From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Deputies approve compromise resolution on same-sex unions

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 07 Aug 2003 23:28:36 -0700

August 7, 2003

Deputies approve compromise resolution on same-sex unions

By Sharon Sheridan and James Thrall

[ENS] While liturgies blessing same-sex unions are celebrated in some parts
of the Episcopal Church, the church is not ready to authorize creating
common liturgies for such services, General Convention has decided.

In a vote by orders, with 58 lay deputations and 62 clergy deputations of
108 voting yes, the deputies concurred with bishops in adopting an
amended resolution recognizing 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 resolution also commits the church to continued prayer, study and
discernment on the pastoral care for gay and lesbian persons. As part of
the process, a commission appointed by the presiding bishop will compile
and develop resources to facilitate as wide a conversation of discernment
as possible.

The resolution allowed the church to speak clearly in describing a fact
that is longstanding and within the bounds of the church, said the Rev.
Francis Wade of Washington, co-chair of the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music
Committee. As an individual, I feel very good about the way it passed, he

The committee felt they were offering an unambiguous statement of where the
church is at the moment. His diocese is one whose bishop permits blessings
for same-sex unions, he said. Thats part of our life. This affirms ... we
are within the embrace of the church.
Given that the Episcopal Church experiences its theology through liturgy,
however, he said it was important to notice that the resolution does not
call for the development of rites. That would be a significant step for
us, and we did not take it, he said.

The Rev. Kendall Harmon of South Carolina, a member of the committee, said
that while he agreed that the church spoke with clarity, he disagreed with
what it said. The cavalier treatment of the Scriptures at this convention
was astonishing, he said. A great deal of momentum has been added to
local option for creating rites for blessing same-sex unions, he said.

During the deputies debate, he presented a minority report, calling the
resolution a wolf in sheeps clothing. Particularly dangerous, he said,
is the clause about recognizing that local faith communities explore and
experience such liturgies.

If we are experiencing such liturgies, and they are within the bounds of
our common life, then the Episcopal Church has already sanctioned and
blessed homosexual behavior, he said. While some people will stress that
the church is recognizing rather than authorizing these blessing, he
said, lets be honest, this is authorization.

Harmon said he thought it is highly likely that a clear authorization of
same-sex rites passes next time - partly because many people opposing such
a move will not participate in the next convention, he said. Weve been in
two churches for a long time, he said. The lid is blown off. Theres a
sense of relief in that. The question now is how to move ahead in a time
of unprecedented, dramatic realignment, he said.

But Wade said it is better to think of the church as continuing to live in
tension over an area of its life in which there is disagreement. We are
choosing not to resolve that tension, but to live with it, he said.

While the resolution will not make a big difference in her diocese of Los
Angeles, where blessings already occur, conventions action will be
welcomed by bishops who were seeking national authorization to respond to
pastoral needs of gays and lesbians, said the Rev. Susan Russell, executive
director of Claiming the Blessing, an organization that supports gay and
lesbian concerns.

We came looking for a bigger step. I was hoping for authorization for
common language for rites, she said. I think this is a compromise that
takes us a step forward. ... I think it makes us stronger and better able
to move forward with the good news of the gospel.

During the deputies debate, the Rev. Lee Crawford of Vermont said that
after the ceremony in which she and her partner had their long-term
relationship blessed, several heterosexual couples tearfully told us that
hearing our vows made them reconsider their own and strengthen their
understanding of them. An 86-year-old woman said she was taking the
service bulletin home to show their vows to her husband because he never
promised these things to me.

J. Patrick Waddell of El Camino Real said he would be returning home to
celebrate his 25-year anniversary with his life partner. Gay and lesbian
couples are a fact of life in this church, he said. We need the church to
give us the same sort of support that heterosexuals enjoy.

And Tessa Craib-Cox of Chicago, who described herself as a cradle
Anglican, now Episcopalian, and straight woman, whose life has been
blessed and enriched by many gay and lesbian friends, likewise said the
church should be ready to assist gay and lesbian people who long for their
relationships to be blessed.

She and other deputies pointed out that the bishops had given
overwhelming support to the compromise.

The Rev. Sharon Lewis of Southwest Florida, however, said, Please hear my
heart. To be against this resolution is to be against further separation in
this church, to be against widening the deep wounds in our body.

The Rev. Daniel Martins of San Joaquin also called the resolution a Trojan
horse. On the face of it, he said, it seems like an irenic, peaceful
compromise which gives supporters of same-sex unions much less than they
originally aimed for. But, he warned, the resolution will be taken as yet
another precedent for arguing that no core doctrine forbids such unions. 

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home