A085 Trial Use of Marriage Liturgies

Resolved, the House of _________ concurring, That the 79th General Convention, in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canons II.3.6, authorize for trial use as additions to The Book of Common Prayer (to be inserted following page 438) “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage 2,” and “An Order for Marriage 2” (as revised and appended to the report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage to the 79th General Convention), beginning the First Sunday of Advent 2018; and be it further,

Resolved, That paragraph 1 of “Concerning the Service” regarding “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage” and “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage” (Book of Common Prayer page 422) be amended for trial use in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6 to read as follows:

Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman two people in the presence of God. In The Episcopal Church it is required that one (1), at least, of the parties must be a baptized Christian; that the ceremony be attested by at least two (2) witnesses; and that the marriage conform to the laws of the State and the Canons of this Church. And be it further

Resolved, That the following Preface for Marriage 2 be authorized for trial use as an addition to The Book of Common Prayer (to be inserted on page 349) in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6:

Because in the marriage of two (2) people in faithful love, thou dost reveal unto us the joy and abundant life thou sharest with thy Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. And be it further

Resolved, That the following Preface for Marriage 2 be authorized for trial use as an addition to The Book of Common Prayer (to be inserted on page 381) in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canons II.3.6:

Because in the marriage of two (2) people in faithful love, you reveal the joy and abundant life you share with your Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. And be it further

Resolved, That the section “Other Sacramental Rites” in “An Outline of the Faith commonly called the Catechism” in The Book of Common Prayer (page 861) be amended for trial use in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canons II.3.6 to read as follows:

Q. What is Holy Matrimony?

A. Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which two (2) people the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.

Q. What is required of those to be married?

A. It is required of those to be married that at least one (1) member of the couple be baptized and that they have been instructed that Christian marriage is an unconditional, mutual, exclusive, faithful and lifelong commitment intended for the couple’s mutual joy, for the help and comfort given to each other in prosperity and adversity, and, when it is God’s will, for the gift and heritage of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of God. And be it further

Resolved, That these additions and alterations to The Book of Common Prayer authorized for trial use by this Convention are understood to be for the period between the 79th and 80th General Conventions, with the option to 1) extend the period of trial use, 2) adopt on second reading, without amendment, these materials as additions/alterations to The Book of Common Prayer; or 3) take some other course of action as determined by the 80th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That these alterations and additions be published in “Liturgical Resources 2” (as appended to the report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage); and be it further

Resolved, That bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision, will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial liturgies; and be it further

Resolved, That bishops continue the work of leading the Church in comprehensive engagement with these materials and continue to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the provision of Canon I.18.7 applies by extension to these liturgies authorized for trial use, namely, “It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize or bless any marriage”; and be it further

Resolved, That the provisions of Canon I.19.3 regarding marriage after divorce apply equally to these liturgies authorized for trial use, in accordance with guidelines established by each diocese; and be it further

Resolved, That this Church continue to honor theological diversity in regard to matters of human sexuality; and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological support for or objection to the 79th General Convention’s action pertaining to this resolution; and be it further

Resolved, That in accordance with Article X of the Constitution, notice of this resolution “be sent within six (6) months to the Secretary of the Convention of every Diocese, to be made known to the Diocesan Convention at its next meeting”; and be it further

Resolved, That the 79th General Convention direct the Secretary of General Convention and the Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer, in consultation with the outgoing Chair of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage and the Chairs of the Legislative Committees to whom this legislation is referred, to finalize and arrange with Church Publishing for the publication (in English, Spanish, and French) of the material contained in “Liturgical Resources 2” as approved by the 79th General Convention; the General Convention Office to make these materials available electronically at no cost no later than the first Sunday of Advent 2018.

Explanation

For over forty (40) years The Episcopal Church has been discussing the place of same-sex couples in its common life. During this time, some dioceses and congregations gradually began offering liturgical blessings of the lifelong monogamous relationships of same-sex couples. In 2000, the General Convention adopted Resolution D039 (subsequently reaffirmed by successive General Conventions) expressing the Church’s understanding and expectation that marriage and other life-long committed relationships “will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”

The 2012 General Convention authorized liturgical resources for “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” (Resolution 2012-A049), and three (3) years later the 2015 General Convention authorized the trial use of two (2) liturgies for marriage, available for use by all couples (“The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2”), as well as the continued use of “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” (Resolution 2015-A054).

With the June 2015 United States Supreme Court decision permitting the civil marriage of same-sex couples anywhere in the United States, same-sex couples have been able to have their marriages solemnized in domestic dioceses of The Episcopal Church in conformity with both the laws of the State and the Canons of the Church (Canon I.18.1). “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” allows the blessing of same-sex couples in civil jurisdictions where their marriage is not permitted by civil law, and authorization for use of this liturgy is not changed by these provisions for trial use of liturgies for marriage.

In a survey of U.S. dioceses in 2017, the Task Force on the Study of Marriage learned that ninety-three (93) Bishops with jurisdiction authorized the trial use of the marriage liturgies. Seventy-three (73) of those bishops authorized their use with no conditions. Twenty (20) bishops authorized their use with some conditions. Of those twenty (20), twelve (12) required Vestry approvals, two (2) required Vestry approval and permission of the Bishop, one (1) required approval of the Bishop, two (2) required a parish discernment process and three (3) authorized only one of the available rites. Eight (8) bishops did not allow the trial use of the marriage liturgies. These liturgies have been widely used throughout the Church, and this resolution brings these liturgies before this Convention for continued trial use, with additional proposed revisions of The Book of Common Prayer [BCP].

This resolution authorizes additions to the Book of Common Prayer, including,
1. Two (2) liturgies for marriage available to all couples: “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2”
2. “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage 2”
3. “An Order for Marriage 2,” a flexible order of service similar to “An Order for Marriage” in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (pp. 435-36).

These liturgical materials would be authorized for trial use in accordance with Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church and Canon II.3.6. “Trial use” means that the Church is considering these for inclusion in The Book of Common Prayer. To be added to the Prayer Book, two (2) successive General Conventions must authorize the liturgies in identical form. As additions to the Prayer Book, these liturgies would not replace the current BCP liturgies “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage,” and “An Order for Marriage.”

Canon II. 3.6(a) allows General Convention to specify any special terms or conditions under which such trial use shall be carried out. This resolution requires bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority (or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision) to make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial liturgies.

During the period of trial use, the liturgies and other revised materials would be published in “Liturgical Resources 2,” but they would not appear in new printings of The Book of Common Prayer. The 80th General Convention, in 2021, could 1) extend the period of trial use, 2) adopt these additions and alterations, at which time they would be added to future printings of the BCP or 3) determine some other course of action.

In addition to the liturgies to be added to The Book of Common Prayer, this resolution would change one (1) rubric and add one (1) liturgical text in order to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. The description of marriage in the section “Concerning the Service” (BCP p. 422) would be revised to state that marriage is a covenant between “two people” rather than between “a man and a woman.” An additional Proper Preface for use at a nuptial Eucharist is proposed for both Rite I and Rite II.

The Catechism would also be revised to state that Christian marriage involves “two people,” rather than “the man and the woman.” A second question about marriage would be added (just as a second question about Confirmation explains the requirements of those to be confirmed) to indicate the Canonical requirements for marriage, including instruction in the purposes of Christian marriage.

This resolution provides guidance for implementing trial use. Given that we are now considering revision of The Book of Common Prayer, it is important as ever that bishops provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of the Church and that they lead the Church in engaging with these materials. The provisions acknowledging that any member of the clergy may decline to solemnize or bless a marriage (Canon I.18.7) and that the provisions regarding marriage after divorce (Canon I.19.3) apply to the use of the trial liturgies were also in the 2015 Resolution, along with an assurance that no one in the Church, lay person, bishop, priest, or deacon, shall suffer any coercion or penalty because of theological support for or opposition to the blessing or marriage of same-sex couples.

The final resolve provides the mechanism for publishing and making this material available to the Church.