Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Theological Principles? on Liturgies for Blessing Same Sex Couplings

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of the Episcopal Church, with the able bodied assistance of our assistant priest and youth minister, has been busy spending your money developing liturgies for same sex blessings.

The following is available on their blog, and was picked up by the elves at T19 on March 10, 2011 (go there to see all of the comments).

TEC Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music
Addressing General Convention Resolution C056, Liturgies for Blessing
Outline of Theological Principles
December 31, 2010
I. Baptismal Grounding
The Christian life is rooted in the sacrament of baptism, an effective sign of our participation in God’s mission in the world and a reminder of our hope for the fulfillment of all things in God-in-Christ. Every covenant and commitment we make as Christians offers an opportunity to live out our baptismal covenant in new ways.
Is Christian life grounded in the sacrament of baptism? I agree with comment #13 at T19 who wrote, "Christianity is radical because it is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ."

The watering down of the Book of Common Prayer in 1979 may be one reason why progressive thought has come to the point where when they really can't figure something out, they fall back on the argument that they are living into their Baptismal Covenant. In particular, they are prone to focus on:
"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" (p. 305),
and ignore:
"Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching..." (p. 304).
The "justice" argument is one that often comes up in discussions of same sex blessings.
The "justice" clause is just one of many changes to what was "The Ministration of Holy Baptism" in the 1928 BCP.
Gone are the words,
"Wilt thou then obediently keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of thy life?"
The 1928 wording of the following prayer was too powerful for the progressives in 1979,
O MERCIFUL God, grant that like as Christ died and rose again, so this Child (this thy Servant) may die to sin and rise to newness of life. Amen.
Grant that all sinful affections may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him. Amen.
Grant that he may have power and strength to have victory, and to triumph, against the devil, the world, and the flesh. Amen.
Grant that whosoever is here dedicated to thee by our office and ministry, may also be endued with heavenly virtues, and everlastingly rewarded, through thy mercy, O blessed Lord God, who dost live, and govern all things, world without end. Amen.
The 1979 Prayer Book changes weakened the description of our basis of faith and diminished the teaching of the need for true repentance and renewal, impossible without Christ, and these changes are key to understanding the present day highjacking of the Baptismal Covenant by those espousing same sex blessings.

II. Theological Retrieval
Rooting the blessing of covenantal relationships in baptism suggests a fruitful retrieval of three key touchstones from Christian history concerning the significance of those covenants, including same-gender relationships:
I am cannot find much theology to retrieve here.
1. The sacramental character of covenantal relationships (committed relationships make God’s presence and divine grace visible);
This is totally backwards.
It is only once we are regenerate by the grace of God through Christ that we can truly love our neighbor as ourselves. The love of one's neighbor is evidence of the power of God's grace in our lives.
2. The Trinitarian imprint of covenantal life (the perpetual and mutual self-giving and other-receiving of the Holy Trinity);
But didn't the 1979 BCP change the wording used at the giving of the ring from:
WITH this Ring I thee wed: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. (1928 BCP)
to this:
I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all
that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (or in the
Name of God). (1979 BCP p.427 h/t Nwlayman)
The Holy Trinity has been optional since 1979.
3. The eschatological vision inspired and evoked by covenantal relationship (the desire that leads us to commit ourselves to another person reflects the human desire and hope for union with God-in-Christ).
This is total nonsense. All in all, I would say the past 3 points are anti-theological.
III. Renewing the Church’s Theological Reflection
Retrieving the sacramental character, Trinitarian imprint, and eschatological vision in committed relationships can renew the church’s theological reflection on covenantal relationships, including same-gender unions, with these five key principles:
The strawman appears. If one takes the earlier three points as establishing a solid theological basis for covenental relationships and same-gender unions, then you can move on to the next five points. If however, you can see that this is a strawman, the following points can be ignored.
• Vocation: People are called into long-term committed relationships, as a vocation;
• Covenant-making: Loving faithfulness can participate in and reflect God’s own covenantal commitment to God’s creation;
Thank God for his covenant. All these human covenants pale in comparison.
• Households: Covenants create households as “schools of virtue” for life-long formation in spiritual discipline nurtured by divine grace;
No, CONVENTS, not covenants, are households and “schools of virtue” for life-long formation in spiritual discipline nurtured by divine grace;
• Fruitfulness: Faithful love in relationship enables the offering of countless gifts to the wider community that would not be possible in the same way apart from that relationship, including: lives of service, compassion, generosity, and hospitality;
No mention of the fruitfulness of procreation.
• Mutual Blessing: The liturgical blessing of a covenantal relationship acknowledges the fruits of the Spirit in that relationship and in turn becomes a blessing to the faith community, strengthening the community for its mission and ministry in the world.
So far there is no evidence that this is a fruit of the Spirit since there is no evidence of confirmation through careful study of scripture, nor is there any evidence that same sex covenantal relationships will strengthen the mission of the Church.

IV. Summary of Theological Principles
Covenantal relationships are one way for Christians to live out their baptismal calling in the world. As the Church discerns the fruits of the Spirit in faithful commitments – such as households marked by compassion, generosity, and hospitality – these commitments become a blessing to the wider community. Blessing covenantal relationships, including same-gender unions, thus belongs to the mission of the Church in its ongoing witness to the good news of God-in-Christ and the Christian hope of union with God.
My summary: There is no theological principle contained in this Outline of Theological Principles.

Next, having established principles built upon straw, they move on to the next job for the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music;
Addressing General Convention Resolution C056, Liturgies for Blessing
Principles for Evaluating Liturgical Materials
December 31, 2010
Materials proposed for blessing same-gender relationships must above all be consistent with the implicit theology and ecclesiology of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. This would suggest, for example, that they must reflect the Prayer Book’s underlying assumption that the entire life of the Church finds its origin in the baptismal font.
Here we go again. Another false assumption about baptism.
Nearly as important is that the proposed liturgical materials embody a classically Anglican liturgical ethos and style.
In other words, they want to make these liturgies look, sound, and feel traditional. Of course, they are giving themselves an impossible task. Dress up a skunk and you still have a skunk.
Recognizing the varying notions of what makes public prayer recognizably Anglican, the task group identified these qualities:
• It resonates with Scripture.
The key word here is "resonate." This is sufficiently vague and allows them to ignore scriptural references altogether.
• It has high literary value; is it beautiful according to accepted and respected standards.
No comma splices or incomplete sentences?
• It uses the recurring structures, linguistic patterns, and metaphors of the 1979 BCP.
Vague as well, but intended to dress the skunk.
• It is formal, not casual, conversational, or colloquial.
Does that mean they might throw in a few Thee's and Thou's?
• It has a ritual or sacral register.
I can see the organist now, searching for that "sacral register." This an unfortunate choice of words because the "sacral" region is, in Anatomy class, the area near the tailbone.
• It is dense enough to “carry the freight” of the sacred purpose for which it is intended.
Throw in a few imponderables then.
• It is metaphoric without being obtuse.
Metaphors can go too far. This whole liturgy thing is crying out for some pretty far out metaphors.
• It is performative.
Above all it has to be a great show!
At the same time, these rites must resonate as natural speech in contemporary ears. A sacral register must be achieved without the use of arcane or antiquated words or patterns of speech.
Would it be arcane or antiquated of me to use words like, "Where in the Bible did this come from?"
The rites should provide explanatory notes and rubrics. The material must be considered as the script for an event, not a mere collection of texts.
The proposed rites must be an expression primarily of the entire Church, not the couple seeking a blessing. These rites must allow for robust communal participation, reflecting the Baptismal ecclesiology of the Prayer Book. Related to this, since the Eucharist is the symbol of the unity of the Church though unity with Christ, these services of blessing should normatively be celebrated within the Eucharist.
I think these rites will result in a minimum of two unrepentant sinners presenting themselves unprepared to receive the Eucharist, and that is something that has consequences (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
These rites must enact the notion of sacramental reciprocity put forth by the C056 Theological Resources Task Group, suggesting that, even as the Church blesses the relationship of the couple, the relationship of the couple is a blessing to the Church.
But, there is no scriptural basis for such an assertion.
Options must be provided so that this action of the entire Church—this common prayer—does not degenerate into a generic rite.
"Degenerate" is another unfortunate choice of words.
The Prayers of the People will be important in this regard, as will other texts. There must be a provision of numerous options.
More options will be needed to fulfill Bishop Gene Robinson's prediction "that it was time to move beyond speaking simply of 'GLBT' (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) orientations: 'there are so many other letters in the alphabet, there are so many other sexualities to be explored.'" (see earlier post)

I can't take it any longer, so here is the last bit:

The rites must hold up the two people making the covenant as the primary ministers within this action of God and of the entire Church. The rites should give expression to the Church’s understanding that the couple is freely assuming a vocation, which can be expected to yield the fruits of mutual fidelity for the couple, itself, for the Church, and for the entire world, pointing ultimately toward the fulfillment of all human relationships and unity in the eschatological Reign of God, when God will be all-in-all.
They must be what they purport to be—liturgical prayer—not didactic or polemical statements in the guise of liturgy.

For anyone wanting to watch the sinking of the SSb TEc, it will be carried live this Friday and Saturday. Here are the details:

The two-day consultation will center on the 2009 General Convention Resolution C056 to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for same-gender blessings. The plenary sessions will provide information
about the work the SCLM and its task groups have accomplished to date in developing these resources.
The live webcast will be available
Participating will be nearly 200 clergy and lay deputies from almost 100 dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

Webcast schedule
Plenary sessions are scheduled:
Friday, March 18: 2 pm to 3 pm Eastern and 4:45 pm to 6 pm Eastern (1 pm to 2 pm Central and 3:45 pm to 5
pm Central; noon to 1 pm Mountain and 2:45 pm to 4 pm Mountain; 11 am to noon Pacific and 1:45 pm to 3 pm
Saturday, March 19: 8:30 am to 9:30 am Eastern and 11 am to noon Eastern (7:30 am to 8:30 am Central and
10 am to 11 am Central; 6:30 am to 7:30 am Mountain and 9 am to 10 am Mountain; 5:30 am to 6:30 am Pacific
and 8 am to 9 am Pacific)
In addition, the media conference slated for 2 pm to 2:30 pm Eastern will be live webcast. (1 pm to 1:30 pm
Central; noon to 12:30 pm Mountain; 11 am to 11:30 am Pacific)
The event will be held at the Atlanta Hilton Airport (Diocese of Atlanta).


  1. It's 12:05 AM CDT and I'm coming back tomorrow. Let me comment on this, however. In the discussion of Baptism, is there no mention of Grace? Of dying to the old self to rise (resurrect) to walk in the newness (different-ness) of Christ?

    I know I'm a Baptist and we practice a) believers' baptism and b) adult understanding of its meaning as a representation of our acceptance, through faith, of Christ's atonement and our forgiveness through Grace followed by repentance, but are we that different from the current Anglican practice, such that those things are not even mentioned?

    UP, while I don't know you personally, I know you from your writings. You are a sibling in Christ and we will meet someday. I know you ache for your denomination. Know there are those "others," ignorant bigots in the eyes of some, who are praying for you, yours and those of like mind among what is increasingly become unrecognizable as a "Christian" denomination.

  2. Randall,

    Grace is included in the examination of the candidate or their sponsor,

    Question: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
    Answer: I do.

    Question: Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
    Answer: I do.

    But, overall, the 1979 Baptism is watered down.

    Since we are what we eat, I suspect that we are seeing the long term effects of a steady diet of watered down baptismal theology resulting in the bizzare transposition of the Prayer Book's baptismal covenant onto "covenantal relationships" of all kinds.

  3. Anonymous3:41 PM

    I am a mother with two teenage children who are active in the youth group at ECOOS. Are you saying that Mary Cat has been teaching them that same sex relationships are not only a desirable thing, but are blessed by God??? That she has been doing this with Charlie's approval??? Because if this is true, my husband and I are going to have a long talk with our children, and then Charlie and our "able-bodied assistant priest and youth pastor"!!!

  4. I am saying that she is on the wrong side of the issue as evidenced by the following:

    The news that she was to serve as our Diocesan representative to the task force gathering resources for ssbs was given to us in May or June 2010. I think it was even in August 2010 "Acorn" newsletter. Let's see, oh my, it has been removed from the "Archived" section of the church web pages.
    Here is a link where you can still find it. Click Here. The announcement in on page 2.

    Teach your children well Anon 3:41

  5. Anon 3:41

    You have taught your children well.

    I received your follow up comment and suggest you keep Matthew 18:15-20 in mind in any such attempt to address this problem. (The link is to the whole of Chapter 18, because of the earlier references to issues such as this).

  6. Anonymous2:52 PM

    Watching Betty Ford's funeral was a shocking experience for me. Now it needs to be said that I attend a large, traditional/1928 oriented Episcopal church-but I have always appreciated rite two; especially its ecumenical value and it similarity to the Mass of Pope Paul VI (such as it has been). But in that funeral I saw in the priest's words "undivided trinity" a fearful allusion to a doctine that He feared mentioning, whereas, in an Episcopal church, the Trinity should be mentioned with all boldness! I have been wearied by these "non trans-fat" approaches to Anglican worship--but I do see the Trinity being seated by the kitchen increasingly..and the attitude of new clergy coming out of seminary as being condescending to the Trinity and to those of us who believe in that non-negotiable and primal doctine of our faith. What has happened to us? We have decided, that is they, the seminary professors and elites of the church, that none of it is real at all. Our church is become nothing more that Unitarianism dressed up in scant Christian garb...and blessed Mary of Egypt was more beautifully adorned in her tattered raggs than is our church in its faithlessness. I mourn the death of The Episcopal Church. They said it would happen--and it did. I don't know what I would do were it not for All Souls.

  7. Anon,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    The Holy Trinity has been and will continue to be an anchor for most of us despite the efforts of those who try to make it a creation of man.