The Bishops of Long Island, Pittsburgh, and Rhode Island have proposed Resolution B012 in response to the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. It is no doubt a well-intentioned effort to avoid conflict and keep the peace.
It is also an absolute and unequivocal step away from the church’s offer of “full and equal” status to LGBTQQ people, a promise voiced by this church many times but never yet made universally real. Oasis California believes B012 should and must be rejected.
“But,” we can almost hear someone say, “but the proposed resolution has words that reaffirm the church’s commitment to LGBTQQ people!” Words are good, but especially in these tough times, actions are better. Either stand with us or against us, or stand openly against us, but don’t use words to say one thing and then act against our “full and equal” place in this Church.
Hear our truth:
• The Episcopal Church first promised “full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church” to its gay and lesbian members back in 1976. We’re still waiting.
• Since then much progress has been made.
• But in eight dioceses the bishop forbids offering marriage to same-sex couples. Some of these bishops have gone so far as to forbid “their’’ clergy from even attending a same-gender marriage outside “their’’ diocese.
• Our Book of Common Prayer still does not contain text for marrying people of the same gender. This means our right to marriage equality is not secure, not reflected in the foundational document of our faith, and open to revocation at a future General Convention.
• Preachers who claim to be Christian continue to use the Bible to condemn LGBTQQ people, generating media coverage with their calls for the execution of queer people, etc. This, with continuing evangelical support for the current administration, has turned many away from Christ. Walking away from marriage equality as proposed in B012 will make it more difficult for people to believe the Episcopal Church is different from those who call for the death or imprisonment in concentration camps of LGBTQQ people.
• This year, at least 14 transgender people have died a violent death in America.
• The rate of anti-LGBT homicides nearly doubled last year: the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs called it “a crisis of fatal violence” against LGBTQQ Americans.
• In our courts, legislatures, and the Congress, LGBTQQ rights – basic human rights – are under attack. And in many jurisdictions, we are losing.
• Half of LGBTQQ people surveyed say they are still in the closet at work, often for fear of losing their job.
• The current administration is profoundly opposed to equal treatment of LGBTQQ Americans.
In this context, we pleased that 93 bishops have already authorized priests in their dioceses and make sacramental marriage equally available to all couples. But another 8 bishops have not. Nor have these 8 bishops not “make provision” for all couples to have access to marriage liturgies. This glaring omission undercuts the church’s promise of our “full and equal claim” for a place in the Episcopal Church.
In response, the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, comprised of dedicated lay and clergy members of our church, has spent the past three years working to take another step toward “full and equal” membership for LGBTQQ Episcopalians.
Tellingly, and importantly, the Bishops of Long Island, Pittsburgh, and Rhode Island chose to announce their “marriage lite” solution without consulting with a single bishop who served on this task force. This suggests that once again well-meaning bishops are more interested in placating the vocal few than fulfilling the “full and equal” promise made by the many to LGBTTQ Episcopalians so many years ago.
“Given our particular time in history, this resolution provides a way forward for the whole church without the possible disruption of ministry that might be caused by the proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer,” the three bishops claimed. Rather than propose a step toward full inclusion of LGBTQQ Episcopalians in the Body of Christ, the ‘three bishops proposal’ seems to use the conflict created by the Trump Administration as justification to step away from some of those who are most threatened in today’s America.
Oasis California calls upon the General Convention to be more concerned with the pastoral needs of all Episcopalians instead of the “possible disruption of ministry” of eight senior clerics.
Interestingly, the ‘three bishops proposal’ hasn’t even drawn an enthusiastic response from those conservative bishops who oppose marriage equality. At best, the new move has won “qualified approval” from a group of seven bishops who are opposed to same-sex marriage. They say the move “preserves the Book of Common Prayer as established by our church, and it preserves our dioceses for the exercising of the “historic episcopate, locally adapted” (Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral).”
To translate: “preserves the Book of Common Prayer” means no marriage equality in the Book of Common Prayer. Not today, Not tomorrow. Not ever.
To translate: “preserving the historic episcopate, locally adapted” preserves the status quo of eight dioceses without provision for marriage equality. And it makes mincemeat of the ‘three bishops plan’ which “proposes that access to these trial use liturgies now be provided for in all dioceses, without requiring the permission of the diocesan bishop.”
These bishops add: “With the protection of the prayer book and episcopate, we can carry on as loyal Episcopalians and Anglicans, in charity with our sisters and brothers in Christ.”
To translate: if they don’t get their way and preserve the status quo they just might leave the Episcopal Church.
We’ve been down this road before. For decades a small number of bishops who refused to ordain woman made the same threat – and successfully defeated every attempt to make the ordination available to women throughout the Episcopal Church. And then they left, attempting to take the buildings – and in some cases the diocese – with them. We don’t need to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Speaking of the past. Let us recall that Resolution 2015-A054 – which authorized marriage equality in our church – also stated that bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority “will make provision” for all couples to have access to these liturgies. But eight bishops have flouted this provision. Because Resolution 2015-A054 also provided that trial use in a diocese requires the permission of the diocesan bishop.
This is déjà vu all over again. The eight bishops who refuse to allow marriage equality in “their” diocese often do not “make provision” for all couples to have access to these liturgies. If these bishops wish to avoid being forced to relinquish some of “their” power over “their” diocese, let them today declare that any clergyperson in their diocese may immediately offer marriage equality without any additional action or approval form diocesan authorities. Barring that, it is time for both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies to concur that a diocese belongs not any single clerical leader but to the whole church as the body of Christ made manifest in this world.
The well-meaning Bishops of Long Island, Pittsburgh, and Rhode Island’s resolution B012 should be dismissed. In a time of great suffering and uncertainty, in a time when the place of LGBTQQ people in America is under direct and persistent attack, in these terrible times the Episcopal Church must either stand with us – or against us. It is as simple as that.