Sunday, March 27, 2011

Standing Commission on Litury and Music Wanders Off Into A Morass

Below you will find the minutes from the table conversations from the recent Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.  The discussion centers on the issue of same-gender blessings/marriage.  The easiest, simplest most equitable thing to do is to simply use the prayer book (pgs. 423 or 433) but no -- there has to be more to it than that!  To distinguish my comments I have made them red. 

Fall 2010 House of Bishops Meeting

Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music Consultation on 2009 General Convention Resolution C056

Table Conversation, September 18, 2010 Executive Summary

Table conversation centered on the following questions:

Question 1. What pastoral needs must the resources developed meet in your diocese?

Question 2. To what extent do the theological principles (attached) address the questions that people in your diocese are asking?

Question 3. How well do the liturgical principles (attached) reflect your understanding of Anglican theological and liturgical sensibilities?

Question 4. How can this work be done in a way that will both resource the church and strengthen the body of Christ?

Question 5. How do you want the SCLM to consult with the House of Bishops for the duration of this triennium as this work goes forward?

Each table received a set of notes pages for reporting feedback to these questions. The notes were collected and later transcribed into a single spreadsheet. (Note that the table identifications in the spreadsheet were assigned randomly for transcription purposes only. There was no recording of who participated at each table.)

The Bishops’ comments spanned a broad spectrum of ideas. Following is an attempt to categorize and summarize the comments. Themes are presented roughly in order from most to fewest references.

• Theological and Liturgical Principles. Feedback on the principles was widely varied, but the majority of comments were positive. The liturgical principles were especially well received. Several comments serve as reminders of the importance of articulating a strong theological foundation for this work. (Note also that one Bishop offered that the theological principles are pastoral in nature, while another said they’re liturgical theology.) There were many comments noting the lack of direct scriptural references in the principles, and suggesting that theological work must include scripture references and liturgies must incorporate scriptural language. Participants at two tables suggested adding a missional component to the theological principles; others variously suggested attention to concepts of friendship, intimacy, and fruitfulness; and at least two tables noted connections to baptismal living. Two commended Bishop Breidenthal’s book, Christian Households: The Sanctification of Nearness.

Say what?  This is a blessing just like any other blessing.  Aren't there enough "scriptural" references already?  Or, do you mean scriptural references to same-gender blessings? 

• The Nature of the Liturgical Rites. A large number of comments were related to the understanding of same-gender relationships and the rites that would be used to bless them. These comments often referred to the choice of terms, but they reflect deeper questions about exactly what the Church means to express through the liturgical rite. For example, there was diversity of thought about whether this work should be about same-gender marriage. Other comments indicate that the issue is more fundamentally whether same-gender blessings are sacramental. Still other comments questioned the meanings of the terms blessing and covenant.

Why would the church mean one thing for different gender marriages and another thing for same-gender marriages?  For heaven's sake, what has got into people?  Not sacramental?  What the heck does that mean?  If different gender marriages are sacramental what makes same gender marriages NOT sacramental?

• Continuing Consultation with the House of Bishops. Most tables had at least one request for check-ins from the SCLM about its work on C056 between now and General Convention 2012. Many suggested at least a brief appearance at each House of Bishops meeting, with perhaps more time at the fall 2011 meeting. Some also suggested additional reports, posting of information on the College for Bishops website, mailing or emailing material to bishops, or access to materials as it is being developed. Others discussed the role of the Bishops in authorizing liturgy. Others mentioned the role of the House of Deputies or suggested contact with diocesan liturgical commissions.

Just for the record, if we all used the same liturgy, i.e., the current liturgy, we could all be done and moving on.  That is, we would not need to "check in".

• Care for those of Differing Views. Many comments expressed concern about making room for and caring for those who disagree with the provision of rites for blessing same-gender unions.

Using the same liturgy should not cause any stir at all.

• Resources for Conversation. A number of tables requested resources for conversation and education in congregations and dioceses.

Resources and education for what?  Full inclusion?  Does this mean we really do not mean full inclusion until some time in the future when we all agree to full inclusion?  Somebody waffling on the Primates issues?

• Legal Considerations. There were comments about the varied legal contexts now faced by Dioceses and requests for clarity about the relationship between Church rites and civil law. Note that four tables expressed concern about the Church’s role in civil marriage (of different-gender couples) and hope that this function might be separated. At least two tables asked about consequences if a couple subsequently breaks up.

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God, those things that are God's.

• Diversity of Participants. Many observed a lack of geographic diversity among the C056 presenters, and several offered that the people working on these resources must reflect the diversity of the Church, including moderate and conservative voices. [Note: The Bishops were introduced only to the Task Force Chairs; the full Task Force rosters have subsequently been posted on the College for Bishops website.]

Trying to reach some "via media" will only corrupt the work that has been done.  Furthermore, some form of "middle ground" is not full inclusion.  Separate but equal isn't. 

• Authorization of Rites. There was concern about clear communication that any rites developed would not be mandatory and about the role of the Bishop Diocesan in authorizing rites.

Sounds like "blue smoke and mirrors" to me.
• Preparation of Same-Gender Couples. Several comments expressed the need for good materials for the preparation of same-gender couples, especially materials that consider how their preparation might be different from different-gender couples.

The real question is why?  There is no difference in what is going on-- if we start from the premise that there is a fundamental difference we end up with the concept of separate but equal.

• Broad Engagement. Several comments were related to the importance of engagement on this work with Dioceses and various entities of the Anglican Communion.

The above comments can be used to enrich and feed the various gardens one grows.

• Other Rites for Blessing. Comments from at least three tables mentioned the need to develop a rite for any couple that would like to have their relationships blessed but cannot have a civil marriage (for example, an elderly couple for whom civil marriage would create financial hardship).

While interesting and important, this is clearly an attempt to distract from the real issue facing this group.

In closing, it seems to me that the Episcopal Church is either going to fully include same-sex blessings or we are not.  It is impossible to ask for (require) full inclusion and then wander off into an abyss that is fraught with non sequiters, separate but equal arguments and birdwalks.

H/T to IT at Friends of Jake.