Well, Bishop Beisner addressed our deanery clericus today.  And I think I know where we stand on blessings of same sex unions — which is in something of a transition.  In response to General Convention’s resolution, we now have a group of 10 people from around the diocese who are looking at services and possible guidelines.  There should be a service and guidelines available for diocesan clergy at our clergy retreat in February.

This will not be a marriage ceremony.  At least until our next General Convention, same sex marriage ceremonies have not been authorized by the Episcopal Church.  But there will be a service, to address the pastoral needs of our members, available (for use in church) to bless same sex couples who are married, living in legal partnerships or living in committed relationships.

It is likely that clergy using this service will need explicit permission from Bishop Beisner to use this service pastorally.  And it is clear that our bishop will want some level of endorsement from the congregation involved, not just the member of clergy, for using this service.

All dioceses will be reporting back to our next General Convention on our experience in providing such a “generous pastoral response to all our members.”  It sounds to me like this is probably a step in moving towards authorizing, ultimately, actual marriages for same sex couples.  But who knows?  Perhaps God.

From my vantage point, this is a significant step forward.  All blessings of any kind have been explicitly prohibited by our bishop within this diocese (and are still prohibited until February).  It is, in my judgement, not a full (and just) pastoral response.  But it is also a clear step forward.  It will give me a tool I can begin to use, pastorally, for members of St. George’s.

And, while we probably need to raise the question, I don’t anticipate any real opposition to this by our membership.  I could be wrong.  But we have been a “welcoming congregation” for a number of years.  I know there are still questions in some people’s minds — particularly with regard to the question of actual marriage.  But that particular question does not come up in this nuanced, interim step.  We bless, as a congregation, many things.  Surely we can ask God’s blessing on couples who wish to commit their lives to each other in the presence of God.  Surely we can commend them to God for this blessing.

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