The Vision and Mission of the Church

The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for blessing same-sex relationships (Resolution C056). The Commission is eager to engage the wider church in theological conversation as one among many sources that will inform our work.

The reflection below was submitted by the Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D., chair of the task group preparing theological resources.

Read more about this project.

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In these blog posts, I’ve been suggesting some ways the wider church might engage in some theological reflection on the blessing of same-sex unions—not only the blessing a community evokes for the couple but also the blessing a couple offers to the wider community. When I reflect on that “double blessing,” I’m always reminded of how biblical writers turned frequently to marriage as a metaphor for humanity’s relationship with God. It’s a powerful image, and a key aspect of the good news of the Gospel: We are invited into intimate, loving communion with God-in-Christ. 

Among the many blessings of a covenantal relationship is the sign it offers to the church of our Gospel hope: the promise made in Christ of loving union with God. In that sense, the covenantal relationships in our congregations always point beyond themselves toward that powerful and hopeful vision. When we offer a blessing to a couple in a committed relationship, we are certainly engaged in an act of pastoral care, but also much more. That liturgical act, it seems to me, is part of the mission of the Church in the world. Covenantal relationships can inspire our Gospel witness to the hope of union with God-in-Christ.

 Vocation, service, mission, and ministry—do couples really think about these things when they reflect on their relationship? How would this kind of theological reflection make a difference in congregational life? How could we make the pastoral care of couples more closely linked to the Church’s mission in the world?

 I’m eager to learn how clergy, congregations, and couples are thinking about these questions and already living them out in their congregational patterns of ministry.

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We invite your participation in this dialogue about blessing same-sex relationships. Your responses and observations here will help inform the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in our work of developing theological and liturgical resources for such blessings. We hope that this conversation will also be a way to renew and enliven a shared vision of the church’s mission in the world.

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4 Responses to The Vision and Mission of the Church

  1. (The Rev.) Brian McHugh says:

    Dear Dr. Johnson: A few weeks ao, Canon Allison, sub-dean of the Cathedral of St. Paul in San Diego CA, made the wonderful announcement from the pulpit that the bishop had now given the Cathedral the go-ahead to celebrate same-sex marriages/blessings. She preached a grand sermon, using a few of the ideas you just raised. I would suggest contacting her and asking for a copy of the sermon to be emailed!

    Blessings!

    Brian+

  2. According to BCP the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Within marriage we are constantly having to be reconciled and restored to unity. Thus it is the basic training ground (for those of us with that vocation) where we learn and practice the Church’s mission. This then extends to other relationships.

    I am anticipating a statement about marriage coming out of the work of the El Camino Real Marriage Task Force which covers these areas. I intend to post it on my parish website so that people interested in getting married will be able to see whether their ideas of marriage match the ideas of “Christian marriage” that you are identifying – vocation, service, ministry, mission. Until then I can only bring it up in premarital counseling.

    I have found more lesbian couples with these values looking for a blessing than heterosexual ones.

  3. Fr. Francisco Carlos Zanger says:

    As an American priest currently serving outside the United States, while I appreciate the enthusiasm and real joy that these liturgies are being met with in many parts of the United States, I remain concerned about what they may mean to us as members of a world-wide Communion. It may well be that the the price is worth paying– that having the Episcopal Church become a small American denomination, rather than part of a world-wide Communion, is worth the cost– and indeed, most Americans have little or no contact with the Communion beyond our borders. However, we need to recognize that may indeed be the cost, and thus ensure that we are making an informed decision.

    • There have been many times in the life of a church when an apparently small group goes ahead in following what it believes to be God’s call and surprising things happen. We are not the only province for whom blessing same-gender relationships is important, and we will not be totally outcast. In my view we are answering God”s call and of course there is a cost but it is outweighed by the need to follow our mission.

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