Anglican Liturgical group rejects American push for gay blessings: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 17, 2011 p 5. August 18, 2011Posted by geoconger
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
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.
Gathered at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge 56 delegates representing 19 of the Anglican Communion’s provinces met from Aug 1-6 to continue work on “Rites Relating to Marriage: A Working Interim Document”.
According to a statement released on behalf of the IALC by the Anglican Communion News Service, the marriage studies examined the “theology of marriage,” the “cultural contexts of marriage,” and the “shape and elements of the ritual.”
The ACNS reported that “one session was set aside from the regular work of the IALC in response to a formal request from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church (USA) – TEC – so that representatives from that Standing Commission could hear from IALC members in response to that Province’s exploratory theological rationale and liturgical principles for the development of rites for the blessing of committed same gender relationships.”
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.
The bishop told CEN it was “good to have the demonstration. It clarified exactly what [the US was] doing and how they were going about it.”
“It needs to be clear that this was not an approval of what they were doing either,” he said, adding that “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck …so the close relationship to a marriage was not lost on anyone, despite protestations to the contrary.”
However, Prof. Meyers told CEN the “conversation about the work in TEC was separate from the overall focus of the Consultation. Hence the theological principles that are undergirding the work in TEC are not part of the IALC report on marriage.”
The Inter Anglican Liturgical Consultation is a “self-organising body within the Communion, interested in matters of liturgy,” a spokesman from the Anglican Consultative Council explained.
“As such it is akin to a network of the Communion in that while it reports to the Instruments and to the Standing Committee on occasion, it doesn’t receive a mandate from the Instruments, nor does it receive financial support. It appoints its own steering committee, and can invite whoever it wishes to participate in its conferences and meetings,” ACC spokesman Jan Butters said.