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Jun 30, 2015

Bishops' Statement on Marriage from General Convention

The House of Bishops of the 78th General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City, approved resolution A036 on June 29, which rewrote canon to ensure that those who wish to bless a same-sex marriage are free from discipline if they have permission of their bishop; allow for use of liturgies with bishop's permission and continued language of fidelity from the previous canon.


From Bishop C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop Dena Harrison and Bishop Jeff Fisher

Bishop Doyle promised in the Unity and Mission paper published in 2012, that he would not approve the rites of same-sex blessing at the 77th General Convention. He voted no at that General Convention. Following the 2012 General Convention we in the Diocese of Texas together moved forward allowing space for congregations to do same-sex blessings. We upheld and continue to uphold the 1979 Book of Common Prayer definition of marriage. We continue to use the blessing of same-sex relationships in the congregations who have been approved to do so.


Bishop Doyle said, "Today when the vote regarding A036 came forward, I prayed and I changed my vote in my heart six times. I was conflicted because of my love for all the people I shepherd in the Diocese. I love you all and your division is a very real division in my own heart. In the end I made a decision that my faithful response to the whole Diocese of Texas was that I could not vote against our LGBT parishioners nor was I willing to vote against our traditionalist parishioners. I discerned then that my faithful response was to abstain. Abstentions count as a "no" vote. The vote on the canon today does not change the definition of marriage as included in the 1979 BCP or in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church."


While Bishop Fisher and Bishop Harrison voted "no" on A036, all three bishops hold the following convictions: 1) the discussion on the issue of same-sex relationships has not, in our opinion, engaged Holy Scripture as it should, 2) our Christian partners throughout the Anglican Communion and the world, and even in other denominations in our own country, have not been properly brought into our conversation, 3) the Supreme Court decision, while lauded by many, should not drive our theological conversations and decisions, 4) we believe any process to revise the marriage canons properly belongs in the context of a constitutional process of prayer book revision and not in an isolated action. (Bishop Doyle's article on the constitution and prayer book can be found here.)


We are concerned about the order and processes of our common life. We believe that the way we respect the differences among us is by honoring the processes upon which we have agreed.


All three bishops also support all people in our diocese including LGBT parishioners. We value the gifts and contributions of all the followers of Jesus. We are committed to ongoing conversation and pastoral sensitivity to persons representing the entire range of opinion on these matters.


The current policies governing marriage, remarriage, and same-gender blessings in the Diocese of Texas continue in effect.


No clergy person is required by the state or by canon to perform marriages or blessings. What is clear as of the Supreme Court Ruling is that the State will recognize the Episcopal Church rite for same-gender blessing, approved in 2012 and used in the Diocese of Texas, as a legally binding marriage if a marriage license is obtained. All requirements to officiate at a blessing and/or marriage as defined in our canons and in our policy manual remain in effect including counseling and approvals of the bishop where applicable.


Bishop Doyle will work to discern which liturgies will be available for use in the Diocese of Texas. We will both follow the law and we will discern the appropriate course pastorally for our parishioners.


While some will be elated at this decision still others will be disheartened. Christians are not mean and do not demean one another. Our expectation is that the people of the Diocese of Texas will model compassion and love for one another. We are to care for one another as we take our steps through the days and months to come.