The church is not ready to authorize creating liturgies to bless same-gender unions and must continue discussing the issue instead, the House of Bishops voted Wednesday.
Some bishops argued that — in light of the divisiveness surrounding consent to the election of the Church’s first openly gay bishop — it was wrong to authorize blessings even though they personally supported them.
“I personally agree that we are growing in the direction that will in the future authorize such blessings,” said Bishop Mark Sisk of the Diocese of New York. But, he cautioned, “Growth that is too quick leads to weakness.”
By about a two-thirds vote, the bishops removed the section of Substitute Resolution C051 that would have authorized the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to create such rites for possible inclusion in Enriching Our Worship, which requires a diocesan bishop’s approval for use.
Bishops later passed the amended resolution, which calls the church “to continued prayer, study and discernment,” including compiling and developing “resources to facilitate as wide a conversation of discernment as possible throughout the church” under the direction of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
The resolution recognizes the lack of church consensus on how best to care pastorally for gays and lesbians “who intend to live in monogamous, non-celibate unions” and what the church allows regarding blessing such relationships. It also recognizes “that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”
The cognate Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music “tried to find a middle ground between not doing anything official through the church and also providing for those people in the church who we all acknowledge do bless same-sex unions,” said Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam of the Diocese of New York, vice chair of the bishops’ committee. A move toward blessings for such unions would be “a move towards discipline and self-restraint, as marriage is,” she said.
One of the committee’s concerns, not limited to this issue, she said, “is that those of us that are concerned about liturgy are concerned about liturgies that develop without any opportunity to be vetted.” The committee’s resolution sought to combine elements of Province IV’s Resolution B007, about how those with different opinions and practices can live together in the church, with a section – rejected by bishops – authorizing development of liturgies.
Bishops also defeated a move to replace C051 with B007, which called for not resolving divisive issues legislatively.
Some bishops argued the church had talked long enough.
Bishop Henry Parsley of the Diocese of Alabama, however, argued the resolution appropriately tried “to contain as many points of view as we can without moving forward, lacking sufficiently sound foundations for liturgical development.”
The resolution now moves to the House of Deputies.