Church Times goes all Pravda

Back in the days of the Soviet Union, the official organ of the Communist Party was the newspaper Pravda, famed for its parroting of the party line and its interesting take on veracity and accurate reporting.

Now two decades later we have the wonderful output of the Church Times which reports on the meeting of the Anglican Liturgical Consultation last week with the following glowing comments about the reception received by a delegation from TEC that laid out their thinking behind liturgies for same-sex blessings.

In addition to the regular sessions, there was a separate presentation by members of the Standing Commis­sion on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of the Episcopal Church in the United States on their development of a theological rationale and litur­gical principles for same-sex bless­ings. Those who attended were asked to give feed­back by consider­ing specific ques­tions in small work­ing groups.

The chair of the IALC, Dr Eileen Scully, from Canada, said on Thurs­day of last week that the purpose of the IALC meeting was to work on rites related to heterosexual couples only. In countries where civil-marriage laws were changing, how­ever, to allow either civil unions or same-sex marriage, Churches faced challenges. They needed to reflect on the parallels with traditional marriage.

The Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Revd Dr Ruth Meyers, said on Saturday that the 2009 General Convention had directed the SCLM both to inform, and to invite reflections from, the rest of the Communion. The IALC meeting was an ideal opportunity to discuss the matter.

The Episcopal Church’s request for such a session was made accord­ing to existing IALC norms, she said, and had been unanimously approved in advance by the IALC steering committee. It was a co­incidence that marriage was the main topic this year; the request would have been made in any event.

Dr Meyers also noted that the Episcopal Church’s request con­formed to the Windsor report’s recommendation that “provinces engaged in discernment regarding the blessing of same-sex unions [should] engage the Communion in continuing study.”

The feedback was enormously helpful, and the delegates from the Episcopal Church felt honoured by the respectful hearing that they had received, she said.

Well, it seems as the ALC loved hearing from their American brothers and sisters and were warmly commended for their interesting pioneering work.

Except it was nothing like that! A report last week in the Church of England newspaper disclosed an utterly different response from the Commission’s members.

A push by the Episcopal Church to bring same-sex marriage into the theological mainstream was repulsed last week by delegates attending the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation (IALC) in Canterbury.

The IALC was not persuaded by the theological or liturgical arguments—including a mock same-sex blessing ceremony–offered by the Episcopal Church delegation on the merits of same-sex blessings and declined to include the US’s views in its final report on marriage.

Members of the IALC present at the meeting told The Church of England Newspaper the US delegation led by Prof. Ruth Meyers of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont offered a theological rationale for same-sex blessings and offered a sample of one rite, with two female members of the US delegation serving as the spouses.  After the ceremony the American team solicited comments from the gathered IALC, but asked for the return of the service leaflet as the rite remained a work in process and was not ready for publication.

While some members of the IALC, including its new chairman, Canadian-member the Rev. Dr. Eileen Scully, were generally supportive of the US view, the majority were not.  One participant told CEN the objections fell in two general groups: those who believed the concept of same-sex blessings was un-Biblical, and those who were perturbed by the “aggressive” push by the US team to seize control of a study process on rites for traditional marriage to include their own agenda.

The Bishop of Bolivia, the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons explained the “theme of blessings for same sex partners was not in the purview of the IALC which is preparing a forthcoming study based upon marriage between a man and a woman.”

He added the current marriage rite project was an “an excellent work that raises important questions for local development of rites for marriage and also a range of other moments important to the sustaining of this estate.  It would be a shame to dismiss it out of hand based on misinformation,” he said in a statement given to CEN.

He noted that it was “impossible to deal with TEC’s theological rationale because they have already reached their conclusions on this and removed it from discussion a priori.  As there is no biblical warrant for it, only controversial discussion could take place in an Anglican setting anyway.  When the issue came up in plenary it was dealt with as cultural innovation, not a theological issue.”

“With the theological rationale dismissed, the task presented to the working group by TEC was to evaluate the rite as liturgy.  This elicited a mountain of criticism and important suggestions in various small groups, such as comments concerning the rite’s basic purpose and its structural presentation,” Bishop Lyons said.

There’s more in last week’s Anglican Unscripted (below). Fast forward to 5 minutes and 30 seconds.

Wow! So basically instead of, as the Church Times reported, it all being lovey dovey and amiable, a number of the ALC delegates (including those who would normally be expected to be “on-side”) told TEC where to go.

Where was that in the Church Times report? Was its omission due to the fact that it didn’t fit the “all is well and all manner of things shall be well” line that keeps coming out of 815 and revisionists on both sides of the pond? And what does it say about journalistic standards when a major portion of the news from an event is excised because it might indicate opposition to the editorial stance?

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