An uncommon household: Same-sex marriage in early America

Fascinating story.

The other lesson to take from Charity and Sylvia is why the legalization of same-sex marriage is so important. They were able to create a publicly recognized marriage and gain the toleration of their community, many of their family, and many of their friends. But their relationship was always vulnerable, because it wasn’t a legal one. They secured it through selfless devotion to the interests of others throughout their entire lifetime. They secured it by giving everything they had to their kin, to their church, to their community. And always with the threat that at any moment, the sanction for their union could be stripped away.

An interview with the author, Rachel Hope Cleves from the Boston Globe

Still dithering in Wisconsin

An article in today’s Wisconsin State Journal profiles the responses of two of my Madison colleagues to last week’s court decision striking down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage. Andy Jones, Rector of St. Andrew’s, had this to say:

The Rev. Andy Jones, pastor of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Madison, would like to perform same-sex marriages but his denomination does not allow it. The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, of which Madison Episcopal churches are a part, also prohibits same-sex blessing ceremonies, although other Episcopal dioceses allow them.

“Longtime members of St. Andrew’s — faithful, committed couples — long to have their church community affirm who they are and to have their church bless their relationship,” Jones said. “It pains me that I can’t do that.”

The article also quotes Miranda Hassett, who showed her support at the City-County building last Friday: “It was really important for me to be there as a priest and as a progressive Christian,” she said.

I share their views and point out this from Bishop Miller’s letter of 2013 on same-sex blessings:
Furthermore, I stated my belief that the right to a civil marriage should be available to all people, regardless of sexual orientation and that I would support those seeking to overturn the ban on same-gender marriage in Wisconsin.
 You can read it all here:
Meanwhile, the Attorney General is threatening to prosecute County Clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. My friend, Scott McDonnell, Dane County Clerk, responds:

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said the possibility of prosecution “doesn’t keep me up at night.” McDonell, a Democrat andthe first clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Wisconsin, called Van Hollen’s claim of possible charges ridiculous.

“He needs to call off the dogs and turn off the fire hoses,” he said, invoking extreme police responses to some civil rights protests of the 1960s.

In Wisconsin, Episcopalians dither while #lovewins

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.


Another Episcopal Bishop responds to the Supreme Court decision

A very different perspectives than those I linked to earlier (here and here) comes from Bishop Little of the Diocese of Northern Indiana:

While people who share my perspective are in a minority within the Episcopal Church, and while many have simply become silent in the face of such overwhelming numbers on the other side of these difficult issues, the Episcopal Church is far from monochrome.  And so it is essential that church leaders – and the church’s own news service – honestly recognize this diversity when they respond to an event such as the Supreme Court’s ruling.  To fail to do so is, effectively, to “un-church” a theological minority and to treat them as though they do not exist.

In other words:  Go gently in victory – and in defeat.

Here is my own commitment:

  • I will recognize and honor the presence of brothers and sisters within my own diocese who conscientiously disagree with me.
  • I will do all that I can to be in relationship with them, and to seek honest and open conversation.  That includes creating diocesan policies that honor their consciences as well as my own.
  • I will recognize that I might be wrong, and will continue to search the Scriptures.

And I urge my fellow leaders in the Episcopal Church – and the Episcopal News Service – to make a similar undertaking:

  • Recognize that there are faithful brothers and sisters in your diocese, in your parish, and in your ecclesisial institutions, who do not agree with you – even if they are silent.  Recognize and celebrate their presence.  Never speak or act as though they do not exist.
  • Do all that you can to be in relationship with them.  Talk with them.  Make sure that their consciences are honored.
  • Recognize that you might be wrong.  Continue to search the Scriptures.

The ENS article of July 1 and many statements issued immediately after the Supreme Court’s ruling profoundly disturbed me.  They felt at best dismissive and at worst triumphalist.

I’m grateful to Bishop Little for speaking out.

More Episcopal Bishops speak out on Marriage Equality

Bishop Marc Andrus (Diocese of California):

Far as we have come, the gap between the poor and the rich has become greater, not less.

Far as we have come, the Earth groans, the particular light of beautiful species goes out day after day, drought and desert spread, and violent storms increase.

So what are we going to do?

Keep on proclaiming, keep on shining, for we are people of hope and faith.

And here at Grace Cathedral and in the Diocese of California we will be joyfully uniting, again, couples in marriage whose only qualification is love of each other and the desire to be married before God and in the face of our communities of faith.

Today we have seen hope fulfilled, and we have faith in a living God to keep on shining, keep on proclaiming until the Earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of Lord, as the waters, those shining, clear waters, cover the sea.

Bishop Gibbs, Diocese of Michigan

Bishop Robert Wright, Diocese of Atlanta

Bishop Andrew Dietsche, Diocese of New York:

I am proud that in various ways this diocese has made its witness that such equality is truly of God, and speak for our whole community in offering our thanks today to the United States Supreme Court, and to those who have tirelessly pressed the case before that court, and we offer our congratulations and best wishes to all those whose lives will be enlarged and blessed by the events of this day.

Bishop Thomas Shaw, Diocese of Massachusetts:

We here in Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex marriage, have long experienced the contributions that gay and lesbian married couples and their families make to our society and to our church, and so the day that makes it possible for all married couples to be eligible for federal benefits, with equal status and without stigma, is a day for which to be grateful.  With the court’s disappointing decision yesterday to invalidate part of the Voting Rights Act, which seems a real setback for civil rights, it is also a day to recommit ourselves to the struggle for full equality for all God’s people.

Bishop Todd Ousley (Diocese of Eastern Michigan):

Episcopal Leaders speak out on today’s Supreme Court rulings

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori:

The Episcopal Church is presently engaged in a period of study and dialogue about the nature of Christian marriage.  This work is moving forward, with faithful people of many different perspectives seeking together to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit.  However, our Church has taken the position that neither federal nor state governments should create constitutional prohibitions that deny full civil rights and protections to gay and lesbian persons, including those available to different-sex couples through the civic institution of marriage.

Accordingly, I welcome today’s decision of the United States Supreme Court that strikes down the 17-year-old law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex civil marriages granted by the states.

Bishop Lee of the Diocese of Chicago:

“These Supreme Court rulings concern civil marriage, not the Christian sacrament. But I invite Christians who may struggle with the decision to consider that the union of two people in heart, body and mind is capable of signifying the never failing love of God in Christ for the church and the world. These faithful unions, no matter the sex of the partners, can be sources and signs of grace, both for the couple and for the wider community. When we see and celebrate those signs, we testify to the love and mercy of God that overcomes all our divisions and differences.”

Bishop Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles

Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies

Bishop Kirk Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona:

Our country has come closer to a truth which has been ours as Christians from the beginning, that God loves everything and everyone God has made, and that we are called to reflect God’s love for us in how we love each other. Our country is now one step closer to making that possible for everyone. Today Love won.