3/31/2006

The Progressive Pilgrim's Progress:

Claiming the Blessing has produced a “platform” or rather, it would seem, a vocational commitment, to progressive pilgrimage. I believe we all need to consider and endorse its commitments and call to action. How to do that an at the same time live in love with those who do not share or care for this vision is a real question, but at least the PLATFORM gives a measure of the progressive pilgrim’s process on the matters it addresses.

Here is the Platform: (note: for purposes of my comments I have numbered the action items in the call)

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Claiming the Blessing Platform:

A Proclamation for the Episcopal Church.


The Claiming the Blessing (CTB) Steering Committee is an all-volunteer committee representing a broad constituency of progressive Episcopal voices. Members are LGBT and straight, lay and ordained, old and young –all with a deep love of The Episcopal Church and a firm commitment to classic Anglicanism.

As baptized Christians, we commit our lives to:
· the celebration of the goodness of all creatures and creation as given to us by God;
· our relationship with Jesus the Christ;
· the discernment of truth as revealed in Holy Scripture and the work of the Spirit;
· the indivisibility of spirituality, prayer and politics as modeled by the prophets and apostles;
· peace with justice as proclaimed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.;
· truth and reconciliation as articulated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu;
· the vision of the Beloved Community as revealed in the table fellowship of Jesus.

We come to the 2006 General Convention in Columbus compelled to communicate our identity, articulate our beliefs and convey our sense of call to prophetic action and pastoral presence.

Therefore, we call the Church to:
1· Work for full civil marriage equality.
2· Clarify our theology of marriage, family and human sexuality.
3· Oppose the limitation of adoption and other civil contracts on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity and expression.
4· Study the role of clergy as civil magistrates in marriage.
5· Reaffirm the sacredness of long-term committed relationships, as articulated in D039” “We expect such 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.” (GC 2000)
6· Authorize the development of liturgical rites of blessings where civil marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships are a reality, and elsewhere.
7· Support universal domestic partnership benefits.
8· Affirm human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide.
9· Work for an end to the violence against LGBT people throughout the global village.
10· Engage the international community in a listening process which includes the active voices and full presence of LGBT people.
11· Embrace a theology of abundance; reject the theology of scarcity, fear and scapegoating; and commit ourselves to proclaim and live the good news of Christ Jesus.
12· Reaffirm that all orders of ministry are open to all the Baptized who are otherwise qualified.
13· Establish as church policy the commitment not to meet in those places where justice and liberation for all God’s children, including LGBT people, are absent in state law or local ordinance.


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About the Call.

Calling the Church to attend to these thirteen items is not, obviously, a simple matter. The charges are of different sorts and will require different responses by General Convention.

Some of these are societal in scope, requiring our best efforts to effect a more just society. These items will require resolutions to this Convention to direct the church to specific advocacy. (1,3,7,8,9, 10 in part) These will require repeated attention by Conventions into the future. For these, it is time to get started.

Several require “report back” resolutions on studies. (2,4,10 and 11 in part,) Each of these involves the development of more adequate theological and ecclesial understandings, all of which takes time and deliberate intellectual engagement. Let’s get on with it.

Two are reaffirmations of already existing (but sometimes overlooked) statements of past Conventions and the Canons of the Church. (5,12) Raffirm away!

One will require resolutions to effect change in the Church’s own policies. (13) Do it!

And then, of course, there is number six:

Number six is the charge around which most energy will be sparked: It calls on the Church to “authorize the development of liturgical rites of blessings where civil marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships are a reality, and elsewhere.”

This is a call to several different possibilities for authorizations, in two different settings:

The settings: (i) States (I assume) that have the realities of civil status for marriage/ union / partnerships, and (ii) Elsewhere. The call to seek authorized rites in places where civil marriage /union /partnership is legal involves the pastoral response to the desire to celebrate and seek blessing for an existing state of civil affairs, deemed moral in the civil realm. Pastoral occasions for such blessings will abound and we set ourselves to addressing those occasions. In places where there is no civil status blessing and celebration is requested precisely because a caring faithful community is the only grounding the couple may have for the holiness of their relationship. The Claiming the Blessing statement is right to link the two calls in one.

Possiblities regarding authorizations:

(i) Any authorization of rites on a church wide basis, equal to those found in the Book of Common Prayer gets us involved in at least a six year process, longer if we want to involve a consultation process with the rest of the Communion. Whenever we finally are able to ask the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop such rites for our consideration and authorization, they have to meet, pull the rites and theological backup together, and present it to the next General Convention where it is read and passed on and brought back for a second reading three years later. I think that is the only road to full authorization, although rites have been authorized for trial use prior to full acceptance. If trial use were evoked, perhaps less time would transpire before there was a usable rite in hand.

(ii) Authorization of rites on a local (diocesan) level is already possible, at least in theory, given that bishops may authorize services for special occasions. There is, of course, considerable discussion about episcopal authorization. General Convention will, no doubt, have to deal with some aspects of this.

(iii) Actual use of rites written by conscientious, theologically grounded and pastoral clergy will indeed take place, and the authorization of those rites will be informal at best. Many bishops will discourage, some will encourage, some will overtly deny permission. But these rites will more and more be shared and come to have their own authorization in practice. (Remember the St. Mark’s in the Bowery Liturgy?)

So, working backwards, authorization by the practice of the saints (iii) is going forward, authorization by Bishops or not (ii) will be a subject of discussion at this General Convention. But, what of Authorization of rites by the whole Church (i) under the authority of General Convention? Will anything be done at this General Convention to address this call?

Now there is a question!

4 comments:

  1. On the whole, I like it very much (it's just the Gospel---duh! ;-p).

    But I have some reservations re #13

    13· Establish as church policy the commitment not to meet in those places where justice and liberation for all God’s children, including LGBT people, are absent in state law or local ordinance.

    I would recommend a more nuance, flexible and actively prophetic stance (think "Gandhi's Salt March". Think "Rosa Parks keeping her seat in the front of the bus").

    Sometime, TEC might want to go right into the Belly of the Beast, to press for change (w/ the understanding that we all go, figuratively if not literally, "wearing Pink Triangles"). It is TEC's progressive, egalitarian presence in such a locale, which could prove inspiring for the LGBTs (and/or other religious progressives) already there.

    At other times, the power of our boycott may be what most benefits the local LGBTs.

    "Wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves"

    [Note: as TEC is already a multi-national church---as I was reminded by folks telling me "Don't say ECUSA, say TEC!"---I am conscious of those non-U.S. locales where TEC bodies might meet, as well. Again, we must be flexible---always putting the expressed interests of local LGBTs first]

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  2. I'm not sure I understand #13. It seems to say that Episcopalians should not gather together here in Texas, which just passed a constitutional admendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. As a child of the 60's, I decided long ago to fight the system from within; so, pending clarification, I agree with j.c. fisher. Don't drop out, stay involved!

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  3. It seems to me that one of the things we need to say rather clearly at point 12 that we are talking about people (among others) who, absent the church's formal blessing or civil approval, are living in relationships that meet the criteria laid out in the GC 2000.D039 resolution referred to at point 5. Some people keep holding up 1979.A053 as if it were not only the "law" of the land, but a binding restriction. (It is neither.) This gets annoying. It might also help to satisfy some, such as Ralph Spence, who feel we got things out of sequence by approving Gene absent a specific "authorization" of his household status.

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  4. Let us not forget use of rites written by conscientious, theologically grounded laity, who absent adequate and concrete pastoral care, will go about doing the work their pastors fail to do. Irrespective of whether these rites are discouraged, encouraged, or denied permission by bishops or performed or not by presbyters, laity in same sex relationships will honour their call to holiness in various rites. These rites too will more and more be shared and come to have their own authorization in practice. Where our pastors cannot lead, let them follow.

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
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