Saturday, January 22, 2011

News update from Diocesan Council: same-gender blessings resolution passes

RESTON, Va. -- The Council of the Diocese of Virginia passed a resolution this morning calling upon Bishop Shannon Johnston to move forward with issuing guidelines that authorize the blessing of same-gender unions.

Passage of the resolution was a major milestone on the issue. The Diocese of Virginia has been a battleground on sexuality issues for many years, but has engaged in a process of discernment through meetings throughout the diocese.

"This is a simple resolution," said John Schwartz, from St. Anne's, Reston, and the primary author. He noted that the "whole body hurts" because some people are excluded from the full life of the church because they are gay or lesbian.

The debate was impassioned at times, but delegates remained respectful of each other. The viewpoints expressed included that the traditional view of marriage is limited to unions of men and women.

"I don't believe God blesses same-sex marriages," said one delegate.

The Rev. John Sheehan, rector, The Church of Our Redeemer Aldie, also opposed the resolution on the grounds that it will further strain the Episcopal Church relationship with the Anglican Communion.

Others expressed opinions that the Bible is not as clear cut on this topic as some believe. One speaker noted that we do not justify the stoning of adulterers or condemn people for wearing mixed fabrics, which are also subject to biblical law.

And The Rev. Sue Eaves noted, "I am an ordained person that Scripture does not authorize."

The vote was taken by orders, with clergy and lay delegates voting separately by holding up green and red cards. The yes votes outnumbered the no votes in both orders, and so no count was taken.

Yesterday, Bishop Johnston said he is prepared to work with those parishes that are ready to have such blessings. He gave no specifics, but other bishops have issued guidelines for such blessings. A task force (upon which I served last year) has recommended to the bishop such guidelines which he may issue, amend or reject.

The resolution R2a approved by Council states:
R-2a: Blessings of Same-Gender Unions Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia thanks Bishop Shannon Johnston and the diocesan team for the very fruitful "Listen ... And Be Heard" sessions in 2010, and urges our Bishop to “provide a generous pastoral response" by moving forward with guidelines with regard to public blessings of same gender unions.

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