Wednesday, July 8, 2009

GC gets underway. What about B012?

In 6 states now, gay people can be legally married. 18,000 gay couples were legally married in California during the interregnum. These married couples exist in a never-never land with respect to TEC.

The conservatives view us with active disdain. The best we can expect from them is the way the Roman Catholics view divorce. As Andrew Sullivan writes in his excellent essay, Modernity, Faith and Marriage,
Catholics, for example, accept the word marriage to describe civil marriages that are second marriages, even though their own faith teaches them that those marriages don't actually exist as such. But most Catholics are able to set theological beliefs to one side and accept a theological untruth as a civil fact. ..... Catholics can tolerate fellow citizens who are not Catholic calling their non-marriages marriages - because Catholics have already accepted a civil-religious distinction. They can wear both hats in the public square.
Of course the conservatives are actively working against us, which they don't do against the divorced, so the analogy is not completely apt.

Ann told us a few weeks ago about B012, and James at Three Legged Stool provides further reflection. Basically, this would give clergy in jurisdictions where married gay couples exist some leeway.
.... in those dioceses, under the direction of the bishop, generous discretion is extended to clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry in order to permit the adaptation of the Pastoral Offices for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage for use with all couples who seek the church's support and God's blessing in their marriages; and be it further
   Resolved, That in order to build a body of experience for the benefit of the church, each bishop in those dioceses where this pastoral practice is exercised provide an annual written report on their experience to the House of Bishops each March and to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for its report to the 77th General Convention.

We don't need to rehash here the arguments--I'm sure the bishops will do that in any case. But considering the analogy to divorce, I think, is important. There are many more Biblical strictures against divorce than homosexuality and these are unambiguous, yet TEC and most other churches have accepted the necessity of divorce, and accept and recognize the divorced. There are even (gasp) divorced bishops. Is this issue really any different?

The main difference, of course, is that most straight people, whether liberal or conservative, can understand the need for divorce. THey might need it one day. How much easier it is to enforce restrictions against others that will never affect oneself. In a church that will bless a dog or a boat, think of the message it sends to exclude committed, married couples from any recognition.

However, I wouldn't hold out many hopes. Because frankly, gay people are still talked about as objects, not as people. And once you can talk about a group as "they", rather than a part of "we", leaving them outside becomes quite easy, and rationalizations flow. Because "they" aren't like "us".

Update H/T to James, who points us at a document from the Bishop of Niagara on Theological perspectives on blessing same sex couples (PDF).

Update 2: B012 was discussed on 8 July, with basically no opposition. A description of the initial hearing here from Episcopal Life. A more personal view from Elizabeth Kaeton.

1 comment:

Paul (A.) said...

I was at a committee hearing this morning where a conservative bishop, rather than "viewing with active disdain" appeared hopeless and whiny about the possibility that the church might restrain him from discriminating against partnered gays (he evidently has given up discriminating against the celibate ones). He was giving the "don't make me have to take my diocese out of The Episcopal Church" line, but I don't think his heart was in it.