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The Episcopal Church, USA and lesbian,
gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) topics

The 79th General Convention in 2018:
continuing movement to LGBT equality:

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The Episcopal Church USA's General Conventions:

The Church's previous triennial General Convention, the 78th, was held during late 2015-JUN and early 2015-JUL in Salt Lake City, UT.

The 79th Convention was held between 2018-JUN-25 and JUL-03 in Austin, TX.

The next convention, #80, will be held in mid-2021.

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2018-JUL-09: The House of Deputies endorsed Resolution B012:

The House of Deputies overwhelmingly approved B012. It would affect many engaged couples who wish to be married by their own priests in their home churches. There is one church ritual for opposite-sex couples and one for same-sex couples. Both texts had been approved in Resolution A054 at the previous General Convention.

According to the Episcopal News Service, Resolution B012:

  • Gives "... rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the authority to provide access to the trial-use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. [Previous] Resolution A054-2015 and the original version of B012 had said that clergy could only use the rites under the direction of their bishop."

(This is an important development, because some conservative Bishops oppose the use of marriage rites for same-sex couples.)

  • States that ... "if a bishop 'holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,' he or she may invite another bishop, if necessary, to provide 'pastoral support' to any couple desiring to use the rites, as well as to the clergy member and congregation involved. In any case, an outside bishop must be asked to take requests for remarriage if either member of the couple is divorced to fulfill ... [this is the same] canonical requirement that applies to opposite-sex couples."

  • Continues the "... trial use of the rites until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer."

Deputy Christopher Hayes, from California, made a floor amendment that formed the basis of the version of B012 that the House adopted. He said that it was:

"... written in consultation with a number of people who have labored for the ... [previous six years] on how to honor the theological diversity of this church on the issue of marriage while ensuring that liturgies for marriage of same-sex couples can be used as widely as possible."

The Rev. Calvin Sanborn, from Maine, told the house July 8 that he has performed many marriages in the last three years, many of them for same-sex couples. Some were young people:

"... just beginning their journey together."

He has also solemnized the marriages of

"... many, many couples who have been together for decades and are finally able to have their loving relationships affirmed by the church. These are not just parishioners who came to the church to be married in a beautiful place and then simply disappear, as is often the case in a coastal Maine church. These are faithful couples who have not only committed their lives to each other, but also to Christ, and to the work of God in the world."

The Rev. Susan Russell, from Los Angeles, CA has worked extensively for full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church. She voted in favor of B012 because she views it is another step towards equality. However, she said that the resolution includes:

"... costly compromises that come with very real pain."

She said that B012:

"... will move us beyond the seemingly intractable challenge of living together as a church where the sacrament of marriage [that] has been authorized for all couples in the Episcopal Church is irreconcilable with the theological consciences of some members of the Episcopal Church."

She notes that:

"... some members of the Church will be disappointed by a resolution that does not give "... full and equal claim" to all the sacraments for baptized LBGTQ persons. Others will "... experience this action as a bridge too far away."

She said that the convention faces the question:

"whether the gift of walking together into God’s future as members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is worth the painful compromises we are mutually being asked to bear."

On the other hand, William Murchison, a deputy from Dallas, TX disagrees with B012. He said that the Convention was being asked to:

"... throw out a historic Christian understanding and supplant it with a new one, untested, unproved, but now, all of the sudden, necessary to be believed and practiced."

"[Despite] all this cloudy talk of love ... you don’t achieve love with a hammer, you don’t achieve love with a club. You achieve it with open arms and open heart and open minds. [To assume that no one else is right and that it’s] my way or the highway [is] not Christian, it’s not even Episcopalian."

Also, Deputy Mary Jones of Albany NY said that B012 was too much:

"... and would not serve our church well. [Passing B012 will] ultimately lead us to division."

because of its underlying difference in the interpretation of Scripture. 1

The vote tally on B012 were:

  • Clergy: 96 in favor; 10 opposed, 4 split.

  • Laity: 97 in favor, 8 opposed, 5 split.

(Split votes indicate that the members of a deputation divided their votes with some in favor and other opposed.)

The minimum of 56 votes in favor is required in order to have the House of Deputies approve the resolution and pass it on to the House of Bishops for a second vote. The system works much like the House and Senate in the federal Congress.

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2018-JUL-11: The House of Bishops amended Resolution B012:

The bishops passed a brief "technical amendment" to B012, and then returned it to the House of Deputies for a final vote.

Mary Frances Schjonberg, writing for the Episcopal News Service, said that the version passed by the Deputies had placed the:

"... decision-making power for using the rites with rectors or other clergy in charge of congregations. The bishops’ amendment comes in the seventh resolve of the resolution and adds the words 'provided that nothing in this resolve narrows the authority of the rector or priest-in-charge (Canon III.9.6(a))'."

Bishop Jeff Lee of Chicago, IL commented that the amendment was added:

"... simply to make clear as we can that this resolution is not in conflict with the provisions of the ministry canons of the church regarding the authority of rector or priest in charge of congregations. It’s a very, in some ways, technical amendment, but we thought it was important in consultation with the chancellors to add it."

Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield, MA is one of the eight bishops who will not authorize the use of the marriage rites for same-sex couples in churches. He said that he was:

"I am deeply concerned [that removing the bishop’s ability to act as the chief liturgical officer and] chief teacher [in the diocese will begin to] ... erode the sacramental relationship between a bishop and a diocese."

Bishop William Love of Albany, NY said that if B012 is passed, it would place him in the difficult position of violating parts of his ordination vows. He said:

"There has been a lot of discussion as we have struggled with this issue over the past several years on whether or not sexual intimacy within that of a same-sex couple was appropriate. There are many in this church who have proclaimed that it is and that this is a new thing that the Holy Spirit is revealing and that the Episcopal Church is being prophetic in putting this forward and ultimately the rest of the body of Christ will come to understand that. I don’t believe, presiding bishop, that that’s necessarily true."

He also said that the denomination had listened to individuals' personal experiences and to their:

"... feelings, their emotions, but we have not had an honest look at, sir, at what God has said about this issue and how best to help people who find themselves in same-sex relationships."

Bishop Brian Thom of the Episcopal Dicose of Idaho had earlier been on the Task Force for the Study of Marriage and the committee that reviewed the resolutions. He voted in support of B012 as amended. Referring to an existing arrangement when bishops have instructed engaged same-sex couples that they must go to a different diocese and be married by a priest who is a stranger to them, he said:

“The strongest message we received was not about ecclesiology. The most pastoral thing that was being asked for and, for me the most valuable, was that folks just wanted to be married at home. I’m convinced by that. My heart breaks for those folks who have not been able to do that, but now they can, and rectors and bishops have a space."

“This is the right move that allows us all to go forward and, while I feel I have thrown with my votes for B012 my LGBT brothers and sisters under the bus, there is now a way forward for them to be married where they want to be married — at [their] home [church]. And all of you who have stood at an altar before a couple like that know how important that is. So, for them, I am going to vote in favor of this."

The resolution was passed overwhelmingly by the House of Bishops with a voice vote, and was sent back to the House of Deputies. 2

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2018-JUL-13: The House of Deputies votes to adopt resolution B012:

The Very Rev. Sam Candler, deputy from Atlanta, GA and chair of the legislative committee that considered all of the convention’s marriage resolutions, said:

"We have already engaged in a grace-filled debate -- an honorable and healthy debate, discussion and struggle. We were reminded of the significant compromise that was made by various committed constituencies and holy saints of this church."

The tally of the Deputies' votes were:

  • Clergy: 99 in favor; 3 opposed, 4 split.

  • Laity: 101 in favor, 5 opposed, 1 split.

Only 56 positive votes are required to pass the resolution. Thus, resolution BO12 was adopted by the General Convention.

Bishop Jeff Lee of Chicago, IL referred to B012 as:

"... an elegant solution for moving forward in a way that respects the role of bishops as the chief liturgical officers in their diocese. [The compromise was] "... built on the generosity of people who would rather have seen it go further in one direction or another. And, that’s a remarkable thing about this convention, I think: that willingness on the part of people who cherish and really invested themselves in having ‘all this’ or ‘all that’ being willing to let go of the things they cherish for the sake of moving forward together." 3

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Responses by readers of the Episcopal News Service article on 2018-JUL-13:

Webmaster's comment (bias alert):

I was surprised, that there were only 38 comments by readers of the article in the Episcopal News Service for JUL-13 when B012 was adopted. The Episcopal Church USA counted 1.9 million active baptized members in 2015. 4 On such a controversial topic, I would have expected hundreds of comments.

A few randomly selected shorter comments were:

  • Jordan Sakal wrote: "This is such amazing and wonderful news."

  • Fr. Ian Wetmore wrote: "Sadly, though, it has the potential to sunder congregations. So I can see some clergy taking the preemptive action, with or without congregational mandate, of refusing to officiate at any kind of marriage in order to keep the peace."

  • Robbie Johnson wrote: "Now the Liberals and LGBTQ can say to conservatives, 'Don’t let the door hit you as you leave for a Bible believing church'!"

  • Joe Barker wrote: "The Bible is very clear, bother in Genesis and Ephesians- a man shall leave his father and mother and be united with his WIFE, not his husband. This is so sad to see the church bow to social pressures and ignore the Word of God." 3

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mary Frances Schjonberg, "General Convention moves one step closer toward sacramental marriage equality," Episcopal News Service, 2018-JUL-09, at: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/
  2. Mary Frances Schjonberg, "Marriage rites resolution heading back to House of Deputies," Episcopal News Service, 2018-JUL-11, at: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/
  3. Mary Frances Schjonberg, "Convention lets its ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ agreeing to give church full access to trial-use marriage rites," Episcopal News Service, 2018-JUL-13, at: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/
  4. From a Google Search for: membership episcopal church USA

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Copyright 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2018-AUG-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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