Sunday, October 26, 2008

But Think of the Clergy!

Among the many fallacies about Amendment Two is that if it fails, then church pastors, ministers, priests…or rabbis or imams…will be forced to marry gay and lesbian couples.

I don’t know how that can be possible when marriage between two people of the same gender is already illegal in Florida. But again, that seems to be that nagging factoid that just gets in the way of a good red herring fishing story such as this amendment.

What one might ponder is what makes any of the clergy who support Amendment Two think that a gay or lesbian couple would come to them for any sort of spiritual direction…let alone a blessing of their union? Do they really believe we’re that stupid?

Another question one might want to ask is: how does this Amendment, and the discriminatory laws it seeks to enshrine in our state constitution, hamper the ministerial duties or desires of clergy members who support full equality for gay and lesbian people? Most mainline religious groups tend to conform to state laws when it comes to the sacrament of marriage. This makes sense since the actual legality of the marriage is through the state, not the church or synagogue. The religious institution’s primary role in marriage is the blessing bestowed by God on this union. And, for some couples, that is a very important and meaningful moment. But two people need not seek out a priest or rabbi to get married when a Justice of the Peace will suffice for the purposes of getting a marriage certificate signed, dated and witnessed.

But let’s say that a gay man or a lesbian has grown up in a particular church, has been baptized and maybe confirmed and has a connection to this church community. And let’s say there is a clergy person at this church who is inclined, and believes that it is OK, for this gay or lesbian to marry their partner. In Florida today, that is prohibited by law. And Amendment Two would only make it “Super Duper Illegal”.

What’s that clergy person to do when faced with this situation? Right now, some agree to go with a couple to a jurisdiction where marriage IS legal for LGBT couples. But many others have to shrug their shoulders, offer sympathy, and hope for a day when such prohibitions are lifted…not only in the state laws but in their own church governing statutes.

Interesting to note that in Canada, a country where gay marriage is legal, the Anglican Church is in a struggle over how to deal with marrying gay people. There are those who do not want to do it, fearing this will continue to strain relations with other parts of the Anglican Communion. But the Bishop of Ottawa recently released a statement, where he is asking his brothers and sisters in Christ to consider approving the practice of gay marriage in the church. Bishop Chapman says:

"It is my intention to place before the Canadian House of Bishops, next week, my prayerful hope regarding the issue of 'blessings'. It is important that I honour the collegiality of the Canadian House; we are, after all, an episcopally led and synodically governed church. It is my intention at this meeting to discuss my hope which includes my desire to make the following statement: 'That we, in Ottawa, begin to explore experientially, the blessing of duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; to charge the Doctrine and Worship Committee with the responsibility to develop an appropriate rite for this blessing. Upon the authorization of a rite, I will give my permission for one parish within the Diocese to offer the blessing of civil marriages between same-sex couples. Discernment continues!'

The closing line, “Discernment continues” is an important period to that proposal. As is the case in the Episcopal Church, nothing will happen overnight, and yet the desire remains to keep all doors open so that everyone may come in to make their feelings known. Keep talking, keep exploring, and move at a pace that will allow people to process and respond. But keep moving!

Again, Florida is still years away from having a discussion akin to the one in Canada. But Amendment Two attempts to end the discussion before it has even had a chance to begin. And that just doesn’t seem like something God would do.


Anonymous said...

You were writing pretty late last night. I love the Bishops idea. It seems amazing that our state is gathering the committment ceremonies in a booklet for priests to use. It would be wonderful if the Episcopal Church in the USA would charge the Doctrine and Worship Committee to look at what is going on here in the states that are allowing civil unions. I am sure Bishop Katherine would do it. But, we are so slow.

Another good piece, and Fr. Denson read your last one, he told me so this AM


SCG said...

Yup, I was up late putting together my thoughts on this last entry. Trust me, MCG, I have more! :-)