Today’s topic seems very appropriate on the day before Valentine’s Day – Unveiling the report from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. That’s right; at General Convention this summer, we’ll be exploring their work as they attempted to answer the questions: What makes a Christian marriage? What is the relationship between the Church’s blessing of a relationship, whether different-gender or same-gender, and a union, “marriage” or otherwise, created by civil law? Is the blessing of a same-gender relationship equivalent to the marriage of a different-gender couple, and if so, should this liturgy be called “marriage”? From even a cursory glance at the news, we know these questions are relevant and important for us as we seek to live out God’s mission for our church and our Household.
The report is a lengthy one but is broken into very approachable sections. The first part sets out the resolution, which tasked the group with this work along with the explanation behind the resolution. The task force presents two resolutions for General Convention beginning on page 4 of the report. “The Task Force’s first proposed resolution consists of a rewrite of the marriage canon. This rewrite would make the canon:
• Ordered more practically in terms of pastoral practice;
• Focused on the actual vows made in The Book of Common Prayer marriage rite, rather than on the purposes of marriage in general;
• Reflective of the theological views expressed in the Task Force’s study and essays; and
• By using gender-neutral language, responsive to both Resolution 2012-A050’s charge that the Task Force “address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such,” and to Resolution 2012-D091, referred to the Task.”
The suggested changes to the Canons follows this resolution in the report on pages 4–6.
“The second proposed resolution to “Continue the Work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage” provides an opportunity for the Church to study and possibly respond to the changing realities in society and in our congregations that challenge marriage as the norm for adult relationships and what it means to be a ‘household’ or even a ‘family.’ This topic loomed large on the periphery of the current study on marriage, but due to the constraints of time and money, and due to the specificity of the original charge in Resolution 2012-A050, the Task Force was only able to study and report on it briefly in the essay entitled, “Changing Trends and Norms in Marriage.”
Beginning on page 7 of the report, the Task Force presents seven essays which embody the results of their work to answer the questions raised above:
1. A Biblical and Theological Framework for Thinking about Marriage
2. Christian Marriage as Vocation
3. A History of Christian Marriage
4. Marriage as a Rite of Passage
5. The Marriage Canon: History and Critique
6. Agents of the State: A Question for Discernment
7. Changing Trends and Norms in Marriage
Following the essays (beginning on page 99), you’ll find “Dearly Beloved: a Toolkit for the Study of Marriage.” The toolkit is designed for small and large groups, adults and teenagers, one-time events or on-going studies to begin conversation about the meaning of marriage and the church’s role in marriage. It is a rich resource, indeed!
I know that the report is a long read but as your deputation continues to work to represent our Household, it is important that we receive your feedback! Please take some time to peruse the report and get back to us with your thoughts. You can email your comments to Lizzie Anderson, chair of your deputation, at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com
Here’s where you’ll find the whole report –
Let us pray –
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our
being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by
your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our
life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are
ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
~Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council