Thursday, June 25, 2015 Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: I am writing to you from Salt Lake City, Utah during the first day of the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. During the next eight days, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies will consider many important matters. There will be critical mission initiatives, the election of a new Presiding Bishop, and conceptual plans to restructure our governance to make more resources available for mission across our Church. We will also consider proposals to change the marriage canon, including granting permission to clergy in states where same-sex marriage is legal to solemnize and bless those marriages within the canons, as well as to authorize provisional rites for that purpose...
...In early May last year, the Bishop's Task Force on Unity of this diocese released its report, creating a process of study and reflection by which congregations seeking permission to bless (not solemnize) same-sex relationships could receive it. Few indeed within Upper South Carolina imagined that same-sex marriage would become legal in this state for a generation, much less within a few months, as did occur. As General Convention prepares to address this issue canonically and liturgically, I offer a few thoughts. My own study and reflections in preparation for last year's report persuaded me that it is indeed time for the church to experience and embrace the fullness of covenanted, monogamous same-sex relationships, even as our theology and ritual practice continue to develop and unfold. It remains critical to me, however, that in addition to the well-established right of priestly discretion in solemnizing any marriage, bishops retain discretion in how any provisional rites authorized by this Convention will be used in a given diocese. With these provisos in place - as they currently are in proposals submitted for consideration - I will vote in favor of the necessary canonical changes at this Convention. The process put in place a year ago in our diocese will be essentially the same in this scenario, except that permission will be granted to solemnize same-sex marriages to congregations that have engaged in the required discernment and dialogue. I recognize that deep differences on this question exist within our diocesan community. I remain committed to ensuring that there is a place at the table in this diocese for everyone, people of all perspectives. My hope is for a conversation within the church of a deeper, less divisive, and evolving nature, even as decisions are being made. It is clear to me that theological resolution will elude us for the foreseeable future. Early in the last century, Bishop William Guerry of the Diocese of South Carolina wrote that
We should strive for unity, not uniformity. Uniformity is mechanical, barren, unfruitful and unprofitable. Unity is organic, living, and capable of endless growth. If we are to be truly catholic, as Christ himself is catholic, then we must have a church broad enough to embrace within its communion every living human soul.Such unity is most deeply formed in a forge that makes an alloy out of seemingly incompatible elements, and it virtually always involves heat. In my five years serving as your Bishop, I have seen this at work in a godly determination to stay and work together that pervades this diocesan community. As St. Paul reminds us, we are to “Bear with one another and
If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your heats, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”I am indeed thankful, for we have been blessed in this diocese with an abundance of missional opportunities that continually energize, unite, and send us into our Lord’s service. With longing for your prayers and grateful hearts, I remain yours in Christ, The Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo Eighth Bishop Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina