Monday, July 9, 2012

General Convention: Same-sex blessing rite approved by House of Bishops

House of Bishops Monday
during vote on same-sex blessings.
This afternoon, the House of Bishops voted 111 to 41, with three abstaining, to authorize a liturgy for same-sex blessings. The proposal, A049, moves to the House of Deputies where it enjoys even stronger support. This is the most significant action so far coming out of the once-every-three years General Convention, meeting in Indianapolis.

You can read the Episcopal News Service story HERE. The story also mentions an emotional moment of "personal privilege" by New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in which he asked people to "cut me a little slack... it's been nine long years."

It should be remembered that this measure is a logical step from the resolution approved three years ago to provide a "generous pastoral response" by allowing bishops, if they so wished, to approve same-sex blessings in their diocese and to continue studying the issue church-wide. There was no single rite approved at the time, and that allowed bishops to develop their own. The measure approved by the bishops Monday would bring a uniformity to these rites. As one bishop put it, the measure would end "liturgical anarchy."

The measure would continue to allow bishops, priests and congregations to decline to participate in same-sex blessings.

The debate by the bishops took more than an hour and I listened on the "mediahub" webstream. The debate was respectful.

Bishop Nathan Baxter of Pittsburg said that voting for the measure would take courage by the bishops. "Unless we take certain movement, the conversation will stop."

But other bishops said same-sex blessings will put the Episcopal Church out of step with other provinces of the Anglican Communion and traditional doctrine of Christianity.

Our Diocese of Virginia bishops, Shannon Johnston and Ted Gulick, both voted in favor, as did all of the California bishops (I do have many California readers here).

Monday's development is founded on the work of a team of scholars and theologians at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific who spent the last three years studying the biblical issues and liturgical foundations of same-sex blessings. You can read the full report that was given to General Convention by clicking HERE.

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