John Bauerschmidt, George Sumner, Jordan Hylden, and Christopher Wells have written a response to the Amended version of B012 which leaves us wondering if conservatives are really willing to extend marriage equality in dioceses where it is not now permitted by their bishop. Nothing in this article suggests a change in position from that is shared by all of the eight bishops who currently oppose marriage equality.
But, to be fair, Bishop John Bauerschmidt of Tennessee has said in General Convention testimony that he supports B012 “because it guarantees access to the Trial Liturgies for congregations that wish to use them.” Perhaps this is a guarantee which will resolve much of the current tension. Unfortunately, it is not clear is if this view is shared by the other seven bishops who currently ban marriage equality from “their” diocese.
At the end of the day, we are left wondering if once again this is a ‘compromise’ where conservative give up nothing and LGBTQ Episcopalians defer their dreams for years to come. For in The Living Church article the authors state:
- “[W]e were heartened by what felt to us like a movement of the Spirit, bringing people together in charity and unity across divisions that have been difficult and painful for decades now”
- “We need to preserve the role of bishops as chief teachers and liturgical officers for the congregations under their care, and we need to be able to do so while walking together in full communion with Canterbury and the global Anglican Communion.”
- “The new committee version states that all congregations “shall have access” to the trial use liturgies, “allowing all couples to be married in their home church.”
- “This could be interpreted by some to mean that although rectors and priests-in-charge may have “direction” over how such liturgies are used, they must allow them to be used all the same.”
- ”But this cannot be, since it conflicts with the canonical “authority and responsibility” of rectors and priests-in-charge for the worship life of a congregation (III.9.6). ”
- We fear this ambiguity will sow chaos and conflict, as canon is placed against canon and tested in Title IV proceedings.
These points provide ample ammunition for continuing the marriage equality war for years to come. If including marriage equality in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is made part of the BCP revision process, then securing “full and equal” standing for LGBTQ Episcopalians could well be delayed for a decade or more. What are the key points from this article to bear in mind if this disagreement is to become a conflict of attrition and derision?
About Point 2 – the one about the need to ‘preserve the role of bishops as chief teachers and liturgical officers for the congregations under their care‘ coupled with their ‘need to be able to do so while walking together in full communion with Canterbury and the global Anglican Communion’ suggests that these bishops who oppose marriage equality will continue to do so by barring marriage equality from “their” diocese. For B012, as amended, can be seen as an affront to their personal power and authority; an abridgment of a bishop’s privileges which some say are inherent in being part of the “historic episcopate.”
Further, they could well argue that allowing even a single same-sex marriage in “their” diocese would undoubtedly prevent them what they define as ‘ full communion with Canterbury and the global Anglican Communion.’
These two arguments could be used by bishops to defend denying marriage equality to congregations, clergy and same-sex couples. Game over, the status quo preserved, on to the next front. whatever that may be. Watch for this if the current language passes.
Points 3, 4, & 5 – In the current draft, they say B012 conflicts with the role of local clergy in managing the ” worship life of a congregation’.’ This could easily be addressed by allowing a rector or vicar who did not wish to marry a same-sex couple to bring into the church a priest or deacon who does. Afterall, both sides of this issue agree that no member of the clergy who is opposed to marriage equality should ever be forced to personally preside at a same-sex marriage. One supposes a compromise involving gracious accommodation of those seeking a same-sex marriage could also be found in the clergy are so willing.
Point 6 – Some are already asking online if conservative bishops will be subject to Title IV – or disciplinary – proceedings. This makes one wonder if this threat is what some marriage equality opponents want to hear at this point in the debate. One wonders if the specter of many Title IV complaints is supposed to shake the resolve of bishops who support marriage equality.
I decline to make that threat. But, if some Title IV proceedings were to happen it would most likely be based on a bishop barring same-gender marriage throughout “their” diocese. The cause of those disciplinary actions would be the continuing refusal of a bishop to make a gracious accommodation with those who believe in marriage equality – not the awkward wording of this resolution.
Point 1 – Making a gracious accommodation – The point of Amended B012 is that LGBTQ Episcopalians should be able to get married in their home parish. If the bishops and clergy who oppose marriage equality could help make that happen, then this issue would be fully addressed, and no one would fear Title IV proceedings. Christian compassion – which should not be in short supply in the Jesus Movement – could discern a way to fill this need. The unanswered question is whether those who oppose marriage equality will even try to find a way to make a gracious accommodation with those who need it.
Many of our churches still employ the slogan “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,.’ But many LGBTQ Episcopalians know that welcome does not include them. This may not be a concern in a city like Albany as long as LGBTQ Episcopalians can find a welcoming congregation.
That being the case, it seems likely that LGTBTQ Episcopalians will congregate in welcoming parishes. In turn, that makes it less likely any LGBTQ Episcopalians would be part of a church that is unwilling to host same-sex marriages. It is a kind of natural selection process. Who wants to try and worship at a place where the majority judges you to be in the same category as those who have sex with animals, practice incest, or are in a BLASPHEMOUS relationship with your spouse?
But in those rare cases where that is the case, where because of geography or other factors a queer Episcopalian ends up in a very straight parish: wouldn’t it be wonderful for the rector or vicar or even the bishop to find a way for that couple to marry in their home church? That would be a way for these bishops to extend “charity and unity across divisions that have been difficult and painful for decades now.” It would be a new day in the Episcopal Church, one where compromise really means compromise on both sides of the issue. Based on the article in The Living Church, I fear finding this kind of charity and compromise in this church will still require a major miracle.
The Rev. Thomas C. Jackson,
President, Oasis California