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Same-Sex Blessings TEC & NZ

TEC study document blessingAfter several years of study, the Episcopal Church (TEC) has released a draft and reflections around what formally-approved TEC liturgical rites for blessings of committed same-sex relationships may look like.

Before presenting these resources it may be worth reminding people, for some comparison, of the liturgical situation in Anglicanism in NZ. In 1992 the NZ provincial Liturgical Commission produced a collection of experimental services which covered a liturgy recognising the end of a marriage, healing from abuse, blessing a relationship, and a new beginning. These rites have been used by people at every level of the church.

Liturgy for the Blessing of a Relationship (pdf)

Liturgy of Healing from Abuse for Women (pdf)
Liturgy for Recognising the End of a Marriage (pdf)
A Liturgical Resource for Addressing Experiences of Abuse in the Church (pdf)
New Beginnings (pdf)

If there was any uncertainty about the status of these rites, some of the same people who worked at producing these 1992 liturgies also produced the Worship Template:

The Worship Template as passed by General Synod 2002

This was passed by General Synod on 16 May 2002, allowing the 1992 rites, including the Liturgy for the Blessing of a Relationship, and beating the apparent making-of-history by the Diocese of New Westminster.

The proviso for using these rites is that, if there is a Prayer Book rite (formulary), the Prayer Book rite has to be used (remember “the formularies may not be diminished”). So (follow this carefully) if a committed same-sex relationship is a marriage, then the marriage rite in the Prayer Book would need to be used [and it would follow, I think, that one couldn’t proceed as the formulary requires a man and a woman…] BUT – if a committed same-sex relationship is not a marriage then one can proceed and use the Liturgy for the Blessing of a Relationship.

Currently the Anglican NZ teaching is that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is also the legal position in NZ. A committed same-sex relationship in NZ can be a Civil Union, but not a marriage. This means that the Prayer Book rite of marriage is not an impediment to using the Liturgy for the Blessing of a Relationship for a relationship that is not a marriage.

There are some arguing for a change to the understanding of marriage. [And let’s not pretend there is consensus amongst Christians about what marriage is. Let’s not pretend that for many Christians the definition of marriage hasn’t changed (using a Liturgy for Recognising the End of a Marriage is sufficient evidence of quite a shift). For some the definition is still changing]. But that is a different discussion.

the TEC draft rites

The Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has released excerpts from its report I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing: Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships. This includes the text of its proposed rite of blessing.

These drafts will now be studied by bishops and the lay and clergy delegates ahead of the church’s General Convention later this year. The discussion and debate will be available for viewing from March 16-23 on the Deputy Online Forum for the public’s viewing.

You can read this material, which includes the church’s historical views and theological reasoning for making changes here. The Eucharist forms the context for the rite.

Formal approval is not on the agenda for this year’s General Convention. That process will not happen until 2015, 2018, or even 2021. So it is important to note that these are just drafts, and it will likely be years before any final liturgy is approved for official use across the Episcopal Church.

In terms of process, I am in favour of a clean and clear process for authorisation of what we agree to be our shared spiritual practice. I do not think that the Worship Template serves us well in this regard in NZ. Obviously there are different positions that can, with integrity, be held on this particular topic and, as with divorce and (re)marriage, it is possible to hold such diversity together.

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16 Responses to Same-Sex Blessings TEC & NZ

  1. When my spouse and I had a “Blessing of our Union” ceremony in 2005 (prior to the legal recognition for same-sex marriage), we based our liturgy on resources from both Canada and New Zealand. Our priest very thoughtfully proceeded with our “blessing” in the same manner as she would have a marriage (e.g. we had several pre-marital counseling visits with her). At the time I had no idea that California would (VERY BRIEFLY!) allow us to get married just a few years later. (That ceremony we did at City Hall with no witnesses other than our deacon — we wanted to preserve the sanctity and value of our earlier ceremony).

    I often wonder what our service would have been like if marriage had been a legal option for us at the time, and I fervently hope that couples of any gender will now be allowed to have the same exact level of liturgical recognition/participation/support.

  2. Bosco, this is the first I’ve heard of the report’s release – and from a Kiwi! As closely as I follow TEC matters, as many blogs as I read, as often as I’m on Facebook with my Daily Office group of 900, I’ve heard nothing up to now.

    I guess this is why I also belong to your Facebook group of 3500!

  3. There is also a movement in TEC to produce a new prayer book, since the present TEC BCP is now over 30 years old. That would also effect those of us who are provinces of former TEC dioceses and who currently use the Spanish translation of the current TEC BCP.

  4. Thanks for this, Bosco. It must be good to get affirmation of your blog from around the Communion. Jolly good work on your part.

    You will no doubt have seen, from ‘Thinking Anglicans'(reflected on my own site ‘kiwianglo’) that things are ‘on the move’ in the U.K. Now that the British Government is presently considering legalising what they call ‘Same-Sex Marriage’, the hierarchy of the Church of England are beginning to wonder whether they should not have been more gracious – in allowing Same-Sex Blessings, when these were requested and made possible by law.

    However, it may now be that the Church will soon have to contend with the possibility of ‘Gay Marriage’ which, for some people, is the right way to go.

  5. Wow, what beautiful services we could perform in recognition of these and other rites of passage. Acts of service to our communities indeed.

    I’ll share these with other denominations Bosco, this is the Great Commission in action!

  6. Father from my point of view the whole thing of s-s marriage is a sin to start with but i wonder what a man of God should be advocating for -pleasure and trends of the world or the teaching given to the Church by The Head of the Church i.e. Jesus Christ.well get me clear i am not judging you only The Almighty Father but its a matter of fact that liberalism and secularism is making steps in their efforts to dechristianize the world something that is happening at very fast rate and without realizing it we will be regretting anyway the Hierarchy of the Church has said what the Fathers of the Church had already said and …./???

    • Pray tell, chapter and verse please, where The Head of the Church i.e. Jesus Christ ,ever is quoted as having made statements to the Church regarding same sex sexuality?

  7. Only think l can say what Bible says about this
    İsaiah 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

    • Salih, thank you for your visit to this site.

      The topic of same-sex blessings, in some contexts, can quickly generate more heat than light. The approach of “Bible-verses at ten paces – my Bible-verse is bigger than your Bible-verse” is not the way forward.

      You appear to not be responding to the whole post, above. My post points to where you can find the church’s historical views and theological reasoning for making changes. It also provides you with a link to the place where you can participate in the decision-making discussion.

      You provide one verse from Isaiah Chapter 5. This chapter is a magnificent challenge contrasting the God’s lavish, loving care with the sinful response of wealthy and powerful people who commit social crimes; and speaks of the judgement to come. There will be a merciful vindication of the rights of the poor. The parable is followed by a series of woes. The reversals of truth reflected in the fifth woe, which you quote, refers to perversion of justice and to advocacy of disastrous social policies.

      Easter Season blessings.

  8. Hi Bosco from windy Wellington. Just a note that the 1992 Blessing of a Relationship rite you mention has been at the centre of a number of conversations. Its status is somewhat hazy but essentially that of an experimental liturgy, meaning it needs to go through the normal authorisation process before it can be (legally) used.
    I did smile a little on Sinday when my new license was read out, including the line “only use such services as have been authorised …”. Funny considering how few people seem to understand how that process actually works. Brian

    • Greetings Brian. Sorry – but you are confused. And I am not surprised – as the whole province is liturgically and legislatively now so confused and confusing, there appears no one left who can authoritatively say what is actually the case. The General Secretary of our Church, who has controlled printing of what our church’s situation is, has acknowledged his own confusion – and hence his confusing of others. This included attempting to print a Prayer Book that our church had no authorisation to do. “Experimental services”, when such things existed, could be legally used – contra your third sentence. The last meeting of General Synod, however, removed the concept of “an experimental liturgy” – declaring that this has been illegal since our new Constitution; and those schedules of “experimental services” (which were illegal for these decades) will not appear in the reprinting. On the other hand, it also reminded people that anything that conformed to the formularies A Form for Ordering the Eucharist, or Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist, or a Form for Ordering a Service of the Word can be used. The blessing rite you mention does. Blessings.

  9. Sorry Bosco, but you’re confused this time. The opinion (important word) expressed at GSTHW was that those liturgies approved for use by tikanga were un-constitutional. This didn’t refer to the diocesan experimental use regulations. The key though is that it was an opinion, and to date GSTHW has not made it anything else, and certainly has not declared anything. There is much work to be done.
    Equally the understanding you mention re the templates was also put forward as an opinion. It was accepted at the time but could certainly be argued. And again no formal decision or declaration was made or agreed to. Cheers, Brian

    • I am perfectly happy, Brian, for us to continue to accuse each other of being confused – two of New Zealand’s senior clergy passionate about liturgy unable to agree on even basic understandings merely reinforces my primary point that this province will not emerge from this mess in our ministerial lifetime. I was recently sent the draft 2013 liturgical calendar of our Anglican Missions Board to look over – it was riddled with errors; as was this year’s Lectionary; as, I’m certain, will be the 2013 Lectionary. It is not just the fine details that our province is confused and confusing about – it is Sunday bread and butter worship.

      Your point that, after many days consideration, a judge’s statement is only an “opinion (important word)” again reinforces my point – opinions is all we have now. The mess is so extensive – no one’s statement can be relied upon; not a judge, not yours, & you do not accept mine.

      Your third sentence in your previous comment is an oxymoron. Experimental services, when we legally had them, were not illegal – they were experimental. That status is going. “Experimental services” were to be found in the Second and Third Schedules of Title G Canon VI. You will notice that, at present, the General Secretary has incorrectly listed An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist and A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word in the Third Schedule. Those are obviously formularies – and have long been so. Those schedules will go. When the church finally gets its digital act together.

      Your mentioning now of liturgies “approved for use by tikanga” is another matter. The confusion deepens.

      Your mentioning now of “Templates” is another matter altogether.

      The confusion is now complete.

      Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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