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.

Same-Sex Blessings and Marriage: Bishop Miller’s statement

Last week, Bishop Miller sent clergy in the Diocese of Milwaukee a draft letter in which he laid out his thinking on the proposed liturgies for the Blessing of Same Gender Unions, and the evolving understanding of marriage. A week ago today, he met with diocesan clergy to talk about the letter, our perspectives on it, as well as about our pastoral and theological concerns leading up to General Convention and how we might respond to decisions made at General Convention.

It was a very powerful afternoon. Clergy spoke from their hearts, from a wide variety of theological perspectives, and asked hard questions of Bishop Miller and of each other.

Today, Bishop Miller has released a position paper in which he lays out his views and how he expects to vote on the pertinent resolutions. It’s an important document, available here on his blog.

The key elements of his proposal are this:

  • I am wondering if they best way forward would be the proposal and adoption of a substitute to Resolution A049 calling for the amendment of the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution and Canons to allow for marriage between two persons regardless of sex while at the same time requiring that both parties be baptized, and removing any role of the civil authority. Those who wished to be civilly married could do so if they considered a civil marriage to be most advantageous for them but the Church would have no part of it.  This proposal provided the additional advantage that those who could not be civilly married because state law forbade it or it would cause economic hardship could be married in the Church. As I stated earlier in this letter I propose this because, “it is my opinion that the blessing rite falls short of our call as Christians.”
  • I realize that this means the authorization of a blessing rite would be delayed and that those who have waited for this Church to do so will be told again to wait. However, the provision for generous pastoral response from Resolution C056 would still be in effect, a provision which has allowed for some bishops whose dioceses are in states that have approved same-sex marriage in the civil realm to permit clergy in their diocese to officiate at these marriages and others to allow blessings.

My earlier blog post was in part a response to Bishop Miller’s earlier draft and to the clergy conversation. I repost the pertinent parts:

A theological rationale for same sex marriage has to begin with the nature of God and with human nature. God created us in God’s image, to be in relationship, just as God in Godself is in relationship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Life-giving, holy relationships are based in mutuality, love, and commitment, and some people can only experience such relationships with people of the same gender. Our fallen human nature and our society make any committed relationship difficult, almost impossible, and any couple needs the support of a loving community and the grace of a loving God to thrive. The church should do all in its power to help such relationships flourish. To forbid the sacrament of marriage to a group of people who need it to thrive and flourish is an offense to God who created us in God’s image, and who created us to be in relationship with others.

The proposed liturgy for same-gender blessings is inadequate. I find it lacking precisely because it fails to locate the basis of human relationship in the imago dei. Instead, it speaks of covenant and blessing (I find it ironic that the same people who praise the liturgy and its theological rationale based in covenant are for the most part opposed to the Anglican Covenant). Frankly, I think the theological rationale for the liturgy is deeply flawed. The liturgy itself is adequate although confusing, but there is a question at its heart, namely why blessing? Why not marriage? On the other hand, the SCLM was specifically charged with developing proposed blessings for same sex unions, not a marriage rite

Given the cultural climate, with many of those who most vigorously oppose same-sex marriage having themselves made a mockery of the sacrament by their own lives (Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich come to mind). Would not a more sacramental, a holy witness be of a couple living out a life-long commitment? Would the church’s blessing of such relationships be a witness and symbol of what marriage might be in this world, instead of the dominant cultural models of short-lived relationships like the recent ones of whichever Kardashian it was, or Brittany Spears? In other words, is there a sense in which two living out a committed relationship for a lifetime, are a sacramental witness to the Christian virtues of love and fidelity, and a symbol of Christ’s love for the church to the whole world?

The question facing General Convention 2012 and the Episcopal Church is how to work with what’s facing us. On the one hand, we have this proposed liturgy for Same Sex Blessings. On the other, there is a continuing push to move toward marriage, and another resolution urging an examination of our theology of marriage. This is work that urgently needs doing. It may be that the outcome of that examination is a revision of our marriage rite, and perhaps our canons. I would like to see us freed from the obligation of serving as agents of the state. I would like to see marriage only as a sacramental rite, which might help us offer an alternative to the contemporary marriage business.

Same Sex Blessings, Same Sex Marriage

Scott Gunn has blogged his perspectives on the materials produced by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Mission.

I’ve been thinking about them as well, more intensely in the last day or two, and I would like to offer my own thoughts.

A theological rationale for same sex marriage has to begin with the nature of God and with human nature. God created us in God’s image, to be in relationship, just as God in Godself is in relationship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Life-giving, holy relationships are based in mutuality, love, and commitment, and some people can only experience such relationships with people of the same gender. Our fallen human nature and our society make any committed relationship difficult, almost impossible, and any couple needs the support of a loving community and the grace of a loving God to thrive. The church should do all in its power to help such relationships flourish. To forbid the sacrament of marriage to a group of people who need it to thrive and flourish is an offense to God who created us in God’s image, and who created us to be in relationship with others.

The proposed liturgy for same-gender blessings is inadequate. I find it lacking precisely because it fails to locate the basis of human relationship in the imago dei. Instead, it speaks of covenant and blessing (I find it ironic that the same people who praise the liturgy and its theological rationale based in covenant are for the most part opposed to the Anglican Covenant). Frankly, I think the theological rationale for the liturgy is deeply flawed. The liturgy itself is adequate although confusing, but there is a question at its heart, namely why blessing? Why not marriage? On the other hand, the SCLM was specifically charged with developing proposed blessings for same sex unions, not a marriage rite

Given the cultural climate, with many of those who most vigorously oppose same-sex marriage having themselves made a mockery of the sacrament by their own lives (Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich come to mind). Would not a more sacramental, a holy witness be of a couple living out a life-long commitment? Would the church’s blessing of such relationships be a witness and symbol of what marriage might be in this world, instead of the dominant cultural models of short-lived relationships like the recent ones of whichever Kardashian it was, or Brittany Spears? In other words, is there a sense in which two living out a committed relationship for a lifetime, are a sacramental witness to the Christian virtues of love and fidelity, and a symbol of Christ’s love for the church to the whole world?

The question facing General Convention 2012 and the Episcopal Church is how to work with what’s facing us. On the one hand, we have this proposed liturgy for Same Sex Blessings. On the other, there is a continuing push to move toward marriage, and another resolution urging an examination of our theology of marriage. This is work that urgently needs doing. It may be that the outcome of that examination is a revision of our marriage rite, and perhaps our canons. I would like to see us freed from the obligation of serving as agents of the state. I would like to see marriage only as a sacramental rite, which might help us offer an alternative to the contemporary marriage business.

I’m sure there will be lively debates on all these matters at General Convention. In the meantime, Huffington Post is running some essays on gay marriage, written by LGBT religious leaders. Here’s one from Patrick S. Cheng (who teaches Theology at Episcopal Divinity School.) And from Malcom Boyd, commenting on the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer’s marriage rite:

One of the prayers says: “Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.” I feel this is our own prayer at the heart of our marriage.

Another prayer in The Book of Common Prayer goes: “Give us grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.” Wow. This is a central prayer for any committed day-by-day life together.

What about a really central question — the deep meaning of a shared life in the context of a world with other people? “Make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.”

I am deeply grateful for Mark’s and my gay marriage and our blessed years together. Our gay marriage binds us to the world around us. Our gay marriage gives us healing and blessing that we can share with others.

It turns out microwave ovens are the reason for same sex marriage

Fifty years later, homes across North America began to fit themselves out with a new technology that saved women more time than any technology that came before it – the microwave oven. Food producers responded quickly with prepackaged foods that were easily prepared in a microwave oven in a matter of minutes.

Before we knew it family dinners were appearing on the dining room table without having a mom at home cooking all afternoon.

The authors of the Bloomberg piece, University of Pennsylvania professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, are absolutely right when they argue that marriage changed as a result of these economic influences.

The traditional economic arrangement where women exercised their comparative advantage in home production while men exercised their comparative advantage in the labor force production has gone the way of the dinosaur, taking with it our view of what it means to work together as a couple.

Once society started to shift way from the “male bread winner” model of the family it was natural to start thinking about new ways to arrange families. Couples in which both partners are the same gender, after all, are not really so different from modern day heterosexual partnerships, at least not in terms of economic organization.

Here’s the article.