Process for the Hearing on Resolution A049: Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships

Saturday, July 7

7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Downtown Marriott,
Marriott Room 5 – 10

Sign up begins at 6:30 p.m.

This process is posted:

  • On the Web: Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music at (www.liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com)
  • At the Information Desk: On the hearing schedule board
  • At the Hearing: Available at the sign-up at 6:30 p.m.

Speakers may sign up to testify in one or both parts of the hearing. If a speaker testifies in Part 1, the speaker’s name will move to the bottom of the list in Part 2.

If you have suggested changes to the materials

Those who wish to submit specific suggestions for the resources, Blue Book (pp. 184-281) may post those on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (www.liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com), no later than 7 a.m. EDT on Sunday, July 8, or give them in writing to a legislative aide for Committee 13 by the end of the hearing.

7:00 – 8:00pm

Resolution A049 (Blue Book, p. 168)

Indicate on the sign-up whether you are speaking for or against Resolution A049. Speakers will alternate “pro” and “con,” in order of sign-up.

8:00 – 9:00 pm

“I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing: Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships,” (Blue Book, pp. 184-281)

  • Speakers may offer comments on or suggestions about any or all of the resources.
    The committee asks speakers who have specific suggestions for emending the text to submit their suggestions for changes in specific wording in writing to the legislative aide immediately after testifying; include name and diocese on the submission.
  • Order of testimony: The committee will hear from the first 5 bishops or deputies or alternate deputies who have signed up to testify, in order of sign-up, then from 5 others who have signed up to testify, also in order of sign-up. Speakers will continue to alternate in that pattern: 5 deputies/alternates/bishops, then 5 others.

8 Responses to Process for the Hearing on Resolution A049: Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships

  1. The Rev. Keith Voets says:

    I am not in Indy, but would like to suggest a line being added to the resolution –
    “With the permission of the Diocesan Bishop and with the agreement of both the Officiant and couple being married, this liturgy may also be used as a substitute for the rite of Holy Matrimony or Blessing of a Civil Marriage found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer during the 2012-15 Triennium.”

    The proposed rite captures the modern understanding of marriage and is more biblically sound than that currently found in the BCP. This allows those people who are being married by the Church to use this liturgy as well. Currently the proposal is just for same-sex couples seeking blessing.

  2. Lisa Hlass says:

    The liturgy is rich and beautiful. I suggest that an alternative phrase be offered in the Blessing of the Couple (Blue Book p. 248):

    God the Father
    God the Son
    God the Holy Spirit

    or

    God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity

    bless, preserve, and keep you…

  3. Melody says:

    I attended tonight’s hearing, but arrived too late to sign up to speak. I will say, I was deeply disheartened by the fact that, when it came time to speak to the content of the liturgy, there was a mass exodus from the room, and only 3 people signed up to speak to the liturgy itself. I think this is a sign that, while many support the act of blessing, most have not carefully examined the content of our liturgy of blessing.

    I completely and unreservedly support the Blessing of Same-Gender (sex!) Relationships. In fact, I, personally, completely and unreservedly support the Celebration and Blessing of the Marriage of Same-sex couples, however I have a great deal of concern about the content of the proposed blessing liturgy.

    My main concerns are as follows:
    • The liturgy does not follow the rules set-forward by the SCLM for their own work.
    o The language is not “beautiful according to accepted and respected standards.” I have read it aloud multiple times, and cannot get through it without stumbling).
    o It does not “use the recurring structures, linguistic patterns, and metaphors of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.” The language of this liturgy is not consonant with our tradition, and in fact consciously deviates from it. There are many places where there are opportunities to use language already in the liturgies of our church, to continue the tradition of our liturgy, and this liturgy does not avail itself of them.
    o Furthermore, the liturgy seems to operate as an instruction on a new theology of marriage, in direct contradiction of the direction that: “The rite must be what they purport to be—liturgical prayer—not didactic of polemical statements in the guise of liturgy.”
    • The order and progress of the liturgy is confusing. The consent, prayers, vows, commitment, and exchange of rings are mingled and muddled. The order and flow of the various “pieces” of the liturgy should follow that of a blessing of a Civil marriage which, in turn, follows the structure and order of the other liturgies of our Church.
    • Why are there two questions directed to the congregation? A single, coherent question (and the often awe-inspiring response of “We will”) is in order—it more fully echoes the service of Baptism, in which this service purports to be grounded.

    I will, when this resolution comes to the floor, vote yes so that my brothers and sisters who are waiting for the church’s blessing will have the opportunity to use a liturgy now, rather than later. I will, against my impulse vote on the issue, rather than the liturgy. However, I urge and implore the SCLM to consider serious revision to this liturgy. I would ask you to attend to the findings of the study of marriage, and be sure that the final liturgy is informed by and reflects our theology of marriage.

  4. Two suggestions:

    Remove the paragraph “Ahead of them…Christ calls us to share.” To me it feels superfluous. I think the rite flows better without the entire paragraph. I would suggest the paragraph to which I refer might better fit in the context of a sermon. (BB 241-2)

    I would perhaps follow the first paragraph of the address with: Therefore, in the name of Christ, let us pray that they may be strengthened for the promises….

    My second suggestion concerns the response to the Scripture readings. The third option given reads, “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.” I either do not understand why “Churches” is capitalized. Or I do not understand why “Church” is made plural. I believe it should say, “Here what the Spirit is saying to the Church.”

    Deputy Jeremiah Williamson+
    Diocese of Ohio

  5. James Turrell says:

    In general, the proposed rite is quite good, but there are a few places where the draft text is rather weak tea. I’d suggest the following revisions:

    Of the collects on p. 242, only the first collect specifically mentions the vow of fidelity and asks God’s assistance in helping the couple to live out this promise—this is the best of the collects, because it shares the marriage rite’s realism about the challenge of living up to the vows made, a challenge that is present whether a couple is married or in a lifelong, covenanted union. I would keep this first collect and omit the other options.

    The provision on p 245-6 for other concerns to be included in the prayers for the couple is unusual in a ritual mass—normally, in such rites as marriage, baptism, and confirmation, we pray for the particular individuals in the context of the particular occasion. I would therefore omit the optional petitions that are not directly related to the couple and the blessing of their covenant. The prayers for the couple out of the marriage rite in the BCP at p 429 have richer language and imagery–could they not be adapted (by omitting reference to “matrimony” in the first petition, for example) to server here?

    In place of the blessing at p. 248, I would suggest the blessing at p. 430 in the BCP, with the gender-specific language modified as needed. The BCP blessing does not name the relationship to be blessed as matrimony, and therefore it might reasonably be used to bless any lifelong union. It gives a richer set of images for life together than the version in the draft rite, as well as an image of the eschatological banquet (omitted in the draft rite).

    Jim Turrell
    Associate Professor of Liturgy
    School of Theology
    University of the South

  6. The Rev. Ann M. Tillman says:

    This is a beautiful piece of work, with incredibly rich and lyrical language. I would love to see this used for All couples seeking marriage! Thank you to the Committee for your excellent work.

  7. Scott Gunn says:

    I am grateful to be part of a church that recognizes God’s call to ordained ministry in the lives of people without regard to sexual orientation, and I am proud to be in a church that is on the verge of authorizing trial-use liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships. If the blessing liturgy in the “Blue” Book comes up for a vote as is, I will certainly vote for it. However, I am disappointed by much of what I will vote to support. My qualms are not with the intention of the text, but with the text itself.

    To begin with, this rite closely resembles the marriage service from the prayer book in many ways. If the goal were to effect same-sex marriages, this would make sense. But it seems to be that the better model for this service would have been the blessing of a civil marriage service from the prayer book. Many people who attend this service will believe they have witnessed a marriage, not a blessing. I do not think it is right to confuse people needlessly in our liturgies.

    To be clear, I believe that the church should eventually offer the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples. However, I think that we need to first clarify our theology of marriage — for all people — before we proceed with this (A050 will help get us there). Our current marriage liturgy would need revision to be used for same-sex couples, and I think it may need revision for use for all people.

    I say all this as a preface to my belief that what we are able to do now as a church is bless same-sex relationships (including state-performed marriages). And in the spirit of clarity, I think we need to be clear that the church is blessing an existing relationship (marriage, civil partnership, or neither), rather than effect a marriage or a new covenant. My sacramental theology is dusty, but I think the language of covenant as it is used in this liturgy and in these materials is confusing.

    Same-sex couples should not need to wait while the church gets its act together, nor should they be punished by the failure of a standing commission to do the thing it was asked to do. So for that reason, I will vote for these trial-use liturgies. But we have work to do! This work will benefit all couples, same-sex or opposite-sex and, indeed, the whole church.

    Rather than write a book here, I will simply provide some quick points with what I consider to be some of the deficiencies beyond my sense that the function of this liturgy is unclear at best. This is not an exhaustive list. Some samples:

    First off, we should be looking at a choice of rites. The SCLM was asked to produced liturgical resources (plural), not a liturgy (singular). Or at least that’s how I read their brief.

    I object to the use of the term same-gender. Gender is the social construction of sexual difference. It’s been a few years since I read much gender theory, but my understanding is that most gender theorists would say that two women will have different expressions of gender, while their sex will be the same. In other words, there is almost never going to be a couple in which both persons are of the same gender. However, two women or two men are same-sex couples. (And then there are people born with sex other than “male” or “female” but we will leave that to another blog post)

    When I asked about this in our provincial orientation, the SCLM person told us that people are squeamish about the word “sex” and so they thought they should use “gender” because the resolution would seem less scary “in some parts of the country.” I am only slightly paraphrasing what he said. So, right there, we are letting our life be dominated by fear again. Why are we letting some perceived cultural taboo about the word “sex” cause us to not call these blessings what they are?

    There is also the argument that “General Convention told us to work on ‘same-gender’ relationships, so we have to use that language.” Really? If General Convention told you to jump off a cliff, would you? Could the commission not have said, “You told us to call these x, but we think they should be called y”? Why continue error, when we know how to fix it?

    At a time when we desperately need honesty and clarity around issues of sexuality, I think the words we use matter a lot. That’s why I will call these rites what they are: same-sex blessings.

    The language is not beautiful. One of the stated goals of this liturgy was to have language with durability and beauty. Alas, we have not met that goal. At the role-play liturgy I witnessed, the participants could not read the lines; the prose does not flow smoothly when read aloud. I cannot claim to be able to write good liturgy, so I know it is difficult. I also suspect that great prose is rarely produced in committee. You can almost see the committee at work throughout the liturgy. “Let’s get that point in here. OK, but then let’s make this point.” And so on. Let’s find a genius of beautiful prose, who is steeped in the scriptures and in our liturgical tradition, and turn that person loose on the next draft. We do not want a “separate but equal” situation where opposite-sex couples are being married with lovely prose and same-sex couples are getting married/blessed with clunky prose.

    Let’s respect our current prayer book. The liturgy purports to replace the Ministry of the Word in Rite II or in EOW. However, the quoted example from Rite II includes this response to the Opening Acclamation: “And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.” That is not what our prayer books says. While I would probably vote to amend our prayer book to change the male pronoun “his” to the neutral “God’s”, we have not done this. Also, why are the penitential acclamations not given as examples?

    The structure of the (confusing) liturgy is confusing. The consent questions are mixed in with the vows. Why? Then there is “Commitment” with rings. The whole thing is not easy to sort out, at least for this priest.

    Here’s another example. In the prayer book marriage service, the congregation is asked, “Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?” It is a great moment, and I often mention it in my sermon at weddings. Here is the parallel question in the same-sex blessing liturgy, “Will all of you here gathered uphold and honor this couple and respect the covenant they make?” That’s a far cry from “all in your power.” Because of that, there is a second question, “Will you pray for them in times of trouble and celebrate with them in times of joy?” It is inelegant and seems redundant to have two questions. Why not follow the pattern in marriages, ordinations, baptisms, and other occasions and ask one, powerful, beautiful question?

    The declaration of intention is problematic. In the mention of children, it says, “if it may be.” Why not, “if it is God’s will”? Fatalism is a grave problem in our culture (“it is is meant to be, it is meant to be”) so we should instead use the language of our liturgical heritage and of the scriptures. Talking about “God’s will” leaves plenty of maneuvering room. In a Christian liturgy, surely we need not avoid mentioning God’s sovereign power?

    There are too many resources to be approved in this resolution. This resolution includes a paper about the covenantal basis for this liturgy, along with pastoral preparation to be used by the officiating clergy. General Convention should not approve marriage or covenant or blessing preparation materials. I’m grateful the SCLM created an excellent resources, but they should simply be published by Church Publishing or another publisher. Liturgies must be authorized by General Convention. Why “authorize” papers or pastoral resources? If the point is that General Convention is being asked to endorse the concept or the theology of same-sex blessings, we can surely do that without inscribing lengthy papers and thorough pastoral resources into legislative action.

    Beyond exceeding the necessary mandate of General Convention, we simply don’t have time to do a thorough or accurate job here. We have enough trouble getting, say, the lectionary right. Let’s not take on an extra 50 pages of prose that, if included in this resolution’s scope, would now be beyond correction, improvement, or editing. I’d like us to be able to improve the pastoral resources without recourse to General Convention. Surely the goal here could be met by General Convention endorsing the use of resources for same-sex blessing preparation without including the resources in our authorized material.

    If it is desirable to bundle these materials together, then surely they could be published in one volume with a note explaining which portions are authorized by General Convention, and which parts have been created to facilitate the use of the authorized trial use liturgy.

    One more time, lest I be accused of resisting same-sex blessings. I am 100% on board with the Episcopal Church authorizing trial use same-sex blessings and, in due course, with the Episcopal Church authorizing same-sex blessings and marriages in the main corpus of our liturgical life. My concerns as expressed here are with what I perceive to be inadequate liturgical resources. What we are doing is too holy and important to offer anything less than our very best.

    • Keri Aubert says:

      Scott, your comment came in after 7 am deadline, so the subcommittee was unable to consider it at its 7:30 am meeting today.

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