Thursday, July 19, 2012

Episcopal Diocese of New York: Permission Granted for Clergy to Officiate at Same-Sex Marriages

From here:

"Bishop Mark S. Sisk today sent a letter via email to the clergy of the Diocese of New York giving permission for them to officiate at same-sex marriages both in a religious capacity and as agents of New York State, commencing September 1, 2012."

Previously, Bishop Sisk had allowed clergy to undertake the Blessing of a Civil Ceremony for a same-sex couple, but not preside at the marriage.  In other words, clergy could not sign the marriage license, so couples desiring to marry had to undergo a civil ceremony first, and then come to the church.  Now that restriction is lifted, so that same sex marriages can be performed by clergy.  This action is a result of the Episcopal Church authorizing a rite for same sex marriages at its recent General Convention, held earlier this month.

Bishop Sisk explained the rationale for this move:

The 2012 General Convention  adopted Resolution A049 titled “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships.”  In my view the debate over this Resolution was of crucial importance.  At one point in the House of Bishops’ consideration the question was asked:  "Couldn’t the resolve that read, 'That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church be interpreted to mean that clergy in jurisdictions that allow civil marriage of same-gender couples, were permitted to officiate at those services?'"  The answer from the Special Committee spokesman was, "yes, that is what they had had in mind."  The debate then continued.  No amendment was offered.  The unamended Resolution A049 passed by a nearly 2/3 majority.  I conclude therefore, that it was the mind of this General Convention to extend the meaning of “generous pastoral oversight” to include circumstances such as those in which we in New York find ourselves.
This seems to me to be a typically oblique way for the Episcopal Church to approach a complex but important matter: indirectly.  Let the life of the community play it out.  This is a messy way to change, but there is a certain attractive organic quality to it.

Where then does that leave us? We are left with a situation in which the mind of this recent Convention appears to be to allow such services.  However, The Constitution and The Book of Common Prayer still say something else, and the State of New York sits on the sidelines.
[...]
I believe that the best that we can do, with humility and trust that we have correctly read the movement of the Spirit of God working in our midst, is to embrace the promise of full marriage equality between same and opposite sex couples, while recognizing, candidly, that the Constitution of our Church has yet to formally reach that conclusion.

It is my interpretation that the actions of this 2012 General Convention permit, perhaps even encourage, those of us who live in jurisdictions such as New York, to act on that conviction.  Therefore, in my view, if a cleric of this diocese feels moved by conviction and pastoral need to respond in the affirmative to a request to perform a same-sex marriage, he or she is free to do so on or after September 1, 2012.
Read it all.


1 comment:

The Underground Pewster said...

"This is a messy way to change, but there is a certain attractive organic quality to it." - Bishop Mark S. Sisk

There certainly is a certain organic smell to it as well.