Tuesday, August 06, 2013

It'll Never Happen Here: Gay Marriage and The Episcopal church Task Force on Marriage

Since my Bishop Waldo is serving on the Episcopal church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage (not to be confused with his own Task Force 10 to Gomorrah (links to Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4)), I have been tracking his efforts with no misconception as to what the outcome of the Episcopal church's study will show, and that is that same sex marriages are a blessed thing and that a recommendation should be forwarded to the next General Convention that same sex marriage rites be studied and provisions be made for solemnizing civil same-sex marriages in the Episcopal church.

I distinctly remember hearing the words, "It'll never happen here" when I mentioned this back in 2003 that this would be next.

If there is any doubt that the die is cast, look at the initial report from the Episcopal church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage

At the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012, Resolution A050 called for a Task Force on the Study of Marriage to be appointed by the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to study and consult broadly on the subject of marriage. They were asked to explore historical, biblical, theological, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage, and to do so in consideration of the “changing societal and cultural norms and legal structures” of our time.
Resolution A050-2012 further asked for the following outcomes:

  • tools for theological reflection and discussion at the local level;
  • a way of addressing “the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such”; and
  • a report on its progress to the 78th General Convention in 2015.
The Rev. Brian C. Taylor, Task Force Chair from the Diocese of Rio Grande, noted following the group’s first gathering, “This remarkable and diverse group of clergy, bishops, and laity appreciate the enormity of the task before us, and the importance of doing so at this time. We are honored to have been appointed, enthused about doing the work, and confident that with the Spirit’s guidance, we will produce something of value for our Church.”
Hold the phone! "This remarkable and diverse group"??? Analysis of the backgrounds of the members by commentators at StandFirminFaith shows that this is hardly the case.
  • ...the Rev. Susan Russell, who is well known for her work with Integrity and All Saints, Pasadena:
  • The Rev. Dr. Cameron E. Partridge, “a trans-identified [that means self-identifies as transgendered] lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality” at Harvard Divinity School.  And someone like this is going to help TEC work out a theology of marriage?
  • Then there is this rector: Rev. Gail Greenwell, who wrote this letter to her parish, preparing them to begin a process that led to the blessing of same sex unions.
  • And there is The Rev. Tobias S. Haller, who is a gay priest married to his partner in the state of New York, who you can watch discuss his experience at a consultation on the Bible and LGBT issues in Durban, South Africa in in this video and who gives his thoughts on marriage and procreation and the marriage rite here.
  • The Rev. Canon W. (Will) H. Mebane, Jr. is assistant at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio, which bills itself as “An Inclusive Community of Faith” and whose dean, the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, was the first lesbian dean of a cathedral in the Episcopal Church.
  • The Very Rev. Dr. Sylvia A. Sweeney is the dean of Bloy House, an Episcopal seminary run by the Diocese of Los Angeles as part of the the very liberal consortium at Claremont.
  • Joan Geiszler-Ludlum, Diocese of East Carolina is an attorney and Chancellor of the Diocese.
  • Carolyn M. Chilton is a facilitator with CREDO.
  • The Rev. Brian C. Taylor, chair, who is a rector in the Diocese of the Rio Grande.
  • And there’s The Rev. J. David Knight, an interim rector in the Diocese of Mississippi.
And we musn't forget to throw in my Bishop Andrew Waldo who represents the divorced and remarried male (hetero) of the group.

The Task Force spent much of its time in prayer and open discussion, considering first and foremost how to frame the tasks set before them. They were – and will continue to be – guided by principles laid out in General Convention Resolution D039-2000, which names values that the church upholds for those living in marriage and other life-long committed relationships: “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
According to that guidance, marriage standards have already been re-defined by GC D039-2000. Can a resolution of a General Convention actually do that? Isn't that a bit like working from a set of false assumptions, or perhaps like building a castle on a foundation of sand?

Taylor said that the Task Force also “considered deeply what underlying question the Church was asking through this resolution. Our working assumption at this point is that it is this: What might the Episcopal Church have to say to today’s world as to what makes a marriage Christian and holy?”
There we have it. The progressive, prophetic role that the Episcopal church believes it is playing in bringing about God's Kingdom in the here and now.

In order to faithfully respond to this question, the Task Force divided into three working groups that will continue to work through the months ahead:
Marriage: Historical, Liturgical and Canonical Roots (chair: the Rev. Canon Susan Russell, Diocese of Los Angeles)
Marriage: Biblical and Theological Dimensions (chair: Carolyn Chilton, Diocese of Virginia)
Marriage: Conversations and Consultations; Changing Norms (chair: The Rev. Canon Will Mebane, Diocese of Ohio)
Regarding the third group, Taylor said, “We know we can’t do this alone; therefore our Task Force plans to seek input from a broad range of people throughout the Church.”
Oh boy! I can't wait until I get my invitation to provide input. Honestly, does anyone think that the so-called 20% of Episcopalians who are strongly opposed to this nonsense will be provided equal time?
The enabling resolution charges as much, asking for consultation with couples living in marriage and other committed relationships, single adults, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons, other churches in the Anglican Communion, and our ecumenical partners.
Does anyone expect any of those churches in the Anglican Communion to be participants in GAFCON?
The Task Force plans on using a variety of means for these consultations: soliciting a collection of short video testimonies from couples about how they have found God’s grace at work in their marriages; a survey; meeting with appropriate bodies; sponsoring facilitated conversations in a variety of Church gatherings; and more.
You can expect a series of heart string tugging, tear jerking videos for which you should stock up on tissues.

At the close of the Task Force’s meeting, Taylor concluded, “Yes, it is a daunting task. But our Task Force’s scholars, bishops, pastors, canonists, and educators are up to it. More importantly, the time has come for us to engage in this work, and God will faithfully guide us through. ”
The only daunting thing about this task may be trying to keep a straight face during the process.


  1. WOW that is such a one sided committee

    1. That is why there can be no doubt as to the recommendations they will produce. The only thing that will be of interest will be to see how they word it. I expect to see a lot of Episcobabble.

  2. Let's face it, there will be gay marriage in PECUSA in 3-6 years time. We, orthodox, need to develop strategies for dealing with this upcoming tidal wave.

  3. Hackney Hub,

    Tidal waves destroy both in the ingress and the egress. I guess the only options are to run for the hills or to climb to the top of the nearest solid structure that is set upon a firm foundation.

  4. Anglicat10:53 PM

    SSM ceremonies already underway in Minnesota.....

    1. Anglicat,
      I wonder if they are satisfied with the ssb rite approved by TEc or if they are using the marriage rite.

  5. I suppose we will have to decide if fleeing to ACNA is a sensible option or if there is some dignified way of remaining in TEC for the long run?

  6. I hate to change the subject but since this your Diocese do you have illuminating details on what is being discussed here http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=17883#.UgThgdLVCuI

    1. There was a top secret meeting where everyone had to promise to not say anything, but the rumors are just rumors as to what the big deal is all about.

  7. "The Task Force plans on using a variety of means for these consultations: soliciting a collection of short video testimonies from couples about how they have found God’s grace at work in their marriages" The fix is in. This is stratified sampling at it's worst. This cannot really be called 'research'. The experimental hypothesis has become the Null hypothesis.

    1. Dale,
      Yes, and through the dissemination of these materials the hypothesis will be elevated to the status of proven theorem and then doctrine.