In the Christian Formation hour that preceded her sermon, we listened to a representative of the Bishop's Task Force on Unity (mis-advertised as the Task Force on Same Sex Blessings) speak and answer questions as to the progress of the Task Force. The picture painted by this single representative of this tiny group is that the Bishop of Upper South Carolina (Waldo) did not believe sufficient theological work had been done prior to the approval of these blessings, and he has asked this group to fill in the gaps in what was an admittedly poor theological statement entitled "I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing", and that despite the theological shortcomings, Bishop Waldo will permit parishes to use this "rite" after the parish has followed a "curriculum" and come to some sort of consensus.
A number of excellent questions were raised by the small crowd. While the Bishop's Task Force representative admitted that this "rite" does bless extramarital sex, this did not appear to concern her all that much other than to make her slightly perturbed that anyone should point that out. Not until it was raised by the audience that the Task Force on Unity itself was broken by the departure of one conservative priest was there any suggestion by the representative of a problem within the group. In fact the message that "All was well and will be well as long as we follow their curriculum" seemed to be the general theme of her presentation. In response to other questions, such as what will happen after 2015 when this rite is no longer "for trial use," we were assured not to worry that the rite might be forced upon any parish, and that our trustworthy bishop will be the final arbiter as to whether or not the rite will be used in any given parish.
So it seems that the bishop is about to hand off the real decision making process to the sheep, but in fact the decision has already been made.
The battle lines have already been drawn in the ranks of the clergy, and those strongly opposed will stay that way as will those strongly in favor. Over time, the battle lines can be re-drawn by the bishop as this diocese is seen as becoming increasingly liberal in the ranks of clergy and therefore attracts fewer and fewer conservative priests and parishioners.
Those familiar with the way things work in the Episcopal church should have figured out by now that "optional" is only a temporary way of being. Eventually one option becomes normative through the process of re-drawing the battle lines and by demonizing the opposition, and while not written into Church Canon, one option gets elevated to the position of golden calf (the other reading for today, Exodus 32:7-14), and heaven help anyone who dares call the golden calf a false idol.
Soon, some parishes in Upper South Carolina will think that they are strong enough to graze in the pastoral land of same sex blessings. Their priests may even lead them there. The shepherd's shepherd, or Bishop, will claim that it was they, not he who chose this path. He will pay them a visit from time to time, not with any intent to return them to the fold or to teach them the meaning of Sin and the importance of repentance, but to worship the false idol alongside them.
Dumb, dumb, and dumber...