Called into Relationship / Un Llamado a Relacionarse

Called into Relationship

Jay Emerson Johnson

SCLM Blog for the Blessings Project

 Falling in love with someone is an experience that even the best poets have difficulty describing. We can feel giddy, confused, elated, and distracted all at the same time. Hollywood films portray those moments with fireworks and great music soundtracks when people fall in love “at first sight.” Deciding to enter into a lifelong commitment with someone, however, takes a bit more time.

The vows two people make when entering into a covenantal relationship with each other will shape every aspect of their lives in profound ways. For people of faith, that kind of decision should be made carefully, deliberately, and especially prayerfully. While people do “fall” in love, we should be careful about “falling” into a commitment.

I was reminded of this some years ago listening to a talk by Marvin Ellison, a Christian ethicist, who has worked a great deal on the role of marriage in both church and the wider society. He noted the high divorce rate in the United States and described both the secular and religious resources for addressing it. He then offered an important insight, which has stuck with me ever since: The divorce rate is so high in this country, Ellison said, because the marriage rate is so high.

Ellison’s point is that the Church seems to have lost the idea that a lifelong committed relationship with another person is a vocation, a way of life into which we are called, something similar to a monastic vocation, or the vocation of ordained ministry. Culturally, marriage has instead become a rite of passage into adulthood; it’s what we do when we’re all grown up and ready to “settle down.”

Faith communities, Ellison suggested, have an important role to play in our society by retrieving the vocational character of covenantal relationship, a life into which perhaps many but not all people are called. The Standing Commission’s theological resources for blessing same-gender relationships emphasize these vocational aspects of lifelong covenants in various ways, including the importance of adopting spiritual disciplines to sustain those covenants over time.

Falling in love is a wonderful experience, but how could the Church help people discern whether they are called into commitment? What kind of resources could congregations provide for the vocation of covenantal life? If you are presently in such a covenantal relationship, are there ways in which you understand it as a vocation, a calling?

 Un Llamado a Relacionarse

Jay Emerson Johnson

Blog o Bitácora del Proyecto de las Bendiciones de SCLM

 El enamorarse de alguien es una experiencia que hasta los  mejores poetas tienen dificultad para describirla.  Nos podemos sentir emocionados, confundidos, elevados, y distraídos, todas estas emociones al mismo tiempo.  Las películas de Hollywood presentan estos momentos con fuegos artificiales y una gran música de fondo cuando las personas se enamoran ” a primera vista”.   El decidir entrar en una relación de compromiso para toda la vida con alguien, sin embargo, toma más tiempo.

 Los votos que dos personas hacen cuando entran en una relación de convenio con cada una le dará forma a cada aspecto de sus vidas en maneras profundas.  Para las personas de fe, esta clase de decisión deberá ser hecha cuidadosa, deliberadamente y especialmente en oración.  Mientras que las personas si ” se enamoran”, debemos tener cuidado al ” entrar” en un compromiso.

 Yo recordé esto hace algunos años escuchando un discurso hecho por Marvin Ellison, un Cristiano especialista en Ética, quien trabajo mucho acerca del papel del matrimonio tanto en la iglesia como en la sociedad.  El notó el alto índice de divorcio en los Estados Unidos y describió recursos tanto seculares como religiosos para abordar el tema.  El ofreció una reflexión importante, la cual todavía llevo conmigo: El índice de divorcio es tan alto en este país, dijo Ellison, porque el índice de matrimonio es muy alto.

 El punto de Ellison es que la Iglesia parece haber perdido la idea de que una relación de compromiso para toda la vida con otra persona es una vocación, un modo de vida al cual somos llamados, similar a la vocación monástica, o la vocación del ministerio ordenado.  Culturalmente, en lugar de esto, el matrimonio se ha convertido en un rito de paso hacia la adultez; es lo que hacemos cuando crecemos y estamos listos para ” establecernos”.

 Las comunidades de fe, sugirió Ellison, tienen un papel importante que jugar en nuestra sociedad, recuperando el carácter vocacional de las relaciones, una vida a la cual quizás muchos, pero no todos son llamados. Los recursos teológicos de la  Comisión Permanente para la bendición de las relaciones del mismo género enfatizan estos aspectos vocacionales de los convenios para toda la vida de varias maneras, incluyendo la importancia de adoptar disciplinas espirituales para sostener estos convenios a través del tiempo.

 El enamorarse es una experiencia maravillosa, ¿pero cómo podría la Iglesia ayudar  a las personas a discernir que están llamadas al compromiso?  ¿Qué clase de recursos podrían proveer las congregaciones para la vocación de la vida de convenio? Si usted está actualmente en tal relación de convenio, ¿hay maneras en las cuales usted podría entender su relación como una vocación, un llamado?

 

About Thad Bennett
Educational consultant to the SCLM's Blessings Project

2 Responses to Called into Relationship / Un Llamado a Relacionarse

  1. Joseph Frary says:

    Dr Ellison is against marriage of any sort. He has a male partner and has said that they have no intention of getting married

  2. Your writing, “Called into Relationship” is very refreshing, Jay. I hear from some Episcopal religious authorities that same-sex blessings must not be confused with the Sacrament of Marriage; that is, there should be no holding of hands, exchanging of rings and vows, etc. in same-gender blessings. I see the phrase (regarding the proposed same-sex blessing liturgy), “the couple speaking their ‘words of consent’ to each other…” I assume that phrase is used in place of, “speaking their ‘vows’ to each other.” Problem is, “words of consent” seems mightily watered down, to me, compared with “vows” in regard to entering a covenantal relationship.

    Whereas the term “marriage” can have very negative connotations to same or different-gender couples, “covenantal relationship” or “committed relationship” as vocation describes the magnitude of privilege, responsibility, and seriousness in entering such a relationship, particularly within the framework of one’s faith. I suppose we must use different terminology for the Sacrament of [different-gender] Marriage vs. same-gender blessing liturgies (which, perhaps we could go so far as to say are “sacramental”) as an interim step toward the goal of moving through both of these sacramental liturgies toward one that recognizes the sacred nature of committed relationship, regardless of gender.

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