Thursday, February 22, 2007

(Yet Another) Modest Proposal

Today I received a message from an old friend, Bill Bartosh (Bart) of the Diocese of El Camino Real. I have fond memories of my family and I being guests at Bart and Tony's ranch. One could feel the Spirit of the living God within their home. The same Spirit could be found in the surrounding hills and hovering above the valley that stretched out before us. It was a glorious place, and those were wonderful times.

Bart has poured his heart and soul into working within the Church to further the Kingdom of God. He is currently serving as the Lay-vicar of St Matthews, San Ardo, and as the Western Region Vice-President of Integrity. I found my own heart breaking as I read his message. In light of recent events, Bart finds himself being forced to seriously consider leaving the Episcopal Church. You can find his message here.

I encourage you to read Bart's entire statement before continuing here. Note that even in this time of personal grief, Bart continues to seek ways forward for the Church that he loves. I want to focus on one particular proposal that he makes:

...The time has come to be VERY pro-active (note that I am speaking of my own views here). In particular, it is time to go to our supportive bishops, as many as feasible, and ask them to resurrect the gist of D017, the elegantly simple proposal to expand the rites of matrimony in the BCP to same as well as opposite gender couples (easily done) at their upcoming (March 16) meeting at Camp Allen (where the "Windsor Bishops" have been meeting - perhaps not a good sign). It would be the in effect the church’s equivalent to the states opening marriage to same-gender couples, an obvious application of “equal protection” in terms of logic. While GenCon as a whole needs to pass on this (and a special convention is not out of the question), the Bishops, meeting much sooner and for sure, can ask the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music to make such a document ready for study...
Here is the introduction to Resolution D017:

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention authorizes use of the rites for Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer for same-sex couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage, and further authorizes modification of gender references in the rites to accommodate such marriages, and be it further
Resolved, That Canon 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony, be amended to permit such usage by making the following changes...
The rest of it can be found here.

Why reintroduce this resolution now? Let me give you part of Bart's explanation:

...One other aspect which might be included under “omissions” is the question of being true to one’s beliefs. A recent statement by a conservative Petaluma priest who has chosen to leave the Northern California diocese, reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, said that it was wrong to be “temporarily hiding” one’s beliefs. Is this not what our PB is doing herself, and asking her church to do, “for a season”? Note that I am not quite the absolutist this priest seems to be, but I do believe if you are going to dissemble in this fashion, you need to be damn sure the outcome will be the good one you have in mind...
Some of you may recall that 15 years ago, when the mandated dialogues on human sexuality were going on within TEC, one of the popular statements being made was that TEC was confronting the "h" word...and that word was "honesty".

Yet, just this week, included among a number of very good quotes from Bp. Sisk in the NYT, we find this line:

...“Blessings happen, sure,” said Bishop Sisk of New York. “But I didn’t authorize them.”
Is this where we are headed? Are we going to make our stand on the old "don't ask, don't tell" cliche? Where is the honesty, which this was supposed to be all about, in that?

No. There is nothing honorable in such a stance. It is time to get honest. It is time to decide, right now, if we are truly about full inclusion of all of God's people, or not. If we are, then all must be given full access to the sacramental rites of the Church.

The world is watching. Will we make an honest stand, or will we try to force the message of God's radically inclusive love back into the closet?


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