This evening, Episcopalians from Madison’s parishes gathered to discuss the proposed liturgy for the Blessing of Same Gender Unions that will be debated and voted on at General Convention 2012. In that liturgy, we read:
Dear friends in Christ,
we have gathered together today
to witness N. N. and N. N. publically committing themselves to one another
and, in the name of the Church, to bless their union:
a relationship of mutual fidelity and steadfast love,
forsaking all others,
holding one another in tenderness and respect,
in strength and bravery,
come what may,
as long as they live.
Ahead of them is a life of joy and sorrow,
of blessing and struggle,
of gain and loss,
demanding of them the kind of self-giving love
made manifest to us in the life of Jesus.
Christ stands among us today,
calling these two people always to witness in their life together
to the generosity of his life for the sake of the world,
a life in which Christ calls us all to share.
Our discussion focused on the differences between this liturgy and the marriage rite in the Book of Common Prayer, and it became clear as we talked that there was considerable uncertainty about the Church’s theology of marriage, and how this proposed rite relates to that theology. We also heard from some who struggle with how the church’s teaching relates to their own experiences and the relationships in which they live and love.
I came home to learn of the passage of Amendment 1 in North Carolina, and read on facebook and twitter of the pain that creates for so many. I will admit my own conflicted nature, because I know that this is an issue that divides people, but also because I don’t think the Church has worked out its theology of marriage adequately. One of the things clergy in attendance at the meeting tonight seemed united on was our discomfort with acting on behalf of the state in signing marriage licenses. Until we’re clear on what marriage means for us theologically, it’s hard to make a case for how we should think about same gender unions.
I will say this about the resources provided by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music. I find the proposed liturgy beautiful, well-conceived (at least for the most part), and perfectly adaptable for a marriage rite between heterosexuals as well as LGBT couples. What troubles me most is the theological reflection, which I find odd. It seems to me it ought to begin with the nature of God (relationship inherent in the Trinity) and in human nature–that God creates and calls humans to be in relationship with other humans.