Of the legality of rites
A recent service in London has caused a virtual explosion in blogospheria Anglicana. For those of you who pay attention to such things, an ancient London parish was recently the site of a service held to bless a same-sex couple. And they used bits of the 1662 prayer book. Egad!
Predictably, conservatives are in an uproar. Was this timed to provoke schism on the eve of the Lambeth Conference. Perhaps, but I doubt it. For me, the shocking thing about this service is that there’s been much of a reaction. Same-sex blessings have been happening in England for years, in far greater number than in the US. These are done in churches, using church liturgies adapted for the occasion from Common Worship or the 1662 BCP. Friends of mine who are well versed in English canon law tell me they’re perfectly legal. If I can muster the interest, I’ll bug someone for canonical citations.
Suffice it to say, some were calling for the immediate discipline of the cleric who presided at the rite. Others have pointed out that not a thing can be done. And what is the harm, anyway, in pronouncing God’s blessing on two people? Doesn’t God bless all of creation? If we’re going to get upset about anything, shouldn’t we object to the blessing of nuclear submarines and the like? Seems to me it’s much easier to justify the blessing of loving relationships than weapons of mass destruction on biblical grounds.
If people get upset about every non-standard blessing, then I hope people will stay away from the parish I serve on the first Sunday of next October. I hope no one visits my friend Tim’s house the day his beloved fish dies. He’s planning a liturgical outrage! Or maybe he’s planning to make the ministrations of the church available to those who seek God.
Which brings us back to the beginning. Assuming we’re going to get wrapped up in the whole notion of pronouncing limits on God’s blessing, shouldn’t we err on the side of generosity? Shouldn’t we assume good will for those involved?
To be sure, we need to avoid the appearance of things that muddy theological waters in an unhelpful way. A case could be made that the service in question does just that. But then let us discuss the particulars of the liturgy and its theology, rather than the a priori notion that it should not have taken place.
If anything, let us object to the specious charge that this one was someone more blasphemous because it used the 1662 wording in places. If I stipulated, for the sake of discussion, that this liturgy was heretical, would it have been less heretical to say “you” instead of “thee?” If anything, I’m cranky about the casual mixture of modern language and 1662 texts. I say, pick one and stick with it. I might have been cranky about the willful rearrangement of the 1662 communion service. Where’s the postcommunion Gloria? Now that’s something to get outraged about!
I’ll stop my rant with this: If it could be shown, rationally and calmly, that specific rubrics or canons were broken, then discplinary procedures should begin. Absent this, it’s time to move along.