Apparently, Long Island is wrong

As soon as the news about the Bishop of Long Island’s ruling on same-sex marriage came out, in particular that clergy in same-sex relationships must marry, along comes Bishop Chane of Washington to contradict him.

In the Diocese of Washington, Bishop John Chane does not required clergy living in same-gender relationships to marry. The diocese encompasses four Maryland counties and the District of Columbia, which began allowing same-gender marriage in March 2010. At that time Chane said that clergy could preside at such civil marriages. The guidelines Chane set are here.

Chane told ENS in a telephone interview July 11 that he would “never, ever” require priests in his diocese who live in same-gender relationships to marry unless they wanted to.

To do so, he said, misses the fact that civil authorities have denied “basic human rights and privileges” to same-gender couples for years and now “it’s almost as if the straight community is once again telling gay people what they ought to do and I find that really somewhat troublesome.”

The district’s law “gives people the right and I believe also the opportunity to determine if in fact they wish to be married to one another, or whether they wish to retain the relationship that they had to live with given the laws that were in effect prior to being allowed to be married like anyone else,” the bishop said.

Previously, “they had no option but to either live quietly in a closet, live quietly together and not do anything or live quietly and ask the church in some way to bless their commitment to one another, but their human rights had been violated by the status quo,” he said, adding that some people in such relationships could lose their jobs if it became known that they were married to someone of the same gender.

“In a culture that is still going through turmoil trying to understand the nature of human sexuality and relationships that are same-gender, I find that … to be unconscionable,” he said.

Rather than be definitive about what clergy living in such relationships must do, “as we go through this transitional time, there has to be some real careful exercise of … a pastoral embrace,” he said.

Chane said that at least six clergy in his diocese who had been living in committed relationships which had been formally blessed by the church have chosen to get married in the district. Most others living in same-gender relationships (including those in the Maryland portions of the diocese) have had those commitments blessed by the church, he added, noting that the diocese was among the first to begin blessing such relationships for diocesan members.

In some senses we might say, so what? What is disturbing though about this is the complete lack of consistency across TEC it demonstrates. Bishop Provenzano of Long Island says gay clergy in relationships must get married or live separately. Bishop Chane says they don’t even need to have a blessing to live together and certainly don’t need to be married. One wonders whether he would take the same approach to a “straight” vicar living with an opposite sex partner who wasn’t even engaged to him/her?

Of course, the problem here is the simple fact that TEC has failed as a corporate body to come up with an even vaguely coherent theology of marriage and sex to replace the one laid out in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. This failure demonstrates the typical theological approach taken by the 815 hierarchy – do whatever you like and then write General Convention resolutions afterwards to make it OK. This is the same kind of wilful (unChristian) independence that is the reason behind the current schism in the Anglican Communion and why the Provinces need a Covenant to hold them together. It’s also the reason why TEC don’t like the Covenant, because it will stop them doing whatever they want (what the “Holy Spirit” is telling them) and finally bring them to account.

Once again, this has nothing to do with opposition to same-sex relationships per se, and everything to do with pointing out that TEC has long since abandoned doing proper Anglican theology. Even some leading proponents of revisionism recognise this, but 815 has yet to realise the utterly inconsistent position its Dioceses find themselves in.

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  • http://lowly.blogspot.com Undergroundpewster

    Yes, the inconsistent responses by the various bishops are proof of not just the lack of a solid theology of marriage in TEc, but also of the failures of the process by which our bishops are trained, selected, and disciplined.

  • Geoffrey Peckham

    Chane never has believed what the Church teaches about the Resurrection (he believes the Gospel accounts are nothing more than tall stories). So why would he care about what the Church teaches on marriage?

    And why should any of us care about what he says?

  • ryan

    1979 was a long time ago. General question: do movements to update liturgies not come, in part, when the 'facts on the ground' have developed to require such updating? The Scottish Episcopal Church had liturgies and 2007 (the latter, excitingly, featuring "The McCarthy Version" which can be used for Gay Weddings!) ; clearly it would be absurd to suggest that the differences between the two liturgies resulted from people deciding overnight than new liturgy was required. Presumably there comes a "tipping point"? Canons are one thing, but if liturgies are thought of us as (to some extent) organic then that surely indicates that they might *reflect* 'facts on the ground' rather than clearly demarcating a kind of sea-change? Surely bishops do have some degree of legitimate power in allowing 'non-prayer book' blessings or similar? And that's aside from the fact that nobody (IMHO) cares less about strict adherance to formal liturgies than evangelicals!

  • plongeur

    1. Starting point – 1979 is a long time ago

    With a leap and a bound, therefore:

    2. Ending point – Bishop Chance may alter the church's teaching as he wishes.

    Sounds persuasive to me…

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I was convinced. Not.

      Serious point – the idea that liturgy and the doctrine it expresses can be ignored because it is 30 years old is ridiculous. We still hold the 1662 BCP to be authoritative 350 years later and whilst individuals might propose changes to liturgy (and might even create liturgies that contradict the theology of the 1662 BCP), any such changes have to be authorised. As witnessed by the shot shrift Martin Dudley of Great St Barts got for his BCP Gay Wedding, most Bishops take very seriously attempts to change doctrine and deal with it accordingly.

    • ryan

      Equally serious points : my original post was phrased as a question. There was certainly approved-of gay blessings in Scotland before there was the Liturgy for it. And, although I'm sure you pine for the days when the C of E could be divided into 'those who take every word of the BCP literally and seriously' and 'those who don't do this, and are therefore heretics, and are therefore disciplined for it' your preferred state of affairs is very much not reality. Indeed, I'm surprised that such a 39 Articles purist as yourself hasn't been whipping up campaigns to get those clergy who use the Roman Missal defrocked *rolls eyes*

      • http://www.conciliaranglican.wordpress.com Fr. J

        Defrocked is awfully harsh, but they probably ought to be disciplined. And I say that as an Anglo-Catholic! I am probably getting myself into hot water with a comment like this, since I'm not in the C of E and don't totally therefore understand its inner workings, but I've never quite gotten why some clergy are allowed to use the Roman Missal, or for that matter why some on the other end of the spectrum are allowed to do mega-church style worship with an equal lack of reference back to the BCP. If it isn't the BCP, or at least an authorized facsimile like Common Worship, then how can it properly be called Anglican?

        • ryan

          The honest answer is that 'conservatives' are only fans of liturgy when it suits their agenda. The evangelical church I used to attend a "liturgy" that's flat out illegal in Scotland, and instead of the full liturgy itself, random excerpts were used (presumably to allow more time for rambling self-indulgent sermons and electric guitar solos). I can't recall Peter posting a lot of Prayer Book Society style messages over the years.

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            That's simply untrue. Most evangelical churches in the CofE (at least) try very hard and openly to maintain liturgical structures. The Common Worship Service of the Word allows great flexibility and only the most independent evo churches would not include the bare-bones of such a service – confession and absolution, worship, Scripture, sermon, prayers of the people, blessing.

            Liturgy is not just about the words themselves, it is the framing of a service towards a particular structure. And very often official church liturgy has lots of options in its use. You might find that a particular Anglican church does not do the liturgy as you are used to it, but that is a far cry from saying they are using an illegal liturgy or not the full mandatory sections of the authorised liturgy.

            The beauty of Common Worship is the flexibility and structure it provides. It's not perfect, but it does help keep many an Evo church in the fold and a full-on High Mass is a beauty to behold.

            • ryan

              I was referring to Scotland, where the liturgy I cited was and is illegal there.

              Does Common Worship include the 39 Articles? If not, then surely it might present some *legitimate* problems to evangelicals and conservatives? Although evangelicals are generally preocuppied with 'cultural relevance', suggesting that many (most?) would regard potentially legitimate grievances (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1373385/Easy-read-service-book-is-insult-to-past-says-Prince.html )

              with Common Worship as mere stick-in-the-mud grumpiness. Or, in my own experience, they might regard debates about liturgy as instrinsically boring and tangential, supporting my initial point that, if low regard for liturgy and its implications is a vice, then it's one demonstrated by at least as many evangelicals as it is properly-vested 'liberals'.

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                Common Worship does not include per se the 39 Articles but the BCP does, and given that both the 1662 BCP and Common Worship are the standard liturgy, this isn't a problem.

                The Prince of Wales' opinion is simply that – opinion. The prayers quoted in that newspaper column are snippets of longer liturgies that are not in the slightest bit problematic. One can always quote a word here or there to make whatever point you want.

                • ryan

                  I wasn't referring to just HRH. It's evidence that conservatives can and do legitimately object to aspects of more modern liturgies; down-with-da-kidz evangelicals are not on the same side as the non-liberal liturgical traditionalists.

                  You haven't answered my point about the Roman Missal. Should those who use it be disciplined? If not, why not?

                • William

                  I remember reading some years ago, in a book, tract or article – it’s so long ago now that I can’t remember which it was – by an Anglican clergyman, that although the 39 Articles are bound up with the Book of Common Prayer, they are NOT a part of the BCP any more than are hymnbooks, e.g. Hymns A & M or The English Hymnal, which are, or were, also frequently bound up with it.

                  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                    They are not part of the 1662 but they are part of the historic formularies and (are meant to be at least) authoritative.

                    • William

                      Authoritative for whom? The same author also stressed that the clergy alone are required to subscribe to them, not the laity.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Clergy it is then!

                    • ryan

                      So those who use The Roman Missal and therefore run afoul of the most Protestant Articles should be disciplined? Or not?

  • Jim the Puritan

    I would submit that we would not have any of these problems if TEC had not jettisoned the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. That was Step One.

  • Canon Cross

    The Scriptures say that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. It purposely use the plural "righteousnesses" showing that we on our own cannot maintain a consistent standard of holiness or morality.

    Dr. Chane and TEC have consistently proven Scripture right at least on this point.

  • Martin Reynolds

    I think Chane is wrong.

    However this is a doctrine in development and the process is "untidy" to say the least. In that, it's untidiness, it does echo the Anglican Way – but I still find it could and should be much better done for all our sakes.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      One gets the feeling that they are not winning any friends with the haphazard nature of the disparate approaches. By all mean alter doctrine and practice, but do it in a manner that maintains order and is consistent across the land.

      • Martin Reynolds

        Yes Peter, I am afraid such ramshackle behaviour brings justifiable adverse comment and helps bring TEC, and I would say gay people in particular, into disrepute.

        What nonsense – he doesn't want to tell gay folk what they should do! I am a man under authority willing to obey my ordinary in all things lawful and honest (saving always my conscience)!

        Mind you, I have usually applauded the outcomes of TEC's reconsideration of the doctrine and practice vis-a-vis homosexuality while oft being deeply offended by the process.

  • http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/ Eddie Green

    In general I feel that Protestantism in general has failed to come up with a coherent theology of marriage.

    I work from am catholic position of seeing marriage as an essentially procreational sacrament, but recognising that this means far more than having children.

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