Long Island (NY) Bishop on Same-sex Marriage

Given that the State of New York has legalised marriage between people of the same sex, the Bishop of Long Island has issued a very interesting letter.

In many, if not all states, the ordained person acts also (and sometimes more exclusively) as an agent of the State preparing the legal documents to be signed to insure the legal arrangement of the civil agreement that is a by-product of marriage – little of which is the Church’s real concern or impinges on the sacramental nature of the marriage.

Therefore, until further notice, all Clergy in the Diocese of Long Island are hereby Charged as follows:

As has always been the practice, no priest will be required to officiate at any particular marriage.  It will remain the obligation and pastoral duty of our priests who will officiate at marriages (either gay or straight) to fully prepare all couples, whether gay or straight, for marriage in similar fashion.  No one is entitled to have his or her marriage blessed by a priest of the Church, unless he or she is willing to profess to holding true the teachings of the Church regarding marriage.  Clergy wishing to bless and celebrate the marriage of those previously married and whose spouse is still living, whether gay or straight, will require the permission of the Bishop Diocesan for such marriages, as in the past.

For the gay and lesbian clergy of this Diocese who are living in domestic partnerships or civil unions, I hereby grant a grace period of nine months from the effective date of the New York State Law permitting same-gender marriages for those relationships to be regularized either by the exchange of vows in marriage or the living apart of said couples.  I deem it to be honest and fair, and I do so direct and require, now that it is legal, that only married couples may live together, either in rectories or elsewhere as a clergy couple living in the midst of our faith community.

The Gospel reveals in the words and actions of Jesus Christ the divine desire for unity: unity between individual persons, and the union of humanity with God.  As in all else we do together as the Body of Christ, we are called today and in the future to continue to celebrate and live the sacramental nature of marriage as a gift of unity and a share in divine love.

In some senses this is good pastoral practice. If “straight” couples are required to be sexually abstinent until marriage, the same should apply to “gay” couples. What I find interesting though is the reference to “No one is entitled to have his or her marriage blessed by a priest of the Church, unless he or she is willing to profess to holding true the teachings of the Church regarding marriage”. What constitutes for TEC the “teachings of the Church” in this matter?

Well, like all good Anglicans we find that our liturgy defines our doctrine, so a quick look in the TEC BCP yields,

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

Husband and Wife.

Just to be sure, let’s check Canon 18.

(e) “We, A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
(f) “We believe that the union of husband and wife, in heart, body, and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.
(g) “And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God’s help thereto.”

Husband and Wife.

There you go. Until TEC changes the Prayer Book or amends its Canons accordingly, the “teachings of the Church” are that marriage is between a husband and wife. Why then is the Bishop of Long Island encouraging gay clergy to get married?

By all means, get the 2012 General Convention to take yet another step down the path of apostasy and change Canon 18, but what we have at the moment is TEC blatantly ignoring its Canons when it suits its moral agenda and rigorously enforcing them when it suits its political agenda. This criticism has nothing to do with an opposition to same-sex marriage and everything to do with pointing out the rank hypocrisy currently abounding inside TEC.

12 Comments on “Long Island (NY) Bishop on Same-sex Marriage

  1. Quite right again, Peter. Well, at least up to the word apostasy I am with you all the way.

    I believe the bishop is right to insist that same sex couples should be married and think that the instruction should have required them to be civilly married until such time as TEC is in a position to offer an appropriate service and alter the Canons.

    For this reason I support Civil Partnerships in Church but now there is a lawful contract available clergy ought not to provide a service in Church – the signing of the register might be accompanied by some existing liturgy – the Eucharist for example, but there should be no vows etc until the church/synagogue etc has an agreed service.

    • Absolutely. Until the CofE (or in Wales in your case) agrees to a specific form of words or service, going ahead and doing a "blessing" is just provocative and a deeply unAnglican act. Of course, it is very likely that the CofE will out-right forbid its churches being used for this purpose. Not sure whether the Church in Wales would follow suit.

      • I would be sad if the CofE does as you say rather than allow the local option.

        In that case I believe that clergy are almost duty bound to continue "going ahead and doing a “blessing”". Something we both agree is deeply unsettling and uncomfortable for all Anglicans of good will.

  2. All I can say is, yep. You hit the nail on the head, Peter, and your criticism of what our leadership in TEC has been doing is one that I think both liberals and traditionalists would agree with. If the leadership wants to make a principled, prophetic stand, they should stop hedging their bets and just do so and face the consequences of such action. And again, all of this strange reliance on the state and what the state does or doesn't do. One of the key differences between the CofE and TEC is that from its inception TEC has not been established. One would think this would give us the freedom to govern ourselves without looking over our shoulder to see what the state is doing.

  3. I keep coming back to two features of liberalism that I consider to be self-evident truths:

    1. It's all about "Money, Sex and Power" – truth is merely the servant of these, and

    2. Current worldly philosophy is "Right" – the Church needs to be converted.

    The problem comes, of course, when the world turns out to have gone devastatingly wrong: the prime example being the liberal State Church in Germany in the 30's – which just fell at the Nazis feet…. until it was much too late.

    • LOl! Firstly, the major Sola Scriptura reformers – certainly Luther and Calvin and (since I'm Scottish, not citing him as equal in importance to the first two) Knox – would be thoroughly disgusted by the Jew-and-woman enabling status of modern 'conservative' churches; from a long enough historical timeline we are all 'liberals' or at least those who take its victories for granted. Secondly, 'liberal' comes from the root word meaning 'pertaining to a free man' and, as Gore Vidal said, a society that demonises such concepts is highly suspect. Those who condemn 'liberalism' often offer reasons such as 'it represents the best of modern thinking' – as if representing the worst of past theocratic, medieval thinking is an improvement! Thirdly, nobody denies that evangelical churches are (like the Republican Party) by and for the rich, and in America there are obviously lots of rich bigots trying to stop the church from being inclusive (c.f. http://www.episcopalcafe.com/daily/washington_win… ). Someone who decided that financial concerns should drive theology would (in the US) offer the comforting overly-incultured heterosexist Driscoll-esque blend that leads to vapid megachurches. There is indeed a price to be paid for being inclusive. Gays, like the poor, are often made to know that they have no place in the most 'successful' (i.e. piggily materialistic) of churches. But Christ-among-the-lepers is a better model for churches than billionaire sweatshop-using corporations.

      As for the ol' Godwin's Law – seriously? I realise that many an evangelical thinks, madly, that they're being persecuted by not being allowed to persecute others, but I think you'll find that gays tend necessarily to be on the side for human rights, which contrasts both with state fascism and aspiring theoracts.

      • OOoo, lots of wrong assumptions there!

        1. Biblical Christianity is all about who has the authority, not about the specific outcomes in a particular culture. Who has the power to choose – you or God? And Christianity is NOT about liberation to autonomy – read the New Testament – it's about liberation from "slavery" to sin – and becoming a "slave" to God. You may have noticed the NT is full of commands!

        2. Liberalism does NOT represent the best of modern *thinking* – it just uses the "best" of modern *assumptions* (and tries to convert Christians to them).

        3. My church is in one of the most deprived wards in the country, but is decidely evangelical.

        4. If liberals were loosing their jobs because they refused to say that gay sex was bad I think you might claim some degree of persecution?

        • ps And neither Jesus nor the Apostles were inclusive in the liberal sense – lots of teaching about what is right and what is wrong; lots of condemnation of sin and talk of hell / not entering the Kingdom of God; fierce rejection of people who preach "another Gospel" and of people who pretend to be brothers but are just unregenerate sinners preying on weak Christians; etc etc.

          • Indeed, and if you really believe that being 'inclusive' necessitates abandoning 'right' and 'wrong' then you reveal nothing but your own bias. And I wouldn't use Our Lord, friend of lepers and sinners, to justify your instincts towards 'fierce rejection'.

        • 1) If the choice is between God and humans then why should I take YOUR feeble inanities seriously? And surely freedom FROM sin IS very similar to a narrative 'to autonomy'?

          2). Wrong. No offense, but flat assertions are exactly that. What assumptions are you talking about? If your boogey-man liberalism is intrinsiclaly unGodly then why would it want to convert Christians to its ways?

          3) Wow. I'm really impressed. People really take their BMws out there? Take up one's cross indeed.

          4) People used to fired for being gay (as well as being locked up, as well as being killed). Whereas the 'Christian' Institute – the usual 'source' for these stories – have their cases chucked out of court for a reason.

  4. Martin Reynolds

    As a member of the Church in Wales

    Marriage is between a husband and a wife.

    So should it remain forever. I thought we had escaped the Evil that has overtaken some parts of the Anglican Communion.

    Clearly there is rot even in the Church of Wales.

    • Perhaps because 'reasserters' are, at least on your evidence, incapable of offering nothing but platitudes and handily-capitalised Melodramatic Language? ;-) Just a thought. And Wales did consecrate ++Rowan as bishop two years AFTER the handily inclusive 'The Body's Grace'

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