B012 Marriage Rites for the Whole Church

Original version

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 79th General Convention authorize for continued trial use, in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2” (from “Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015”), and be it further

Resolved, That the 79th General Convention authorize for trial use, in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6, “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage 2” and “An Order for Marriage 2” (as appended to the report of the Task Force for the Study of Marriage to the 79th General Convention), beginning the first Sunday of Advent 2018, and be it further

Resolved, That the period of trial use for these liturgies shall extend without limit of time; and be it further

Resolved, That “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage 2” and “An Order for Marriage 2” be published in a revised and expanded 2018 version of “Liturgical Resources 1: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing,” and made available electronically in English, Spanish, and French at no cost by the first Sunday of Advent 2018, and be it further

Resolved, That all congregations and worshipping communities of this Church that understand themselves called to incorporate these liturgies into their common life, are authorized to do so by the rector or priest-in-charge (Canon III.9.6), and are permitted to do so by civil law, shall have access to these liturgies, under the direction of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority; and be it further

Resolved, That where diocesan canons or bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority do not authorize the use of these liturgies for persons of the same sex, congregations may request, and when requesting shall receive delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) by a bishop of this Church who shall provide access to these liturgies, as permitted by civil law; 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 Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music study and monitor the ongoing trial use of these rites, and report and make recommendations to the 80th General Convention on any modifications or additions that may be judged advisable, and be it further

Resolved, That the provision of Canon I.18.7 applies by extension to these liturgies, 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, in accordance with guidelines established by each diocese or bishop exercising delegated oversight; and be it further

Resolved, That this Church continue to honor theological diversity in regard to matters of human sexuality; and that no lay person, bishop, priest, or deacon 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 the 79th General Convention direct the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies to appoint jointly a Task Force on Communion across Difference, consisting of not more than 14 people, who represent the diversity in this Church with respect to cultural background, age, race, gender, and sexual orientation, including members from countries other than the United States, half of whom hold that marriage is a “covenant between a man and a woman” (BCP, 422), half of whom hold that marriage is a “covenant between two people” in the presence of God (Resolution 2018-A085), and all of whom seek a pathway toward mutual flourishing in The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force seek a lasting path forward for mutual flourishing consistent with this Church’s polity and the 2015 “Communion across Difference” statement of the House of Bishops, affirming (1) the clear decision of General Convention that Christian marriage is a covenant open to two people of the same sex or of the opposite sex, (2) its firm commitment to make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to authorized liturgies; and also affirming (3) the indispensable place that the minority who hold to this Church’s historic teaching on marriage have in our common life, whose witness our Church needs; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force consult widely with members of this Church who represent its diversity of cultural background, age, race, gender, and sexual orientation, particularly its members in countries other than the United States; and also with representatives from the Anglican Communion, our full-communion ecumenical partners, and those churches with whom we carry on ecumenical dialogues; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force report and make recommendations to the 80th General Convention, ending its term at that time except by further action of General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $90,000 for the implementation of this resolution.

Explanation

As the Task Force on the Study of Marriage notes (Resolution 2018-A085):
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).
...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.
Their survey did not include the nine (9) non-U.S. jurisdictions: Haiti, Taiwan, Europe, Central Ecuador, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Litoral Ecuador, and Venezuela, in most of which same-sex marriage is not presently provided for by civil law.
This resolution re-authorizes the two (2) trial use liturgies for marriage authorized in 2015, but with modified terms and conditions, as provided for by Canon II.3.6(a). Resolution 2015-A054 provided that all bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority “will make provision” for all couples to have access to these liturgies, while also providing that trial use of these liturgies in a diocese is only available under the direction of and with the permission of the diocesan bishop.
By contrast, this resolution proposes that access to these trial use liturgies now be provided for in all dioceses, without requiring the permission of the diocesan bishop. Nevertheless, it preserves the role of the bishop in providing direction for the use of these trial liturgies, allowing the twenty (20) bishops who presently authorize their use with some conditions to continue doing so. Moreover, it preserves the canonical “authority and responsibility” of the rector or priest-in-charge for the conduct of worship (Canon III.9.6) in the congregation.
For the eight (8) dioceses where same-sex marriage is permitted by civil law, but whose bishops and/or diocesan canons do not allow trial use, this resolution specifies that bishops shall delegate episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) of a congregation requesting access to these rites to another bishop of this Church who shall provide access.
As in Resolution 2015-A054, further resolved clauses (first proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage) specify 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.
This resolution also authorizes two (2) new trial use rites, as proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage: “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage 2,” and “An Order for Marriage 2.” As such, it provides access to versions of these rites in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer suitable for all couples.
As the trial use authorization of “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” (Resolution 2015-A054) has not expired, this resolution proposes no change to its present status.
The third and fourth resolved clauses specify that there is no time limit placed upon the period of authorized trial use, and provide for publishing and making this material available to the Church. The eighth resolved clause refers ongoing study of these trial use rites to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, should it be judged advisable to recommend modifications during the ongoing Trial Use period.
In 2015, Resolution A054 did not propose the trial use liturgies it authorized as a first reading for amendment of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. This resolution declines to do so as well, proposing instead the creation of a Task Force in the spirit of the 2015 “Communion Across Difference” statement of the House of Bishops. Rather than move toward the potential amendment of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer by 2021, this proposal seeks instead to find a lasting way forward for all Episcopalians in one Church.


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