From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Bishops turn down development of same-sex liturgies

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Wed, 06 Aug 2003 21:15:20 -0700

August 6, 2003

Bishops turn down development of same-sex liturgies

by Richelle Thompson

[ENS] A day after confirming the election of an openly gay man as bishop,
the House of Bishops on Wednesday agreed to a compromise and decided not to
move forward with the development of same-sex blessing liturgies.

An amendment offered by Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and approved by the
house deleted the lines from resolution C051 that asked the Standing
Committee on Liturgy and Music to develop rites for blessing same-sex
relationships. The resolution now goes before the House of Deputies for
consideration - but without a measure that would provide for developing
same-sex blessing liturgies.

The amended resolution calls the church to continued prayer, study and
discernment on the pastoral care of gay and lesbians persons. The work is
to include the compilation and development of resources under the direction
of the Presiding Bishop to facilitate as wide a conversation as possible
throughout the church.

A similar measure to develop same-sex rites was narrowly defeated by the
House of Deputies at the last General Convention.

While the decision disappointed some activists, others said the resolution
offered some latitude in the phrase, We recognize that local faith
communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they
explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.

The move was taken as an encouraging sign by bishops affiliated with the
American Anglican Council. I think it is something we can go home with,
said Bishop William Skilton, suffragan of South Carolina. He would have
felt better, he said, if there had been no resolution moving the church
toward accepting gay and lesbian relationships, but was willing to live
with the compromise worked out by the bishops. It is certainly better than
what was originally proposed, he said.

Bishop Edward Salmon of South Carolina, who chose not to vote on the
resolution, said he had no major objection to it since the language to
develop rites had been dropped out. The more significant action, he said,
was yesterdays consent on the bishop coadjutor-elect of New Hampshire, the
Rev. Gene Robinson, which makes the vote on the resolution moot. Robinson
is an openly gay man living in a committed relationship.

More moderate conservatives saw the measure as something of speed bump.
More reflection and study is needed on how the church incorporates gay and
lesbian members, said Bishop Herbert Thompson of Southern Ohio. He noted
the wonderful pastoral way both sides of the issue had agreed to the
compromise. The message today, he said, is that the church is not yet ready
develop rites for blessing same-sex unions. Maybe down the road but we
need a conversation and they are allowing that to happen.

Bishop Lee said he offered the amendment in consideration of the 43 bishops
who voted against the Robinson's confirmation. After Tuesdays vote,
several bishops said they would be calling on the other primates of the
Anglican Communion to intervene in the pastoral emergency that has
overtaken us. Some deputies walked off the floor Wednesday and have made
dire predictions about schism and the future of the church.

Lee, who voted in support of Robinson, said that the exercise of
restraint, in the church, the nation and around the world, would be an
appropriate pastoral response.

Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida was on the opposite side of the
debate Tuesday and has spoken against the confirmation of Robinson. But on
Wednesday, he offered support for Lees amendment.

He pledged to do everything possible to help my diocese turn to godly
conversation about what will continue to be a difficult issue. He said the
amendment provides the opportunity to engage and continue that discussion.

Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama also cast a "no" vote against Robinsons
confirmation, but he found common ground in the amended resolution.

Our liturgy expresses what we believe. So we need to be particularly clear
theologically before we move forward liturgically, he said. This
amendment helps us be a church together as we seek theological consensus
more solid and sound than we have found.
While the Diocese of New York is stronger and growing because of the
ministries of gay and lesbian priests and lay people, Bishop Mark Sisk also
said he was aware of the worldwide implications of approving the
development of same-sex liturgies.

I am mindful that our actions do have an impact around the world. We are
not alone, Sisk said. I believe we are growing in the direction that
will, in the future, authorize such blessings. I am also aware that all
growth needs to take place in a measured way. Growth that is too quick
leads to weakness.

There was dissent as well. Some bishops urged the house to reconsider and
to approve this step in developing same-sex blessing liturgies.

You cannot understand the experience that it is for every gay and lesbian
member of the Episcopal Church when this house debates whether or not our
relationships can be honored and celebrated, said Bishop Otis Charles, who
announced he was gay after he retired as bishop of Utah. We must be
mindful of the pain that is in the hearts of all the people in your
conversations, known or unknown, who are gay and lesbian who would like
to have the same dignity that each one of you has in your relationships.

Bishop James Kelsey of Northern Michigan read his dioceses vision
statement, saying that it calls the church to move ahead with faith and

Gay and lesbian persons deserve our support and affirmation, he said.
They should not be asked to live in hiding. They - and we - should
celebrate the gifts they bring to us.

Two proposals to reinstate resolution B007, crafted and proposed by the
bishops of Province IV, also failed.

The Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee reworked C051 to merge several
of the resolutions in an effort to find common ground, said Bishop
Catherine Roskam, suffragan of New York and the committees vice chair.

The fear among many committee members was If we dont bring home
something, we are going to lose people, Roskam said. We worked to craft
something where we might not lose one.

-- Episcopal News Service writer David Skidmore contributed to this article. 

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