Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Special Rites

Over the weekend in Atlanta, the Episcopal Church's Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music was meeting to begin preparing the texts for blessing same-sex marriages. It is groundbreaking and exciting to see the church moving on this issue. And, for those of us in places where same-sex marriage is forbidden, it is... well, interesting.
Interesting because no matter what happens with the church, marriage is a "special right" reserved for heterosexuals in Florida. Not only is same-sex marriage outlawed in four places in the state statutes, the voters made it unconstitutional in 2008. And since the Book of Common Prayer notes that a marriage "conform to the laws of the state and the canons of the church," ... well... that just makes it all "interesting".
And so, I am taking my seat in the nosebleed section of humanity and watching the church engage in another ecclesiastical political football game with my personhood.
I have read some reports of the events in Atlanta, all glowing and positive. Apparently, the SCLM did some theological reflection, looking at the liturgy of our service where we Celebrate and Bless Marriages. The opening shows where there is a bit of a problem for the LGBT community:
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of
God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and
this woman in Holy Matrimony.
(BCP, p.423)

But what if it's a woman and a woman? Or a man and a man? Even the choreography for the wedding instructs the celebrant to have the woman to the right and the man to the left. Again, what if they are of the same gender? Should we do Butch and Femme?
The group also worked on pastoral and teaching resources as well as canon law and other legal ramifications. There were surveys of Bishops and Deputies about where things stand with them now, and plenary and small group discussions.

All of this is good. But there are things about the process that bothered me when I watched the news conference.

The biggest was when I heard a question asked about "Christian marriage" vs. "Same-sex marriage".

Excuse me? Are some of us not Christians?

The fact that we would separate those two ideas gave me pause. As the news conference went on, what became clear from this consultation is that the SCLM is taking a very narrow, literal approach to the language of the C056 (the resolution asking the SCLM to embark on this work of developing rites for same-sex blessings.) And that's what they are doing: blessings for same-sex couples only, and not a service that could be used by a straight couple as well. There was great emphasis by the SCLM Chair Ruth Meyers and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson that the Committee is doing exactly as asked by the 2009 General Convention. Exactly. No deviation.

I understand that. But at the same time, I am sighing heavily at the thought that there are rites for heterosexuals and rites for homosexuals. Each of us get to have our very own "special rites" as if the language of a covenant to love and honor one another is not common for both groups.

And then, I have to pull out a tissue and dab my nose. Because, as I mentioned, I am watching all of this from the nosebleed section of the Diocese of Florida. And the last word I had, our bishop not only says, "No" to same-sex blessings by the church, it is an emphatic "Hell NO!" Someone asked Vermont Bishop Tom Ely what could be done to move the hearts and minds of those who are not willing to allow for the blessing of same-sex marriages. +Ely's answer was pretty much a "not much":

"I'm not going to pound anybody over the head and make them go where they are not prepared to go."
I have wondered as the church continues to writhe and wrestle with this Christian idea of "full inclusion of the baptized," what will happen with these bishops in places like Florida when they find themselves seeing more and more LGBT people who are married in other countries or in one of the six states that have legalized same-sex marriage show up in their pews. How long will they continue to cling to what now they seem to want to call "Christian marriage"? Or maybe how long will the church survive if it continues to tell this segment of the baptized, "You are 3/5ths a person in the church."

Maybe 3/5ths a person in the church. In God, I am whole.


Here are some links worth checking out: Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall's two part report HERE and HERE. She gives details of what happened at the Atlanta Consultation on same-sex blessings. And then there's Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton's take on the matter at TELLING SECRETS.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope that they can come to some loglical conclusion for this, and I have great hopes that they will. The sky hasn't fallen in NH