This isn’t exactly news but we’re talking again about how we might move forward on blessing same-sex relationships in the Diocese of Milwaukee. The Standing Committee announced a two-part approach as it seeks to discern the perspective of congregations and clergy. I’ve shared with members and friends of Grace our plans to discuss the questions posed by the Standing Committee next week. Here’s what they want to know:
Please tell us how the authorization of a provisional rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships, as well as Bishop Miller’s position not to allow the use of such rites in the Diocese of Milwaukee factor into life in your parish and the surrounding community.
- What pastoral issues does the ability/inability to bless same-gender relationships raise in your community?
- What theological questions does it raise?
- What challenges does the issue of same-gender blessings and the ability/inability to bless same-gender relationships pose to evangelism and church growth in your context?
- With respect to the issue of blessing same-gender relationships, what voices within your parish and within this diocese do you believe are not being heard?
I’m rather struck by the similarities in tone between these questions and those being asked in the Vatican’s world-wide survey of Catholics. We are not being asked what we think of same sex marriage nor what we think of the proposed rites. Rather, we are being asked about how a decision about using the rites might affect pastoral care and evangelism.
To put this in a bit of context, two images:
And courtesy of Integrity, USA, a map showing dioceses where same-sex blessings are allowed.
Wisconsin stands out in both.
Meanwhile, across the pond, there are rumblings that a high-level report will recommend that the Church of England develop liturgies for same-sex blessings (though not marriage) although there are other rumors that deny this. I suppose we’ll have to wait for its publication.
This past summer, after Bishop Miller announced his decision, I wrote the following in a letter to the parish:
I am your pastor. I seek to be the pastor of everyone who enters our doors in search of God’s grace and love. I know both the power and fragility of the love of two people and I know how important it is that a couple can find support for their relationship in the body of Christ. That there are couples among us whose relationships cannot be acknowledged and blessed publicly saddens me to the core. It goes against my theology, my experience of the Gospel, and my model of our life together in Christ. I will continue to try to welcome, affirm, and be pastor to everyone—singles, couples, widowed, divorced—who seek to find and live out the love of Christ in their relationships as best and creatively as I can while keeping my vow of obedience to the bishop. And I will continue to pray and work for a deeper and fuller realizing of Christ’s love in all that we as a Church are and do.
I stand by those words.