So now what?
What’s going to happen now?
Yesterday, to my surprise, the House of Bishops voted the way most of us expected them to vote going into General Convention and acted to begin a process that allows the Episcopal Church to respond to the context in which we are doing ministry. (To my surprise because I had heard from a number of bishops that they thought they would act to table the resolution that would have allowed this to happen.) A number of states have approved legal marriage for same-sex couples over the two years, and we have every reason to expect that this approval will expand to other states.
As a result we have in our midst couples who have been married in the eyes of the State but for whom there is no authorized liturgy to mark that event. There’s no clear teaching that’s broadly issued that explains what the Church believes about such relationships and what it will commit to doing in pastoral support of couples.
Given the state’s actions and the resulting need, the Episcopal Church is starting to respond. Our tradition has been to create liturgies in a thoughtful, broadly inclusive process that carefully tries to fashion a common mind that is expressed in the language of the prayers we use. To date we’ve not done this. Individuals and organizations have done this, but the Episcopal Church has not responded by bringing the fullness of its liturgical mind to the question.
It appears to me that the ammended resolution, C055 – that is coming to the House of Deputies either today or tomorrow from the House of Bishops – is going to allow this process to begin. It’s also going to make explicit what has been implicit to this point. It’s going to give permission for bishops and dioceses in states and districts where same-sex marriage is now legal to work openly to find ways to minister pastorally to those who are now allowed to be married.
It doesn’t cross the explicit line of actually authorizing the useage for the whole Episcopal Church, but clearly that is the expected next step. And I’d be very surprised if we didn’t do that in Indianapolis in 2012.
I remember reading somewhere that Julius Caesar is said to have remarked as he and his legions crossed the Rubicon, “thus the dice is thrown.” For obvious reasons I’ve been thinking about that phrase this morning. So, here we go…
For what it’s worth, Bishop Smith of Arizona voted for the provision. I expect the Arizona deputation will unanimously as well.