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Traditional view of marriage could make a comeback at the US General Convention

09 April 2024


THE US Episcopal Church has been presented with proposals to protect clerics who hold the view that marriage is intended to be a covenant made only between a man and a woman.

Five proposals have been put forward by a task force, Communion Across Difference. Half the group’s members hold a traditional view of marriage, half hold the view that marriage is between two people regardless of gender. It has published a “blue book report” with resolutions for the 81st General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is due to meet in Kentucky in late June.

The five proposed resolutions in the report, which have not yet been accepted by the convention committee, are “attempts to ensure that the Episcopal Church remains the ‘big tent’ community that it has always been,” the Bishop of Tennessee, the Rt Revd John Bauerschmidt, who co-chaired the task force, said. “In the face of our differences, we need to make room for each other.”

The 2018 General Convention agreed that marriage rites would be available to same-sex couples in all dioceses in which same-sex marriage was legal under civil law. The task force was set up at the same time to bring together those with different views on marriage to reflect on a way forward.

One of the task force’s proposals is that the Church should explicitly permit the use of the version of the Book of Common Prayer authorised in 1979, which refers to marriage as between a male and female.

The task force says that a further resolution defining the 1979 Prayer Book as an accepted statement of the Church’s doctrine would protect clergy from allegations that they are violating their ordination vows by using the 45-year-old marriage rite.

Another resolution attempts to protect diocesan employees or clergy whose view on marriage differs to that held by their diocese or bishop.

This would amend canon law to include: “No person shall be denied access to the discernment process or to any process for the employment, licensing, calling, or deployment for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of their conscientiously held theological belief that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, or that marriage is a covenant between two people.”

The task force reports: “In dioceses where there is little to no internal disagreement regarding same-gender marriage, this may not be an issue of major concern. However, the problem can be quite acute for parishes who affirm a theology of marriage that is not the same as that of their diocese or its bishop.”

Another proposed resolution specifies that bishops who believe that marriage should be between only a man and a woman should invite “another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the member of clergy involved, and the congregation”.

A final resolution calls for a new task force, “Communion Against Difference”, to be created to continue the work.

The Bishop of Central New York, Dr DeDe Duncan-Probe, a co-chair, told the Episcopal News Service that members of the task force had grown to respect each other as they worked together. “There was a recognition that what we’re seeking is to recognise God’s work in each of us,” she said.

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