Thursday, June 25, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: HOD Review Committee on Changes to Marriage Canons

The House of Deputies Review Committee has included the following important clarification in its report on the work of the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage.

In clear concise language it clarifies that the canonical resolutions being considered by Committee 20 are firmly within the bounds of the authority of this 78th General Convention.

Good people of deep faith can and will come to different conclusions on what – if any -- steps the Episcopal Church should take toward ending discrimination against sacramental marriage for same-sex couples. But the following excerpt from the HOD Review Committee makes it abundantly clear that taking the position that the proposals before Committee 20 are unconstitutional is
 utterly without merit:

The General Convention has the constitutional power to amend Canon I.18 and, by separate action, authorize liturgies to meet the needs of the Church as required. Objections have been raised to the constitutionality of this resolution based on arguments “that the Episcopal Church will continue to have contrary laws governing Holy Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer, a constitutional document.”2 Such objections rest on two flawed premises.

First, the civil status of marriage, which is available to persons of all faiths and none, and in most U.S. jurisdictions to two persons of the same sex or different sexes, is distinct from any particular liturgy. It is appropriate for the canons to recognize this real-world reality.

Second, the Constitution is the only constitutional document of The Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer, despite its centrality in defining the doctrine and worship of The Episcopal Church, and despite the fact that its rubrics form part of the discipline of the Church (Canon IV.2) is not a “constitutional” document merely because most amendments require action by two succeeding meetings of the General Convention. The Book of Common Prayer does not grant authority to the General Convention; on the contrary, it is the product of the General Convention’s constitutional authority to adopt liturgies for the Church.

Third, Even assuming that the rubrics of the Prayer Book limit the liturgy for Holy Matrimony to persons of different sexes, they do not limit the power of the General Convention to adopt regulations for solemnization of marriage that may use another liturgical forms—which, as explained elsewhere in this report, may be authorized without amending the Book of Common Prayer. The longstanding authorization and acceptance of additional materials such as Enriching Our Worship and materials for ecumenical worship demonstrate this.


2 Benhase and McConnell, A More Excellent Way: Good Order in Salt Lake City (June 28, 2015) The Living Church, at p. 21.

1 comment:

Susan Buchanan said...

I certainly hope that my bishops (Diocese of Virginia) have paid attention to this!