12/11/2008

Diocese of Los Angeles papers on blessing of life long covenants

Thinking Anglicans has provided a link to the following papers from the Diocese of Los Angeles web pages. I could not find the link to these documents there, so am glad TA has provided them.

The four documents are:


The Policy Paper is of most importance and places the "Service for the Sacramental Blessing of a Life-Long Covenant" in context.

The Policy Paper states,

"The Rite for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer is the standard Rite of this Church for the sacramental blessing of life-long covenants. The Prayer Book also provides an option for an alternative Rite. We recommend the supplemental Rite attached to this policy to be used for the blessing of all covenants whether between men and women or same-sex couples as a means of demonstrating our solidarity with our brothers and sisters currently denied the right of civil marriage, and as a means of having one Rite appropriate to all such Blessings. While the Prayer Book provides for still other possibilities, all such rites as shall be used in this diocese must follow the rubrics for “An Order for Marriage” on pages 435-6 of the Book of Common Prayer."

The Supplemental Rite is the suggested rite to be used for the blessing of all life-long covenants. I agree that as "a means of demonstrating our solidarity with our brothers and sisters currently denied the right of civil marriage and having one Rite appropriate to all such Blessings." A single rite for all such blessings makes sense. Interestingly the other point makes sense as well: When marriage between persons of the same sex becomes possible the marriage service would be the proper service to use, with "spouse" the replacement for "husband" and "wife," and other similar changes made to make the service inclusive of any couple being blessed.

In looking at the Supplemental Rite itself, however, I feel it misses something. That rite consistently refers to a "covenant of love" and the word gets tangled in itself, the covenant of love is "the promise of hope between two people who love each other, who understand their love as a gift of God, who trust that love, and who wish to share the future together."
My sense is that the covenant is not OF love, but rather a consequence of love and that the word "love" itself is, in English, a bit vague. The covenant of life long union is a consequence of the sort of love we might call loving-kindness, not particularly about sexual love at all (although sexual love is a fine thing). The covenant we make in life long union is about being bound by a commitment to mutual care and concern. So somehow it seems to me we might want to make the covenant just as the title proposed, a covenant to life-long union.

The service is pretty good, and like all such efforts, subject to revision so that the language of the service sits well on the tongue and in the mind and coveys the spirit and the force of the loving-kindness that would cause any two people to pledge themselves to one another for life.

The Diocese of Los Angeles has done some good work in all this. Thanks to Bishop Bruno and the committee that has worked on the full set of documents.

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