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Blessing Committed Same-Sex Couples

blessing same sex couples

[Update 10 October 2014: The Judicial Committee of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has been asked to clarify aspects of ‘Motion 30’, the General Synod resolution on same-gender relationships:
• Is any form of recognition of same-gender relationships in public worship unconstitutional?
• Is any form of blessing of same-gender relationships in public worship unconstitutional?, and
• Is Clause 4 of Motion 30 unconstitutional in whole or part?
Read more here]

One door opens another closes

Update: With General Synod Te Hinota Whanui’s meeting concluded, I have written about what I can discover from afar, here.

Yesterday, General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) passed a motion about blessing committed same-sex couples. This calls for a working group to report to GSTHW 2016. This group is to work on holding together within the church those who are for and those who against blessing committed same-sex couples, to present a rite for such a blessing, and present further reflection on ordination and its requirements, and on marriage.

I have consistently argued that the blessing of committed same-sex couples was possible through the Worship Template. Section 4 of yesterday’s motion, having acknowledged that as an understanding in the Ma Whea? Commission Report, now forbids that. A door to working towards Ma Whea?’s Option I has been opened (“Anglican Church to Add a New Rite of Blessing by Priests of Those in a Same Sex Relationship”). But Option B2 has been firmly closed.

With the permission of the bishop and vestry (or equivalent), clergy may “recognise in public worship a same-gender civil union or state marriage”, but this can no longer be a blessing (as many have been doing legally under our church’s agreements). I will be fascinated to see texts for such liturgies of “recognition”. As people have or develop rites of “recognition” I hope they will be publicly shared (online).

Bishop holds a non-triangleI would love particularly any member of GSTHW to give some indication how one recognises without blessing, remembering that, along with others, Anglicans understand giving thanks as effecting blessing.

Through the three days of debate on this at GSTHW I understand all the observers were asked to leave from every single Ma Whea? related session – not just caucuses (which had been expected) but conferences too. As one tweeted about the desire to be able to follow the debate, “it’s like maths. They need to show their working so people know how they got to their answer.”

You can read the full motion here. These four parts within it, it refers to as its resolutions:

1. This General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui resolves to appoint a working group to bring and recommend to the 62nd General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui:

(a) A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction;

(b) A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law may perform a yet to be developed liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships in a manner which maintains their integrity within the Church, is compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction, and can remain in communion under scripture, doctrine and law; including

(i) A proposal for a new liturgy to bless right ordered same-gender relationships;

(ii) A process and legislation (whether church or parliamentary) by which a new liturgy to bless right ordered same-gender relationships may be adopted;

and

2. Recognising that this work has the potential to impact on the Church’s theology of ordination and marriage, asks the group to report for our future on:

(a) The theology of ordination to Anglican orders and requirements for that; and

(b) The theology of marriage.

3. This General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui commits itself to continued dialogue/talanoa/wānanga which respects and protects diversity with the option of change.

4. And further:

“By one Spirit we were baptised into one body”

He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa/A New Zealand Prayer Book

We are disciples of Jesus Christ who took a towel and basin and bid his disciples to serve and care for all.

We are acutely aware of the desire of some clergy to make further response pastorally and prayerfully to LGBT people in their faith communities.

Therefore General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui resolves that:

Clergy who so wish are permitted to recognise in public worship a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community:

(a) with the permission of their licensing Bishop; and

(b) with the permission of their Vestry or equivalent leadership body.

Such recognition cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing of a same-gender relationship.

We recognise that this may cause even further distress. Noting the commitment of the Church demonstrated in clauses 1 to 4 above, we ask the LGBT community to recognise that any process of change within our Church takes time.

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23 Responses to Blessing Committed Same-Sex Couples

  1. Lets just cut to the chase. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

    If the Bible is the document upon which the Church stands and is accepted as the inspired word of God it should be taken seriously and not cherry picked to support a dodgy position.

    • Thanks, Brown. I really don’t want to go down the lane of debating all the different perspectives on this here. There are plenty of books, websites, and other places that allow such a debate. Suffice to say that even whether the concept of homosexuality as we currently understand it is found in the Bible (let alone the term) is disputed. Christ is Risen!

    • Brown:

      Let’s (not “lets”) just cut to the chase.

      The Church is neither based on the Bible nor stands on it.

      The Church is based on and stands on Christ Jesus.

      *Big* difference: the difference between Christians and Biblians.

      Christians know Christ Jesus didn’t say, “Come, follow the Bible.” They know he said, “Come, follow me.”

      And Christians know they aren’t called to be Bible-like. They know they’re called to be Christ-like.

      Even Christ Jesus’ apostles didn’t see the Church as being based on the Bible. The Bible said: “Males need to be circumcised to belong to God’s people.” Yet in a council in Jerusalem, they decided otherwise and ruled: “Not necessary for Gentiles.” (See Acts 15:1-29) But then again, perhaps they were just not-Biblian-enough cherry-pickers, picking and choosing what they wanted and didn’t want to observe, eh?

      Yet even today’s Biblians cherry-pick the Bible. I see plenty of them eating pork and shellfish, despite the Bible’s explicit prohibition. I see precious few of them selling all they have and giving it to the poor, though that admonition is in the Bible too.

      Oh, if only more people would get so impassioned over Luke 6:31 as they do over Leviticus 20:13.

      Sadly, they don’t.

      So much for biblical literalism, even among the Biblians.

      Gregory

  2. Recognizing the marriage sounds like a note in the announcements!

    How do you develop a liturgical recognition?

    “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today among the announcements to recognize that so-and-so and this other so-and-so were united in state sanctioned civil matrimony the other day in the presence of family, friends and just about everyone here, at the local rental hall around the corner and down the street. A good time was had by all!”

    😀

  3. In our Catholic parish we frequently recognise marriage anniversaries and the way we recognise them is invariably with a blessing.

    Presumably the synod decision means Anglicans cannot bless a same sex relationship in public worship but could bless the persons in it ? Presumably there is no rule against private blessings ?

    What did the synod mean by the term “right ordered” in “right ordered same-gender relationships”; a term it does not appear to have defined ? A vague diplomatic compromise which could be variously interpreted to mean anything from sexually abstinent to faithful ?

    The Synod is astute enough to recognise that it’s decision will cause further distress; wisely leaving the door wide open to future reform ?

    God Bless

    • Thanks, Chris. I was not present; and I wouldn’t be surprised if different people there interpret the text differently as you are suggesting… Christ is Risen!

  4. Hi Bosco,

    “Suffice to say that even whether the concept of homosexuality as we currently understand it is found in the Bible (let alone the term) is disputed.”

    True, but the intrinsic meaning in the Holy Scriptures is clear. The dispute is to the dislike of the what that intrinsic meaning is.

  5. Bosco,

    “Suffice to say that even whether the concept of homosexuality as we currently understand it is found in the Bible (let alone the term) is disputed”.

    Disputed though it may be, the intrinsic meaning of the Holy Scripture pertaining to homosexual expression is clear and disagreement with the text does not delete it. The dispute has arisen by those who don’t agree with that intrinsic meaning.

    I think the onus is on Anglican clergy, Bishops and provinces who endorse same sex relationships to be up front. If it is something that God really does bless – then they have to engage with Holy Scriptures. I am suggesting yourself in this Bosco, but I have not encountered such an engagement. The engagements I have encountered have mostly been emotional, subjective and reactionary (against those who disagree), rather than Biblical.

    Christ has risen indeed! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    • Thanks, Joshua. As I said above, I don’t want to make this thread the engagement you speak of.

      I suppose it depends where you look. Others could just as easily respond to you, Joshua, that they have mostly encountered emotional, subjective and reactionary rather than Biblical against those pressing for change. It is with those “mostly but not all” that I suggest you spend your energy.

      Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality is, of course, a good starting point. And, more recently, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships has been receiving a lot of attention.

      Blessings.

      • Sorry Bosco, one last comment if you would allow it.

        I think gay marriage will happen within the Anglican church in NZ but there will be a huge fight within the church when that step is finally taken. Some parishes have already said they will resist and I admire them for doing so – it will not be without cost.

        As you say Christ is risen but he is a two edged sword, a house divided cannot stand and “I don’t know you” etc…all that. Good luck with your position. I think it will be the final step off the cliff for the Anglicans and it will serve them right for embracing rather than challenging the sin that haunts us all.

        • Brown, Father Bosco would never let past moderation my rather short, concise reply to smug Christians like you and Joshua.

          Easter Blessings anyway.

        • … [Etseq, I am not allowing this comment through moderation. Please use your ordinary name (apologies if Etseq is your ordinary name). You have never posted a comment here previously, so we do not know you well in this community. And your comment IMO plays too much of the man and too little of the ball. You may wish to resubmit a comment that addresses my points. – Rev. Bosco Peters; blogowner]

  6. As I said above, I don’t want to make this thread the engagement you speak of.
    in the light of Bosco’s comment i probably should not post this.
    But if one reads the Bible and if one considers it the inspired word of God and not an attempts to understand God and morality in the light of life then being lived with all its prejudices then one is faced with a very odd God indeed.
    Marylynne Robinson recently put it with style. And what venom she has engendered .
    “There has never been a period in world history where same-sex relationships were more routine and normal than in Hellenistic culture at the time of Christ. Does Jesus ever mention the issue? I bet it must have been all around him. You can get in a lot of trouble eating oysters if you are a literalist about Leviticus. I’m a great admirer of the Old Testament. It’s an absolute trove of goodness and richness. But I don’t think we should stone witches. And if you choose to value one or two verses in Leviticus over the enormous, passionate calls for social justice that you find right through the Old Testament, that’s primitive.”

  7. Dear Bosco, you probably know my thoughts on what is happening in our Church so i won’t bore you with my direct response to the Motion of General Synod.

    However, I note that biblical literalists – whom I am wont to call the sola scriptura school of theology seem to have forgotten that, in Jesus, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, FULL of grace and truth.” Jesus fulfilled all that was required of the Scriptures and assumed the mantle of Truth for Himself. N.B. The Word did not remain imprisoned in The Book!

    In the celebration of the Eucharist, we can actually meet with Jesus on a daily basis.

    Yes, we can read ABOUT Jesus in the Bible, but this is no substitute for meeting WITH and sharing HIM in the Eucharist. We no longer have to contemplate what Jesus might have said in past times, we have his wisdom, grace and peace to inform and energize us for mission in the here and now.

    “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the Feast – not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened Bread of sincerity and truth”.
    (words from the Easter Sequence)

    Christ IS risen, Alleluia! He IS risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

  8. Hello Bosco
    Let me offer a response to your original thread, ignoring most of the responses that have followed. This is offered in the spirit of your website as a whole, and of your oft-repeated plea for clarity as to what is required, what is permitted, and what is forbidden, in liturgy as in other areas of church life. Perhaps this is a “draft of a liturgical recognition service”, or maybe it is just a liturgical recognition of the odd place we have reached together.

    Having received permission of my vestry and bishop (will they give blanket permission, or do they want to approve each individual service?)I begin a Sunday morning Eucharist in the normal way except that during the opening hymn two men who love each other process down the aisle (together or one after the other I don’t know – I’ll let them decide). The readings will include David and Jonathan’s love greater than a man for a woman, and the disciple Jesus loved. In the sermon I will acknowledge and recognise the couple’s love for each other, and commend them for their desire to make a life-long commitment.
    After the sermon I step back, perhaps to the presider’s chair, and invite a secular wedding celebrant to conduct a wedding. I take no part in that, unless they ask me to bless the rings, which would presumably be in order.
    This is followed by the Peace, at which I and everyone else in the congregation congratulates the couple,and invokes God’s peace for them.
    We then proceed with the Great Thanksgiving and the sharing of communion as normal, and at the end of the service I bless EVERYONE.

    I think I would have done everything that is required, and nothing that is forbidden. Whether this is what would be recommended I am not sure.
    What do you reckon?

    • Thanks so much, Edward. I think this is a fascinating pattern you are offering, and will be interested to see how people respond to it, and whether people will implement this or something similar. Again, I hope people let us know of alternatives. Christ is Risen!

  9. Thanks for the positive (or at least not negative) response, Bosco. I was so afraid you would object to my suggestion of readings other than from the lectionary on a Sunday morning.

  10. Motion 30 is alot of humbug without any legal empowerment.When asked outright about where in the Constitution or Church of England Empowering Act 1928,the authority to establish the working party could be found, we got no reply from the Auckland Bishop. No one should hold their breath waiting for Radical Inclusion to become a reality.

  11. I find it a tad incongruous that a debate ensues while Anglican ( and Catholic ) clergy are already blessing same-sex relationships.
    How many LGBTI people were part of the ‘special committee’ do we know?

      • Could he be referring to the group your church set up to study the issue of sexuality, marriage and ordination that seemed to think it so important a point that it’s leader bragged that no sexual minorities were part of the group, I guess so as to not taint it’s findings?

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