Tangled Up in Blue: Marriage Resolutions

This is the twentieth post in a series on resolutions for General Convention 2015. See also the index of resolutions and the list of resources related to #GC78.

marriageMarriage will be one of the most prominent conversations at General Convention, and with good reason. We’ve been discussing issues related to marriage and human sexuality in our church for decades. For some, the conversations have moved too quickly, and for others they’ve moved much too slowly. Particularly in the last few years, attitudes in broader society have shifted, at least in the United States, even as we continue to re-examine scripture and tradition. Perhaps I could have made my next point at any recent General Convention, but we are now at a critical juncture. Our church must act, because the ground is shifting (inside and outside the church) quickly enough that the status quo means losing our footing.

Of course, there are a variety of perspectives on what our action should be. This post is not the place to rehash all the arguments and points of view, but I would like to make a plea. Whatever we do at this General Convention, I hope we will do it graciously. We should be kind to one another, and we should realize that we have things to learn from those with whom we differ. In our speech and in our action, I hope we will model the love of Jesus Christ which is the same love that animates the very marriages we are discussing.

At the last General Convention, we created a Task Force for Study of Marriage. While I have a couple of criticisms of their work, I am profoundly grateful for their faithfulness in taking on a task that is difficult and which was sure to provoke critics from several sides. They did a fantastic job at enumerating some of the key issues, and in several places they have advanced our understanding.

The intent of creating a task force was to convene conversation and issue a report with possible recommendations for action at this General Convention. As I wrote elsewhere, there was a missed opportunity with this task force. First of all, the task force members are not as varied in their theological perspectives as are the members of our church. The report and the task force’s conversation would have benefitted from the presence of people who believe that same-sex marriage is not something the church should bless. Too much of the theological portion of the report reads as a priori declarations. I have friends who hold a conservative position who could have been gracious conversation partners and who might have helped the theological section in its comprehension.

The task force was also meant to engage our Anglican Communion brothers and sisters in conversation, and that did not happen. That is a tragedy in terms of the unity of our church. This decision to proceed on our own, without listening to others and without sharing our hopes with others, reinforces gung-ho American colonial spirit in the worst way. Having traveled a fair amount around the Anglican Communion, I cannot put into words what a treasure this gift of communion is. We Anglicans have the opportunity to do mission work together, to study scripture together, to learn from one another, and to witness to one another. Turning our back on those relationships at this moment is disrespectful. So I hope whatever we do at this General Convention, we will renew our Anglican mission relationships.

I hear some proponents of proceeding quickly on same-sex marriage say they are prepared to jettison our Anglican Communion relationships. No Christian can say to another, I have no need of you. But even if one cares nothing about Paul’s teaching, we should care about our relationships and the witness they offer. I have traveled to parts of the Communion where homosexual conduct (their phrase) is a crime. In these nations, I have heard from people who are struggling for their lives what it means to be reassured by my presence, and the the presence of others, of God’s love amidst struggle. We can tell ourselves that these sacred moments might continue without our Anglican Communion relationships, but we would be misleading ourselves.

For some in our church, we’ve been talking too much about human sexuality and marriage issues, and for others, not enough. I don’t know about that, but I do know we’ve had precious few gracious conversations among people of differing perspectives. Mostly when we talk, it is inside echo chambers of like-minded friends. But there are other ways. The Fully Alive Project was convened by a group, in partnership with the Anglican Theological Review, who wanted to hear from varied perspectives. In addition to a substantive “conservative” response called Marriage in Creation and Covenant to the Task Force on the Study of Marriage Report, they invited Daniel Joslyn-SiemiatkoskiScott MacDougall, and Kathryn Tanner to provide “progressive” scholarly responses. They also asked me to provide a (non-scholarly) response. I encourage you to read all the papers, starting with the TFSM report, then the Marriage in Creation and Covenant report, and then the others. It’s a rare opportunity to listen in on a respectful conversation on this important issue. You are also encouraged to read Craig Uffman’s attempt at a constructive theology to support same-sex marriage, offered very much in the same vein as the Fully Alive Project.

I mention all these papers to show that respectful, theologically rich conversations are possible. They are also essential. You see, however we proceed, the costs are high. This is how I concluded my response (linked above).

In our conversations to date, I have heard many people laying cost upon others, but rarely offering to incur costs themselves. Let us make no mistake about it, there are costs no matter where we go. If we change our marriage canon, our church will be an untenable place for many of my friends, and our relations with others in the Anglican Communion may be irreparably damaged. Breaking ties in our Communion harms the witness of the church, it compromises important mission work, and it deprives both members of the Episcopal Church and other Anglican churches of the opportunity of mutual witness and growth in many issues, including human sexuality. Of course, the other way comes with its own high price. Until we have a different marriage canon and a single prayer book service, same-sex couples will not be wrong in believing they have been relegated to second-class status by the church. Our failure to offer the riches of God’s grace to same-sex couples means that some people will miss an opportunity to know Jesus and to be incorporated into his church. Some will say, with merit, that justice delayed is justice denied. However, justice for people in America may mean extended injustice for people elsewhere, as our ability to stay involved and to witness in the life of other Anglican churches is limited. My point is that the price is high whatever we do; none of us must imagine we have no need of others or that there is an easy way ahead.

With all that said, I want to share three hopes for our present conversation and course of action:

  • That we seek and model the gracious love we know in Jesus Christ
  • That we continue to offer the riches of God’s grace through the church’s sacraments and blessings to all people
  • That we find an Anglican path built on the foundation of our own charism in the Christian family of churches

On a few issues here, I am still in discernment about how I think our church ought to achieve these goals. My hope, as I have said elsewhere, is that our church will have a single set of rites in the Book of Common Prayer to bless and solemnize marriages among same-sex or opposite-sex couples. I’m not sure about the best way to get there. As I wrote above, there are great costs with any approach.

There are three resolutions in the Blue Book that deal with the topic of marriage. In general, I think there are several ways we could proceed in considering the three resolutions.

  1. Approve the resolutions here, as written. This means authorizing liturgical material for same-sex marriage and blessing, as well as a change in the marriage canon. The Book of Common Prayer itself is not subject to immediate change.
  2. Begin the process toward revision of the marriage material in the Book of Common Prayer, possibly with an immediate change in the marriage canon.
  3. Approve the liturgical material here for trial use, but do not change the canon.

There are some significant advantages or disadvantages with each of these approaches. My preference is option 3, followed by option 2, followed by option 1. Here’s why.

If we pursue option 1 and change the marriage canon so that it provides for same-sex marriage but conflicts with the Book of Common Prayer, we are violating the integrity of our own constitutional identity. Our doctrine is defined such that it encompasses the “sacramental rites” of our church, which would include the marriage rites. The prayer book currently articulates a very clear doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman. Thus we would have a canon that is explicit disagreement with our prayer book and the doctrine it teaches. This muddles, rather than clarifies, our position in a way that is neither helpful nor in concert with our Anglican identify nor our polity. In addition, the resolutions provide that the liturgical material be fully authorized without limit, which would be a departure from our usual custom. Normally we put new liturgical material into trial (or, more recently, “provisional”) use before completely authorizing it. Setting aside subjective opinions about the liturgical material, it simply has not benefitted from widespread use to be ready for full authorization. We need to try it on, and probably revise it further.

One issue with this first option is that the liturgies would be fully approved for use by clergy without recourse to a bishop’s permission and without recourse to the will of a congregation. A priest could use these liturgies without conversation with a bishop or congregation. While our church has, I think, broadly settled on a consensus that we wish to find ways to marry and bless same-sex couples, there are still many faithful people in our church who do not share this view. Imagine the case of a priest who wishes to marry same-same couples against the wishes of a congregation (or vice versa). Imagine the case of a priest who wishes to offer same-sex weddings in a diocese whose bishop is troubled by this. Relationships could be imperiled, and there is little “cover” for clergy or congregations. One benefit of “trial use” and other mechanisms is that leadership can ensure that necessary conversation and discernment takes place.

Option 2 would put us on the way to prayer book revision. The second form of the marriage material in the Blue Book is based very closely on the current marriage rites in the prayer book. With very minor edits, these rites could be approved for a first reading of prayer book revision (it takes two successive General Conventions to change the prayer book). This would let our yes be yes, and our no be no. We’d move very quickly toward the goal that many of us share, that is, a single set of prayer book rites for all marriages and blessings. (Note that Form 2 is probably nearly ready for this, because it is a minor revision of long-used material; Form 1 is not ready for use in the prayer book, but it could be authorized, eventually, for use similar to the way we have authorized Enriching Our Worship.) In this scenario, I hope we would leave the canon alone for now, and change it at the next General Convention when we change the prayer book. We would also authorize the liturgical material for trial use. This maintains the ability to marry and bless same-sex couples, even as we move toward a clear, theologically rich, long-term solution.

Many in our church will not favor this approach for various reasons, especially more conservative folks who will not want us to authorize material for same-sex marriage. This approach gives three years of gracious room before final, formal authorization takes place, and perhaps in this time a reconciled path forward could be seen, both within our church and within the Anglican Communion. If nothing else, it paves the way for crystal-clear certainty on where we are headed, so that all people will know and can discern their response accordingly. And, again, this option allows us to continue marrying and blessing same-sex couples.

Finally, there is option 3. Here we continue to offer same-sex marriage and blessing, even as we “try on” the relatively new liturgical rites the SCLM has drafted. We defer from the canon change that creates discord between our prayer book and our canons. At the same time, we make gracious space on several fronts. I hope we would explicitly encourage (perhaps even in the canons) delegated episcopal pastoral oversight, so that in those cases where a conservative congregation feels out of step with its bishop or where a liberal congregation wishes to proceed with same-sex marriage against the wishes of its conservative bishop, respectful relationships could be maintained even as congregations discern their response. In this way, we are meeting immediate and real needs for the sacramental hopes, desires, and needs of all people, even as we continue gracious conversation within our church and within the Anglican Communion.

Now, with that record-setting preface, we turn to the resolutions themselves.

A036: Amend Canon I.18 Marriage. Full text. Likely vote: NO, but I am in discernment.

This resolution amends the canon which governs marriage. Chiefly, this amendment removes the definition of marriage as “…a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman…” and a “…lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.” There are other clarifications, including the provision which allows clergy to use any material authorized by the church to solemnize marriages. Clergy continue to have the option to decline to solemnize or bless a marriage.

One concern I have with this canon, in addition the conflict with the prayer book I have mentioned above, is that the couple’s declaration is no longer provided. In the current canons, couples are required to sign a declaration before marriage in which the exact words are provided:

We, A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. We believe that the union of husband and wife, in heart, body, and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God’s help thereto.

Among other things, this lovely language is a solemn reminder of the nature and purpose of marriage. It summarizes our doctrine of marriage beautifully. Under the proposed canonical amendment, the language is not provided. Instead,

Prior to the solemnization, the Member of the Clergy shall determine, and shall require the couple to sign a declaration attesting
(a) that both parties have the right to marry according to the laws of the State and consent to do so freely, without fraud, coercion, mistake as to the identity of either, or mental reservation; and
(b) that at least one of the parties is baptized; and
(c) that both parties have been instructed by the Member of the Clergy, or a person known by the Member of the Clergy to be competent and responsible, in the rights, duties, and responsibilities of marriage as embodied in the marriage vows: that the covenant of marriage is unconditional, mutual, exclusive, faithful, and lifelong; and
(d) that both parties understand these duties and responsibilities, and engage to make the utmost effort, with the help of God and the support of the community, to accept and perform them.

Here, the spiritual meaning of marriage is removed and in its place are contractual obligations of a marriage. The couple is supposed to remain faithful, but to what and why? I’d like to see a declaration here with lovely language that summarizes our doctrine of marriage. The fact that we’re not quire ready to do that is perhaps an indication that we need a bit more discernment time and theological reflection as a church. Without a stated doctrine of marriage, we run the risk of abandoning our Christian practice to cultural notions of romantic love and feel-good sentiment. Marriage is deeply counter-cultural, whoever is getting married, and we need to teach that and state our doctrine at every opportunity. The lack of a clear declaration invites unhelpful muddle.

My reluctance to change this canon stems from my sense that we should not create  further confusion. Instead, let’s continue to experience the joys and challenges of same-sex marriage and blessing. Even as we do this, we can engage in the theological reflection which will enable us to craft crisp and beautiful statements of our doctrine and discipline of marriage.

A037: Continue Work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if amended.

This resolution continues work begun by the Task Force for the Study of Marriage with a slightly larger task force. Some members of the current task force would remain. There are two absolutely essential amendments here. First, the enabling language needs to insist that people have diverse theological points of view are appointed to the task force. This cannot be another liberal echo chamber. Second, we must insist (again) on engagement with our Anglican Communion brothers and sisters. We need a task force that is willing to share and to listen with those of other perspectives both inside and outside our church.

My hope is that the task force considers not only the issues of same-sex marriage, but other issues, many of which are listed in the resolution:

those who choose to remain single; unmarried persons in intimate relationships; couples who cohabitate either in preparation for, or as an alternative to, marriage; couples who desire a blessing from the Church but not marriage; parenting by single or and/or unmarried persons; differing forms of family and household such as those including same-sex parenting, adoption, and racial diversity; and differences in marriage patterns between ethnic and racial groups, and between provinces inside and outside the United States.

They might also look at divorce rates and the increasingly countercultural nature of marriage as a witness to the Gospel.

So let’s continue the good work begun this triennium, but with renewed effort at engagement among diverse theological perspectives. Let us ensure that our work is rooted in discernment not in advocacy. Let us give thanks for Christ’s love which is manifest in, I believe, all Christian marriages.

A054: Adopt Resources and Rites from “Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015.” Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if amended.

This resolution authorizes and commends for study the liturgical materials for same-sex marriage and blessing prepared by the SCLM. I fully support the ongoing use of these materials, and I was especially delighted to see the emergence of liturgical forms that are closely based on our current prayer book forms (Form 2 of these materials). One can envision the replacement of our prayer book rites with Form 2, which would enable us to solemnize all marriages from one rite.

All that said, I would like to see this material authorized for trial use, as opposed to fully authorized. For one thing, Form 1, in my view, still requires some maturation before it is ready for full-on authorization. Trial use also allows us to keep our eye on the prize, which is full incorporation into the prayer book, as opposed to “separate but equal” rites to be used along side the prayer book. As I said above, I could even imagine voting, at this General Convention, on a resolution to start Form 2 on its way to incorporation into the prayer book.

Speaking of Form 2, there is one change I think we need to make, mostly for aesthetic reasons. In the version shown here, the options for people are listed separated by slashes. An example, “N., will you have this woman/man/person to be your wife/husband/spouse; to live together in the covenant of marriage?” In our current prayer book, we italicize pronouns or nouns and edit on the fly (or in printed leaflets. This looks a little better and reads less like a sterile form. So we could change the question to “N., will you have this person to be your spouse; to live together in the covenant of marriage?” and leave it to the officiant to fill in the correct nouns.

If you want an example of why I think Form 1 isn’t quite ready for prime time, consider this vow:

In the name of God,
I, N., give myself to you, N.
I will support and care for you by the grace of God:
in times of sickness, in times of health.
I will hold and cherish you in the love of Christ:
in times of plenty, in times of want.
I will honor and love you with the Spirit’s help:
in times of anguish, in times of joy,
forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.

This is written in almost-Trinitarian language, but the persons of the Trinity are listed as God, Christ, and Spirit. You can see the problem. Christ is God. The Spirit is God. So this weakens this expression of the Trinity when the first person is simply God. I can understand that they were trying to avoid male language, but surely there were other choices — choices which would also avoid modalism. I’m not sure I have a suggestion, but until stuff like this is sorted out, I don’t think this is ready for authorization. If we keep it in trial use, subject to feedback, maybe someone will devise more elegant and theologically sound alternatives for awkward places such as this.


My own marriage over over 20 years has been a great gift, and I hope persons called to same-sex marriage can also know that gift with the blessings of the church. Realizing that I benefit from great privilege, I plan to do a lot of listening at General Convention, and I hope others will do the same. However we proceed, some will be elated and others devastated, with many reactions in between. Let us be gentle with others and open our hearts for the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, I want to remind my readers of my original hopes.

  • That we seek and model the gracious love we know in Jesus Christ
  • That we continue to offer the riches of God’s grace through the church’s sacraments and blessings to all people
  • That we find an Anglican path built on the foundation of our own charism in the Christian family of churches

Lord, have mercy on us all in these vital and challenging conversations and deliberations.

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17 Responses

  1. I only got this far … “I hear some proponents of proceeding quickly on same-sex marriage say they are prepared to jettison our Anglican Communion relationships.” … and I do intend to read the rest. But am pausing for two reasons.

    The first is to ask if it’s possible to have some source notation for that perspective — because it is most certainly not the perspective of either the Task Force on the Study of Marriage or of those of us organized around advocacy for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments (notably Integrity and Claiming the Blessing.) Of course I’ve seen quotes in blog comments and tweets that convey that fringe position — but would love to have some clarification.

    And — if anyone is interested — here’s this from our “Case for Marriage” document:

    Q. Will making these changes create greater challenges for our relationships within the Anglican Communion?
    A. There are those in our wider Anglican family who will be unhappy with any changes we make to be more inclusive and there will be those in our wider Anglican family who are watching us for leadership to help them move forward. While there continue to be tensions and challenges around a variety of issues – including gender equality and human sexuality — the climate in the Anglican Communion has improved dramatically in recent years. One indication of that shift is the refusal of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, to allow himself to be leveraged into polarizing differences into divisions.

    That’s point one. Point two is it is way too late to proceed quickly on same-sex marriage.

    Promise to read the rest when I have more time. God bless and see you in SLC!

    Susan Russell
    Diocese of Los Angeles

    • Scott Gunn says:

      As I wrote on Facebook to your comment there, I agree with you on your second point. I’d rather see us begin prayer book revision now — or tolerate ambiguity in our practice longer — than change a canon such at it is at odds with our BCP. But in any case, as I reiterated several times in my blog post, I don’t think we should for a moment stop blessing and marrying all those who are called to marriage, including same-sex couples.

      On your first point, I can’t recall hearing Integrity or others make official pronouncements suggesting we jettison the Anglican Communion. I was thinking more of individual statements and of efforts to cut off our funding of the Communion at General Convention, which is a way of compromising a relationship. I’m mostly offering these hopes preemptively now, because I suspect there will be (an understandable) temptation at times to dismiss our brothers and sisters in the AC — or to let our views be governed by a few very extreme and loud voices.

      All that said, I think it would be naive to imagine that our actions to formalize same-sex marriage won’t have negative consequences on our relationships in the Anglican Communion. I will vote for formalizations with joy for friends here, even as I worry about friends here and elsewhere. I’m not suggesting we should hold back, but that we should count the cost and be aware of them. There are costs with all of our choices, and I for one don’t feel worthy to decide who pays, since I benefit from nearly every category of privilege. My hope is that we’ll proceed with measures of joy and concern, and that we’ll be aware of “the other” in our actions. This same principle, by the way, applies not only to same-sex marriage debates, but to all debates in our assembly.

  2. Scott, I hope you will take a look at the Q&A I put together on the proposed canon change. It addresses some, though not all, of the concerns you raise here, but in particular the idea that the canon change introduces a conflict with the BCP.

    Perhaps you could help us out by drafting a more fulsome “declaration of intent” to replace the outline in the proposed canon. The goal, by they way, was precision rather than poetry; but also to cover some aspects the current version of the declaration fails to cover. I take up this issue in the second part of the Q&A.

    I welcome your feedback and applaud your generous spirit.

    • Scott Gunn says:

      Thank you, Tobias, for your comment. I see the point you make in removing one conflict between canon and prayer book. However, I think it is bordering on disingenuous to not see the canon as coming into conflict with the BCP’s current teaching that marriage is between a man and a women. As I’ve said before, I’d like to see that teaching changed. In fact, I’d vote for change on that right now in the form a first reading of prayer book revision. But creating a canonical path to same-sex marriage does not change reality on the ground, I think. We are already blessing and marrying same-sex couples (TBTG). Given a choice, I’d rather see folks flout a canon on this particular issue than have a canon which flouts the prayer book. I’m open to persuasion, and I have no desire to ask for a moratorium on same-sex marriage or blessing or anything like that. My hope is rather to come to a place where we have a single, theologically rich rite for marriage that offers beauty and, more important, God’s grace to those who are called to marriage.

      See my response to Michael Wood, below, re: the declaration.

      • Scott, from my perspective the proposed canon doesn’t conflict with the BCP because it adds no non-BCP language; it removes some duplication, but only adds explicit reference to the vows, which are the least variable portion of the rite, both historically and in the forms offered in the present version.

        Also important to note that nothing in the proposal authorizes SSM on its own, but it prepares the canonical path for the church to do so, at this or a succeeding GC. This is part of why we need the Canon change, to properly take one step at a time.

        The canon change removes a real obstacle in some people’s minds, but it doesn’t move us on its own. But that is why it is important for acting “decently and in good order.”

        • Scott Gunn says:

          In the spirit of “decently and in good order” I’d rather go ahead and start prayer book revision, so that we can align our doctrine, discipline, and practice — so that our BCP and canons are moving toward alignment. The intent of the canon change is to make same-sex marriage possible, which is a goal I support. But I think enacting canons that offer something our prayer book does not is a problem. Others may differ in either their assessment of what’s being done or in their sense of how to get there or in their hopes for a final end.

          You and I share a common hope, I think. Perhaps we will differ on the path.

          I’ve become convinced in the last few weeks that prayer book revision sooner than later is the “decently and in good order” way to go, partly because it moves us toward one rite as quickly as possible rather than “separate but equal” rites.

          Thanks for your comments. Looking forward to seeing you — and listening — in Salt Lake City.

        • tobiashaller says:

          Scott, begging your patience, let me try once more. You say, “The intent of the canon change is to make same-sex marriage possible, which is a goal I support. But I think enacting canons that offer something our prayer book does not is a problem.”

          First, let me say I agree that BCP revision is the way forward — but at present there is no resolution supporting that, and I think it unlikely.

          More importantly, the intent of the canon change is to make the use of the provisional liturgies (or any other authorized liturgy including a trial use revision of the BCP) not *possible* but *legal.*

          Right now some claim that those performing marriages under the generous pastoral provision are violating the canons. That bothers some people of good conscience who take their vows seriously, and are not willing just to wink and nod. While I don’t think any Title IV actions will happen, they are possible, and in a litigious environment not to be entirely ruled out.

          Since using even a “trial use” liturgy as part of a BCP revision would violate the canon, the canon needs to change *before* we have any authorized liturgies that do anything other than what the canon now allows.

          Please understand that the Task Force debated long and hard about whether we should propose this canon change; and we came down in favor of it because we think it is the necessary first step if we are to act in accord with the rule of law. This was one of the charges to the TF, and it is the only substantive resolution we offer.

          See you in Utah!

        • Scott Gunn says:

          Thanks for this conversation. Really grateful.

          Here’s the thing. Until we change the prayer book, the canons and the prayer book would be out of alignment. Or we face a situation in which the canons and our practice are out of alignment. I’d rather have the latter than the former, because statutory conflict is worse than conflicts with practice. Any Title IV charges, which seems unlikely, would be settled on appeal based on the clear intent and direction of the church.

          I don’t think we need the canon change to authorize other liturgies. General Convention can authorize what it wants.

          So the only reason to change the canon is to permit marriage other than one man and one woman? Right? And that’s in conflict with what our prayer book says. And that would trump any other authorized liturgies.

          Anyway, I think maybe our tolerance for ambiguity/discord just shakes out a little differently. So the committee can propose prayer book revision, or you could write that resolution. (I’m about to use up my three.)

          My preference for *not* changing the canon comes because I think it’s bad practice for General Convention to willfully place its canon in conflict with its constitution or prayer book. One more time for all listeners, I do not think that this needs to delay or interrupt our practice of solemnizing and blessing same-sex marriages.

          Again, thank you.

        • tobiashaller says:

          I guess what would most help me, Scott, would be if you could point to the text of the revised canon that “conflicts” with the BCP. We didn’t, after all, revise it just so as to allow for SSM, but to clean it up and focus it on the actual responsibilities of the couple and the cleric. The fact that *it might be used* to allow SSM does not place the canon in conflict with the BCP. The conflict with the BCP is the liturgical rite — if it is a conflict.

    • Melody says:

      I can’t speak for Scott, but I had, originally, believed that this canon change conflicted with our Book of Common Prayer. On a closer reading of the canon change as proposed and the BCP, I can’t find overt conflict, so to speak. However, I would argue that there is oblique conflict with the Book of Common Prayer. This canon change gives the illusion that one could perform the rites in IWBYAYWLAB and not be in violation of canon. Yet anyone performing that rite is, as I understand, in violation of canon, even if it’s not in violation of THIS canon. Because our BCP declares that marriage is “between a man and a woman.” So any member of the clergy that performs any marriage rite that is not between a man and a woman (authorized or not), is in violation of the doctrine of our church (see Title IV, which declares the Book of Common Prayer as the standard for doctrine). Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t still bless Same Sex-Marriage. I’d joyfully do it every time and take my chances with Title IV. But we can’t pretend that this canon removes (or in any way changes) the conflict between the Book of Common Prayer and our practice of same sex blessings.

      I actually simply find the suggested canon change sad. It removes every reference to the Book of Common Prayer, every reference to God (save one), every instance of the word “Holy”, and the word “spiritual.” In so doing, it throws the baby out with the bathwater. I want to canonically (and liturgically) allow CHRISTIAN same sex marriage. Same sex marriage that is both a physical and spiritual union. Same sex marriage that includes the centrality of God and copious reference to God.

      The canon change also requires only that the couple be instructed in the responsibilities of marriage “as embodied in the vows.” It diminishes both our marriages and our liturgy when we pretend that all that is important about Christian marriage is found in the vows. It is the liturgy in its entirety: address, consent, readings, prayers, vows, blessing, and all, that proclaims what we know and understand marriage to be. Limiting marriage to the vows only makes sense as a means to avoid reference to the Book of Common Prayer, so as (seemingly) not to cause this canon to conflict with the Book of Common Prayer.

      As Scott has said, let’s do this decently and in order by changing the BCP so that we have ONE authorized, beautiful, historic rite for all people. At the very same convention that we change the BCP, let’s change this canon- but not in the way proposed. Let’s change the canon only to change the references to man/woman and husband/wife, and keep God and the Book of Common Prayer central to our understanding of marriage as articulated in our canons.

  3. Thank you for a thought-provoking essay. I hope that, whatever the General Convention does, we will move forward to the ultimate goal you have articulated as quickly as possible.

    I am not at all sanguine as to the utility of engaging the wider Anglican Communion on the issue of same-sex marriage. In many cases, I could write a pretty good sample of what the dialogue would sound like, and it wouldn’t be pleasant or enlightening. We are simply in such a different place than are many Communion churches, and the gulf between us is, for now, pretty much unbridgeable.

    On a more positive note, let me encourage the substitution you have suggested to eliminate barbarisms like “woman/man/person.” Such aesthetic concerns can easily be overlooked in the fog of legislative give-and-take.

    Lionel Deimel

    • Scott Gunn says:

      I think dialogue with some folks might well be fruitless, though I think we are called to try. Perhaps that’s only easy for me to say from a place a privileged safety. However, I think dialogue and relationship with many, many people and leaders in the Anglican Communion would be fruitful. I hope our views of the Anglican Communion are not governed by the loudest or the most angry voices; this has not been my experience of the Communion.

  4. seashellseller says:

    However the language is amended — I want the outcome to be that couples who wish to marry can do so in church — full rites and rights.

    I personally find the “declaration” to be theologically unsound. The section about God’s will and procreation particularly. If God is involved in procreation – children would not be born to bad parents and those who would make terrific parents would have them. For the church to state this in these vows set up people to think they did something that God does not like when they don’t conceive.

    People in African areas where being gay is a crime — look to us for hope. Most of us for marriage equality are happy to converse and work with those who do not want this to happen. There are fierce words in some comments but there has been lots of conversation. There were years of conversations across differences. They did not do any good — only the witness of same-sex couples and the blessings they bring to the church has changed minds and hearts.

    We need to move ahead with these resolutions.

  5. woodmibm says:

    Scott I am very interested in your comments about needing to have a declaration in the canons. One of the things I think the task force really got right was the change in the canons. The proposed canon, makes the requirements and description for marriage closer to the requirements and description for the other sacraments.

    For a long time we have had wording in the canons for marriage that really does not belong in legal canons. A description of what marriage is properly belongs in the rite itself and not in canoncial form that has no legal effect. When we talk about baptism, all of our theology and reading is in the rite not in the canons. In the rite persons participating vow to uphold the union as it is described there.

    I would really like to understand what is compelling about having duplicate language in canons. Particularly when it disagrees with Scripture and the marriage rite itself as Tobias points out.

    Michael Wood

    • Scott Gunn says:

      Michael, it’s funny, sometimes a simple question causes me to reflect on an unexamined idea. As I am thinking, perhaps we remove the requirement for a declaration or assent to certain ideals altogether, just as we do for all the other sacraments (except ordination) in the canons. In the others, as you suggest, we rely on the rites themselves and on our preparation for those those rites to do this work.

      So perhaps less is more when it comes to the declaration. However, if we did feel that we needed it, I think we could pretty much pull text out of Form 2 of the SCLM materials, with corrections along the lines Tobias has suggested.

      Thank you for this comment.

  6. Casey Shobe says:

    I am most appreciate of your three, clearly enumerated options for action at General Convention, and I share your preferences among them. The EC has moved so erratically through this debate for so long, but at last we have the opportunity to align our canons, our worship, and our theology. I pray that we seize this opportunity to be consistent in what we declare to the world regarding marriage, and not tolerate a “separate but equal” rite posing in place of what we truly believe about marriage.

  7. David Nichols says:

    How did so many erudite individuals arrive at positions of such prominence without following the dictates of scripture? Jesus himself, said that marriage is between a man and a woman. More and more I see the church trying to justify it’s actions to align itself with a secular society, and not follow scripture. The scriptures have not changed and never will. It is only man’s desire to justify his own actions, that lead him to make meaningless statements, such as, reexamination of scripture have led us to a different under standing of the Lord’s will and therefore, we now condone same sex marriage. There is nothing in scripture that allows same sex marriage. You can’t even take something out of context and pretend that the bible condones same sex marriage.

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