Thinking theologically; responding pastorally: General Convention Resolution C056

On Wednesday, the House of Bishops at the 76th General Convention approved Resolution C056, entitled “Liturgy for Blessings.”  The version passed by the Bishops and now forwarded to the Deputies is a thoughtful and temperate document.  It reflects that within our Church we are in a period of prayer and discernment that mirrors similar reflection we see going on in our national life.

Presently, fourteen states plus the District of Columbia recognize either same-sex marriage or some form of legal civil unions or partnerships between people of the same sex.  At the same time, thirty states ban same-sex marriage through constitutional amendment, and nineteen states disallow any kind of legal recognition for same-sex couples.

All that is to say, our society and culture are grappling with how best to respond to the growing consensus that one’s human sexuality is an orientation largely influenced by biological factors and not primarily a social choice.  Our reality is a world in which very many gay and lesbian persons are attempting to conform their relationships to an ethic of monogamy, fidelity, and love.  Given this reality, Resolution C056 seeks to offer “a renewed pastoral response” so that the Church is not left out of society’s conversation about same-sex unions.

There are surely those who would prefer the Church remain on the sidelines, and in all honesty some days I’ve felt that way myself.  And yet, our Lord calls us into the world with a Word of Good News.  We are not given the option of sideline-sitting.  Neither are issues surrounding same-sex unions clear-cut theologically.  They beg the questions, “What is marriage?” and “Are there appropriate faithful covenant relationships outside of marriage that can be entered into by same-sex partners seeking to conform their lives to God?”  These questions must be addressed by the careful study of Holy Scripture and thoughtful theological reflection using our God-given reason and an examination of God’s creation.

Resolution C056 seeks to provide space for such study.  The version passed by the Bishops and forwarded to the Deputies calls for an “open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships.”  This process will invite participation by any group within the Church (including input from across the Anglican Communion) that is ready to do the serious theological work necessary to inform our understanding.

C056 also allows bishops in those dioceses in which the civil authorities have legalized same-sex unions to respond pastorally to couples who have committed their lives to one another in this way.  I imagine that such responses would most often include prayers that both partners will honor their relationship with love, fidelity and mutual respect.

Any theological or liturgical resources developed through the Church’s process of discernment will be brought back before the next General Convention.  Because the media will likely mischaracterize C056, it is worth saying clearly that the resolution does not authorize the creation of any liturgies for use. Rather it offers us an opportunity to think, listen, and pray about how we as the Body of Christ can respond faithfully in today’s world.

2 thoughts on “Thinking theologically; responding pastorally: General Convention Resolution C056

  1. First of all, I decided years ago the the National Church and General Convention is 110% irrelevant to my personal faith and to my life in my church. None of the leadership seems to hold anything in common with me theologically. That being said, the Rector invited us to this page and invited comment.

    When another person and I disagree, he often says “we’re not done discussing it.” Rather than concede that he might be wrong, he makes the arrogant assumption that my understanding is inferior and incomplete. The strategy here is that deaf condescension will result in my attrition. That’s what I see at ECUSA. No one can point to scripture that affirms homosexual activity, just as no one can point to scripture that affirms drunkenness, promiscuity, or bad tempers. Conversely, no one can point to a scripture that says Jesus thinks less of one type of sinner than He does of another. So, lacking a biblical foundation, the strategy has become a “we’re in a process of discernment” – loosely translated: “We just need to wait until all these bible-thumpers give up.” The word “dialogue” has taken on the orwellian meaning of “don’t engage or discuss.”

    Fair enough – there is no compromise on this question. Let’s admit it. Episcopalians like me are in the minority for now. It’s an effective, though cynical strategy. I guess what irks me is the treacly smiles of people who use the word “dialogue” and mean “shut up and get lost, caveman.”

    I see a church, once made green by devoted followers of Christ, now devoured by locusts. Once the green is all gone, they will move on to devour something else. I assert that half the churches of our Diocese or more will close their doors in the next 15 years. And most of the Dioceses in the USA will follow suit. St. John’s may make it through to the other side of this locust plague, thanks to a critical mass, geography, history, and the faithful among us.

    If I had my druthers, we’d ignore the General Convention. (I’d even save the $$ and not send any delegates). There is leadership to be done here in SWVA if our Bishop would do it. People are sick, tired, hungry, addicted, confused, alone, angry. So few of our own know the words of the Bible. We can fix these things, with God’s help. There were a lot more people to help 10 years ago, but we’re not all gone. Why picket Disneyland and pass empty resolutions about Cuba when there is real work to be done here? As I ramble on, I say we are straining gnats and swallowing camels.

  2. Fr. Barkley, thank you for blessing me so greatly with your 20th September sermon which I read this morning in Mt. Vernon. I could almost close my eyes and see that old shoe! May God help us both to courageously walk the path of love and Grace…St. John’s is so incredibly blessed to have you as their priest. I hope you hear that on a regular basis. Peace….brother in Christ our Lord.

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