I’m convinced we do not need more time to study before we amend the canons on marriage. In fact, from my pastoral chair as a busy New England rector, the time has long since come to bring all fully into the sacraments of the church. Those of us leading parishes see families every day praying to make their lives in Christ personally relevant to the context of the speeding, swirling world in which they live. None are asking for another Task Force to study anything.
They look to us and the sacraments, precisely for the selflessness and endurance of God’s love, unambiguously alive with generosity and coherence right at the heart of their lives. Today. This is particularly true of the many young people and young families I am so heartened to see in the church. The change in the canons is an overdue pastoral need for them and the global church as well. And it is emblematic of so much more than the marriage question. It is about our capacity to be truly alive in Christ. And the change is also much needed by those of us ordained to share our small, equitably offered part in a sacramental life we are not guardians of, but ministers to as we share in the renewal of the world.
A gracious conversation on this has been held and continues. We have made great space for God’s grace. Decades of good space. I don’t see any accusations of “uncritical” readers of the scripture or shouts about homophobic postures. (Perhaps I’ve missed a blog or two.) In fact, the conversations in the church I hear are increasingly sweet. Paying attention, we see that this is mirrored in the civic dialog in the recent and amazing Irish experience, a catholic nation coming together with joy and dignity. And forgiveness. And now in 37 states day by day married gay folks and their children are taking their places of dignity in communities and schools and scout troops. The Court may very well make this goodness the law in all fifty states, possibly acting during our Convention. This is the context in which we seek the Way and build the church. Today.
Another Task Force is not needed because we’ve already had a very fine one, working with great care within a budget and calendar given them. It was graced by wise lay leaders and those ordained as well. Their work is a gift to us and most importantly to those we serve in our parishes. In fact, I think it would be great to applaud the hard work of our thoughtful working teams.
All change has cost. And each of us will have friends who are saddened by whatever action Convention takes. There is no need to worry that sadness will be irreparable. With grace all healing is possible. No growth need be forgone. The status quo, a deadly creature the church knows so well, also has enormous costs. Not the least of these is the continued and sometimes deadly harm the church does to those it shuts out or puts on the lower shelf. They have been paying costs for generations. All those on the upper shelf are also paying a cost in the denying of the sacrament to the other, the lesser. All marriage is tarnished by permitting only some to enjoy it.
The time has come to say yes, to truly witness to Christ’s embrace.
Timothy Boggs is the rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Cape Elizabeth, Maine