Bishops Redefine Marriage

By Zachary Guiliano

The House of Bishops has passed Resolution A054 (Adopt Resources and Rites from “Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015”) and Resolution A036 (Amend Canon I.18 Marriage).

The Rt. Rev. Thomas Ely, Bishop of Vermont, reported the work of the special legislative committee on marriage. Five of the bishops on the committee recommended that a liturgy for blessing covenant relationships and “three liturgies of marriage be authorized for trial use in accordance with Article X.” The designation of the liturgies as being for “trial use” sets into motion the process of amending the Book of Common Prayer. Bishop Ely described this move as “the approach most faithful to our polity.”

He then described A054 as “a more practical ordering of Canon 18.” He noted, however, that the resolution had been amended in committee to include “a more robust declaration of intent” in line with the prayer book. He stated his belief that the proposed canon in A054 does not conflict with the prayer book, thus avoiding “a constitutional crisis.”

The bishops took some time to discuss the resolutions at table, before entering open deliberation. Several bishops wished to make sure that the use of any liturgies would be subject to the permission and supervision of the diocesan bishop or ecclesiastical authority.

The morning session ended without any movement of the resolutions, and the House met for about an hour in closed session in the afternoon.

After returning, they quickly passed resolution A054 and moved to deliberation on A036. Several Communion Partner bishops noted their disagreement with the form of A036, although Bishop John Bauerschmidt of Tennessee did note a resolution of some problems: “I think we significantly strengthened this resolution for canonical changes and took care of some niggling problems that might come back to plague us later.”

Notably, the declaration of intent in the proposed canon, while different from the previous statement declaring that marriage is a union of a man and a woman, now contains an excerpt of the exhortation from the Book of Common Prayer.

Bishop Bauerschmidt noted a minority report drafted by him and one of the other bishops on the committee. Bishop Daniel Martins of Springfield moved that this minority report become a new substitute resolution. His substitute resolution was defeated.

In the end, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal: 129 for, 26 against, and 5 abstentions.

Those who voted against the canonical change included Communion Partner Bishops and nearly all of Province IX.

Image: Bishop John Bauerschmidt makes a point during the House of Bishops’ discussion of marriage canons. • Matthew Townsend photo

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