Friday, March 18, 2011

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [1]

A report on the SCLM Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia Today (1/18/2011
The Rev. Dr, Caroline Hall

General Convention deputies gathered in Atlanta today for a twenty-four hour consultation organized by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM). Before we start yawning about yet another church meeting, let’s remember that they are talking about blessing our relationships. Not clandestine blessings in a side room, under cover of darkness or on the church lawn, but honest to goodness, center-of-the-aisle church blessed blessings of same-gender relationships.

This is history in the making!

Back in 1975 four intrepid Integrity members testified before the Standing Committee on Human Affairs and persuaded them to propose the 1976 resolution which declared “Homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” Today they can see the fruit of their labors… today this resolution has been fulfilled in our hearing (by live webcast).

My hat’s off to the SCLM who seem to have left no stone unturned. Commissioned by the last General Convention to collect and develop resources for the blessing of same-gender unions, they identified four areas that needed work; theological principles, liturgical resources, pastoral and education resources and finally legal and canonical aspects. Then they convened groups to work on each of the four areas and set about to use all the resources available to create the widest possible conversation.

They called for liturgies not just from the Episcopal Church but also from other denominations. They set up a blog for discussion of theological and liturgical principles. They attended the fall 2010 meeting of the House of Bishops and got a great deal of input. Through the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), they obtained a grant from the Arcus Foundation to bring deputies from across The Episcopal Church to this workshop in Atlanta so it’s not just the bishops who are involved. They also held a consultation in Province 1 as all the dioceses there are affected by domestic partnership and same-gender marriage laws.

SCLM is including other provinces in the Anglican Communion by asking bishops to get input from overseas colleagues, and they are on the agenda for the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation being held in Canterbury in August.

So here are the highlights of the theological principles as they were presented today by Jay Johnson:

Reflecting theologically on same-gender unions should be grounded in baptism and how we live out our baptismal covenant which suggests three key theological touchstones;

1) The loving faithfulness of faithful relationships exhibits the character of a sacrament;

2) Christian life generally, but in particular committed relationships, shares in God’s Trinitarian life characterized by inclusive, dynamic and mutual giving

3) Committed relationships can renew our hope – the gospel promise of union with God

Reflecting further on covenants:

1 Everyone is called to live out the baptismal covenant, but not everyone is called to do so in the same way… it is helpful to think of entering a couple commitment as a vocation;

2 Entering into covenant with another person can enrich our experience of covenant with Christ;

3 Covenantal relationships create households which require intention and discipline enriched by divine grace – thriving households don’t just happen on their own but come from intentional spiritual practice;

4 Faithfulness and love enable us to give to the wider community – to nurture our baptismal calling in the world. Within a covenanted relationship we can discover and nurture gifts for baptismal ministry. Covenantal relationships are blessed and can become a blessing to the faith community.

The group working on liturgical principles has sifted through a huge quantity of material, which they hope to make available digitally in cooperation with the Church Archives. Patrick Malloy explained that they have created an outline liturgy which follows the lines of most of our other rites, placing the covenanting between the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the table. They have also selected “liturgical units” such as collects or litanies which they particularly liked which might be put into the framework.

As the plenary session closed this evening (Friday) deputies are being asked to consider some of these liturgical units to see what works and what doesn’t work for them – and to explain why.

I wonder how long it would have taken Cranmer to compile and write the original Book of Common Prayer if he had tried to consult with the House of Bishops, the House of Deputies, and interested people across The Episcopal Church and beyond?

You too can take part in this historical consultation by contributing to the debate on the SCLM blog or watch it live streaming here.  See you there!

The Rev Dr. Caroline Hall is the rector of St. Benedict's Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California. She is the former Vice President of International Affairs for Integrity USA. She is a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity and is the author of the recent Anglican Covenant Series.
[1] Luke 4:21



Great reflection ... delighted to see that what we're doing here in Atlanta is being so well-perceived across the miles! Onward and upward!

George said...

"Rethinking marriage for our time is a vital task awaiting us"; as an eighty year old New Zealand priest and theological teacher the task "awaits us" yet it at the same time "can't wait" or "won't wait" or "can't come too soon". Great work Caroline Hall.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

No, SFiF didn't cover it but at least T19 ran the ENS article. The comments provide a golden opportunity for those whose penchant is to laugh in the face of bigotry.