Trial liturgies for same-sex blessings

The Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) will ask General Convention for a three-year trial use of a liturgy (resolution A049) for same-gender blessings beginning this Advent.

During that same time period the church also will reflect on its understanding of marriage in light of changes in both societal norms and civil law if a related resolution is accepted, according to the Rev. Ruth Meyers, SCLM chair.

The SCLM’s decisions are the outcome of 18 months of work in response to the 2009 General Convention’s Resolution C056 that it work with the House of Bishops to collect and develop theological resources and liturgies for blessing same-gender relationships and report to the 77th General Convention in 2012.

The resolution also will ask for the continuation of the “generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church,” called for in C056, Meyers said, including allowing for adaptation of the rite for local use.

In anticipation of the passage of the resolution, Bishop Gary Lillibridge, on June 8, called together a focus group of about 40 clergy and lay leaders from across the diocese. He told the group that it is his expectation that General Convention, in some form or fashion, will authorize — but likely not mandate – the trial-use liturgies. In calling together the focus group, Lillibridge said he wants the diocese “to be prepared for a prayerful, reflective, and theologically meaningful discussion of the actions of General Convention.”

The question Lillibridge put to the group was, “Honoring the diversity of perspectives regarding the possible actions of General Convention, how can we engage one another in sensitive, sincere, and spiritually-grounded exploration of the implications” of General Convention’s actions.

Responses from participants, who met in small groups throughout the day, indicated the importance of establishing and maintaining relationships rather than focusing simply on “issues.”

“We discovered that our values are deeper than our emotions,” said one group. “We looked at how we can get our emotions out of the way so we can connect at the values level.” There was recognition that the people of this diocese have repeatedly chosen to focus on mission above differences. “Our polarizing issues have been mitigated when we focus on mission,” said another group. Participants agreed that they hope decisions of the diocese will be made based on faith, not fear.

Lillibridge said he plans to call the group back together following General Convention, saying, “We have important work ahead of us.”

For the theology committee’s report, click here





(The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg and Episcopal News Service contributed to this report.)





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