Bishop Miller has finally published his response to the Standing Committee’s report from July, 2014. He has decided to permit clergy to bless the civil marriages of same sex couples:
As chief pastor, I have to balance my own theological conviction with humility, and a willingness to create space for those who disagree with me. I must also consider what is best for the diocese. My personal position is that, given the disputed witness of Scripture and Tradition in this matter, I see the blessing of same sex couples by the Church as a pastoral provision, informed by modern insights into human sexuality and human development, not unlike the blessing of marriages of persons who have been divorced.
Therefore, after much prayer, consultation, and reflection I am willing to allow clergy of this diocese to bless the marriages of same sex couples who are civilly married.
He has also issued a set of guidelines to be used by clergy and parishes for the blessings and a form to use. The complete document is available here: Response to Standing Committee Same Sex Blessings.FINAL
No doubt we will be talking about this at Grace in the weeks to come.
We knew it was coming. After last summer’s Supreme Court decision and the series of decisions throughout the country throwing out state bans on gay marriage, it was bound to happen in Wisconsin as well. And it did yesterday afternoon.
I’ve documented the conversations at Grace Church and in the Diocese of Milwaukee regarding same sex blessings on this blog. Grace’s public statement of full inclusion is available here: LGBTstatement_revised_01292014. But those conversations occurred with little reference to the larger legal context. We submitted our responses to the Standing Committee’s survey in December and are waiting to hear what other congregations and clergy throughout the diocese had to say.
More telling, perhaps, is the almost total silence around our collective response when gay marriage became a legal reality. In my recollection, I had only one conversation with fellow clergy in the last months about how Episcopalians might proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ’s love when marriage equality became a reality in the state of Wisconsin. My colleague Miranda Hassett and her family went down to the City-County Building last night to be present among the celebrations:
I’m grateful to her for that.
As Episcopal clergy and as a church, we have painted ourselves into a very small corner. It’s going to be increasingly difficult for our congregations to claim to be open and welcoming to LGBT Christians when we refuse to extend the sacrament of marriage to them. As clergy, we are no longer going to be able to use the excuse that same sex marriage is forbidden in the state constitution when couples approach us to solemnize their vows. In retrospect, it would have been helpful to have had frank conversations about this in the past months. Instead, we dithered and kept our mouths shut.
And don’t get me wrong. I’m not pointing the finger anywhere except myself. I dithered, kept my mouth shut, and didn’t raise questions when opportunities presented themselves.