica permanece vigente, así como las demás disposiciones de la A049, lo que incluye:

  1. “Los obispos, en particular los que se encuentran en diócesis dentro de jurisdicciones civiles en las que el matrimonio, unión civil o arreglo doméstico entre personas del mismo sexo es lícito, que ofrezcan una respuesta pastoral abundante para satisfacer las necesidades de los miembros de esta Iglesia.” La Corte Suprema amplió la cantidad de diócesis en las que ahora esto aplica.
  2. “Los obispos pueden autorizar la adaptación de estos materiales para satisfacer las necesidades de esta iglesia.”

Se entiende que esto implica que la liturgia autorizada en 2012 para uso provisional sigue vigente hasta que sea reemplazada por las nuevas liturgias autorizadas para su uso a partir del Adviento I de 2015, y que los obispos pueden adaptar dicha liturgia para satisfacer las necesidades de esta iglesia, lo que abarca adaptarlas para el matrimonio, tal como lo han hecho muchos obispos en el último trienio. Algunos se han preguntado si la versión de 2015 de “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” (El testimonio y la bendición de un matrimonio)puede considerarse como una adaptación para el matrimonio de la liturgia de 2012, y todo parece indicar que en efecto sería así. Sin embargo, la liturgia de 2015 “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2” (La celebración y la bendición de un matrimonio 2) no lo sería, puesto que está basada en el Libro de Oración Común 1979 y no en “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Life-long Covenant” (Testimonio y bendición de un pacto de por vida) como fue autorizada en 2012.

“The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage” (La celebración y la bendición de un matrimonio) del Libro de Oración Común de 1979, junto con “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage” (La bendición de un matrimonio civil) y “An Order for Marriage” (Una orden de matrimonio) del Libro de Oración Común de 1979 siguen siendo las liturgias que deben usarse con parejas de sexo diferente.“The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2” (La Celebración y la Bendición de un Matrimonio 2), según quedó autorizada para uso de ensayo por la 78.ª Convención General se puede usar con todas las parejas a partir del Adviento I de 2015.

*La Cámara de Obispos recibió este documento de la Obispo Ely con aprecio y lo remitió a los miembros de la Cámara de Obispos individualmente para que lo usen en sus respectivas diócesis con la disposición de que lo usen en su forma actual o lo modifiquen según lo consideren necesario en aras del interés pastoral de su diócesis.

Advancing Inter-Religious Relations

As we approach the Jewish feast of Passover, which begins this year on the evening of April 3, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music encourages congregations to remember our Jewish sisters and brothers in prayer.

Certain hymns and passages from the New Testament can mislead Christians into believing that the Church has replaced Judaism. Islam, on the other hand, may arouse fear. These responses are not in line with church teaching.

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, following the urging of Paul that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone” (1 Timothy 2.1), offers the following prayers for our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers, who also call on the God of Abraham as their hope and salvation. These collects may be included in the Prayers of the People.

A collect for each Jewish and Islamic holy day is provided below in two separate lists. As in many ancient faith traditions, the Jewish and Islamic faiths observe their holy days according to the lunar calendar. Due to the complexity of calculating where these days from the lunar calendar fall in our common solar calendar, a web-link has been provided to help parishes or individuals using these collects find the appropriate day for using these collects in any given year. Along with each collect, a brief explanation has been provided, which may be read prior to the reading of the collect.

You can download the file here: Inter-faith Prayers

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Prayers for Islamic holy days

To find when these holy days fall within the year: http://www.moonsighting.com/important.html

Muslims celebrate the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

Prayer

O God, whose glory the speechless skies proclaim and whose wisdom we discern in the words of the prophets, bless all faithful Muslims as they celebrate the birth of Muhammad. Grant us grace so to hear your voice at all times and in all places and teach us to follow its promptings. Amen.

In Ramadan, Muslims take on the discipline of fasting for a month.

Prayer

O God of abundance, bless those who keep the fast of Ramadan and all holy fasts that they may learn to put their trust in your abundant mercy and providence. Amen.

In Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power, Muslims commemorate the night in which the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Eid Al Fitr, the end of Ramadan, marks the end of month-long fast, Muslims, therefore, thank God for sustaining them through the season of self-denial.

Prayer

Eternal God, who through the mouth of prophets has revealed wisdom to all peoples, we praise you for your many revelations. May those who celebrate the giving of sacred writings, who observe the fasts and offer you their prayers, be filled with your wisdom and peace. Amen.

Eid Al Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, commemorates Ibrahim’s (that is, Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his son to God. This festival also marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Prayer

Faithful God, in whose providence Abraham trusted even beyond his own understanding, may all who celebrate his faithfulness come to know your saving mercy. Amen.

As Muslims welcome the New Year of their calendar they also commemorate the migration of Mohammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina.

Prayer

O Almighty God, by whose will the world turns and seasons and years come in their time, as Muslims welcome the New Year and remember the journey of the faithful to Medina, make us all mindful that you do not fail to provide for those whom you call. Amen.

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Prayers for Jewish holy days

To find when these holy days fall within the year: http://www.hebcal.com/holidays/

In the festival of Purim, Jews commemorate their salvation from a Persian plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day” (Esther 3:13).

Prayer  

O God, who rescued your people from the hand of the Persians, bless this holy festival of Purim and all who observe it. Teach us to trust in your faithfulness, for you do not forget those who put their trust in you. Amen.

In the eight-day festival of Passover, the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt is celebrated.

Prayer

Gracious God, fill with your joy and hope those who keep the feast of Passover. May all who turn to you for liberation likewise show forth your redeeming love. Amen.

Every year on the holiday of Shavuot, which means “oaths,” Jews commemorate God’s gift of the Torah and renew their acceptance of God’s teaching. On this day God swore eternal devotion to them, and they in turn pledged everlasting loyalty.

Prayer

Ever-faithful God, we bless your holy name for the Prophet Moses, through whom the Law was given. Free, defend, and nurture those who trust in your everlasting covenant; make them ever faithful to your commandments. Amen.

The festival of Rosh Hashanah, meaning, “Head of the Year,” celebrates the creation of Adam and Eve and the special relationship between God and humanity.

Prayer

O God of all creation, this festival of Rosh Hashanah, when Jews lift up their praise to you for the gift of the New Year. May all creation come to glorify you, our creator and sustainer. Amen.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year; it is the Day of Atonement, for as it says in Leviticus, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God” (Leviticus 16:30).

Prayer

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, hear the prayers of your people who come before you in fasting and repentance. May their offerings this Day of Atonement be pleasing in your sight. Instill in our hearts true repentance and amendment of life that we, too, may show forth your saving love. Amen.

The eight-day festival of Chanukah celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. It commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish warriors defeated the occupying Greek armies.

Prayer

Bless those, O God, who keep this Festival of Lights. May all who live by faith show forth your light in the world and, by your grace, triumph over sin and darkness. Amen.

SCLM Report to General Convention Published

The commission’s report to the 2015 General Convention is now published online, on the General Convention website. Still to come are the appendices, which include a proposed revision and expansion of Liturgical Resources 1, the resources for blessing same-sex relationships that the 2012 General Convention approved; a proposed new resource for commemorations, replacing Holy Women, Holy Men; and  liturgical materials for honoring God in creation.

Jewish-Christian Dialogue: International Perspectives

The American Interfaith Institute is hosting free, live, interactive webinars on “Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Commitment and Challenges – Latin American and International Experiences and Perspectives,” this year’s conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews.  The conference takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 19-21. Seminars include:

August 19:

August 20:

August 21:

Register by clicking the links above, or at the American Interfaith Institute website.

From the ICCJ website: The International Council of Christians and Jews serves as the umbrella organization of 38 national Jewish-Christian dialogue organizations world-wide. The ICCJ member organizations world-wide over the past five decades have been successfully engaged in the historic renewal of Jewish-Christian relations. Through its annual conferences and other consultations the ICCJ offers a platform where people of different religious backgrounds examine current issues across national and religious boundaries, enabling face-to-face exchanges of experience and expertise.

SCLM Hosts Consultation on Same-Sex Marriage

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SLCM) of The Episcopal Church recently held a two-and-a-half-day Indaba-style conversation on same-sex marriage June 3-5 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, MO.

The conversation included leaders from 6 other provinces of the Anglican Communion, 5 of The Episcopal Church’s ecumenical partners, and lay and clergy representatives from 25 Episcopal dioceses where civil same-sex marriage is legal.

“The overwhelming feel of the entire gathering was one of openness, love, trust, and joy,” said Kathleen Moore, Diocese of Vermont. “Over the course of just three days, many participants who hailed from different states, countries, and denominations shared the profound closeness they now feel toward one another, and an intent to remain in touch.”

The first half of the gathering featured Indaba-style discussion that sought to develop an understanding of civil marriage and the church’s response in different contexts. Indaba is a method of having purposeful conversation, especially about issues that may invite disagreement or diverse viewpoints, that is common in some African cultures.

The second half focused specifically on discussing and hearing responses to “I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing,” the rite and related resources for blessing same-sex relationships approved at the 77th General Convention in 2012.

The SCLM held the meeting to fulfill, in part, Resolution A049’s directive to invite responses “from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals from throughout The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and from our ecumenical partners,” in order to report back to the 78th General Convention in 2015.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori encouraged openness. “We are here to encounter a diverse sample of God’s creation and consider how we might effectively support and nurture that journey in community for all without resort to rigidity or anarchy,” she said. “Neither is Anglican. So enjoy the discovery and don’t jump to conclusions.  Be open to God’s still-and ever-unfolding creative spirit.”

As an introduction to the Indaba-style conversation, each participant was asked to introduce himself or herself and an object that represents what he or she brings to the conversation. The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music Chair, opened by introducing her object, a photograph of two women at whose blessing she officiated. Meyers explained, “I have heard so many stories. This photo reminds me of the couples whose hopes and dreams are expressed in this process.”

Ulysses Dietz, Diocese of Newark, brought his wedding ring. He recounted his journey through the years that began when he and his husband Gary entered into a private covenant in 1975, followed by a civil union, and finally a marriage. They were married by the mayor of Maplewood, NJ. Dietz explained: “When the mayor asked about rings, I said, ‘forget the rings.’ What we got was the word ‘husband.’ Words are important.”

Echoing that sentiment, Jeff Diehl, Diocese of El Camino Real, brought the liturgy from his upcoming marriage. Diehl told participants, “It is incredible that our names are written under the words ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of Marriage.’ We belong to a church that acknowledges us for who we are, that blesses our family, that loves our family.”

The Rev. Jacynthia Murphy of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia brought with her a dress with the Maori symbol koru to remind participants that “we are all joined.” She also taught the Maori greeting of hongi – rubbing noses and exchanging breath – to remind all present that “you belong to each other and to all of creation.”

A highlight of the gathering was enacting the “Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” liturgy. Meyers served as “Presider,” while the Rev. Jane Stewart and Linda Kroon, Diocese of Iowa, who happened to be celebrating their 15th anniversary that day, served as “the couple.” Though it was only a reading of the text and not an actual use of the liturgy, several of those present were moved to tears. The Rev. Marinez R. S. Bassotto from Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil observed that this liturgy sounded very much like the Holy Matrimony liturgy in Brazil. “What I heard was a marriage,” she said.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, preached at the meeting’s closing Eucharist. “If every person is of equal value, a beloved child of God, then every baptized member of this Church has equal claim on everything the Church offers,” she said. “Equal value.  Equal claim. It’s not rocket science…It’s an amazing privilege to work so that all may claim their rightful inheritance. Talk about a love story.”

At the meeting’s end, a number of Episcopal participants said that while the church has come a long way in its effort to treat all of its members as equals, the difference between the church offering same-sex couples a blessing and other couples a marriage was of great concern.

“Speaking from the perspective of the clergy group at the gathering, I would say that we felt that as priests we are in a particularly difficult position,” said the Rev. Amy Welin, Diocese of Connecticut. “The distinction between a blessing and holy matrimony is not insignificant. As we have vowed both to obey our bishops and to care for all our people, this puts parish clergy in a pastorally tenuous role.”

Bishop Thomas C. Ely of Vermont, who serves on the Task Force on the Study of Marriage as well as the SCLM, said this gathering gave “much to be able to take back into our work based on conversation with people living this reality on the ground, and hearing the pastoral challenges local clergy are facing.”

Meyers described the experience as “amazing,” adding, “You hope and you pray – and when you stand back and give the Holy Spirit room to do her work, it’s astonishing.”

 

Preaching during Holy Week

Last year, we offered some reflections on the challenges of preaching during Holy Week. This year, we pass along to you a call for “Mindful Sermons of Holy Week.”

From the webpage of the American Interfaith Institute:

For many years, legions of religious scholars and members of the clergy have expressed concern over the various New Testament readings in the Christian Lectionary which convey antagonistic feelings toward people of the Jewish faith. These readings, as they are the word of G-d, are taken literally by church-attending Christians who may not be aware of the complicated historical context within which these verses were written. Thus, they easily lead to a misinterpreted understanding of the passage. These types of misinterpretations have generated terrible violence and discriminatory perspectives against Jews and the Jewish faith for countless years.

The American Interfaith Institute, in collaboration with Sermons without Prejudice, is putting out a call for “Mindful Sermons of Holy Week,” a campaign which focuses on strengthening intellectual honesty and faithful religious practice. We invite you, as a pivotal member of your community, to address the polemic language found in the Good Friday or Palm Sunday readings to your congregation during Holy Week in a manner which you deem most appropriate. The language found in these specific texts is known to be the most polemic and has led to countless terrorizing acts and perceptions against the Jewish people. If not explained within context, these specific texts may continue to perpetuate similar anti-Judaic thoughts and behavior and may counter much of the effort made to strengthen the relationship between Christianity and Judaism thus far. Addressing the polemics in the Holy Week readings is one of the most momentous steps Christian leaders can take in solidifying the relationship between G-d’s children.

Sermons will be reviewed by our advisory board, comprised of religious leaders and scholars from around the world, and a monetary prize of $500 will awarded for the selected entry for the purpose of helping you continue this important mission. Additionally, all participants will be acknowledged on the American Interfaith Institute website which reaches a large network of individuals who have a sincere interest in this subject.

For additional questions, please contact lora@americaninterfaith.org. Please consider visiting our website www.AmericanInterfaith.org for additional information and to become a member of our powerful network of scholars and religious leaders.

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