A Conflicted Abstention

The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of Texas, reflects on Monday’s vote in the House of Bishops that approved A036, revising the church’s canons on marriage:

I promised in the Unity and Mission paper published in 2012 that I would not approve the rites of same-sex blessing at the 77th General Convention. I voted no at that General Convention. Following the 2012 General Convention we in the Diocese of Texas together moved forward allowing space for congregations to do same-sex blessings. We upheld and continue to uphold the 1979 Book of Common Prayer definition of marriage. We continue to use the blessing of same-sex relationships in the congregations who have been approved to do so.

Today when the vote regarding A036 came forward, I prayed and I changed my vote in my heart six times. I was conflicted because of my love for all the people I shepherd in the Diocese. I love you all and your division is a very real division in my own heart. In the end I made a decision that my faithful response to the whole Diocese of Texas was that I could not vote against our LGBT parishioners nor was I willing to vote against our traditionalist parishioners. I discerned then that my faithful response was to abstain. Abstentions count as a “no” vote. The vote on the canon today does not change the definition of marriage as included in the 1979 BCP or in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.

The current policies governing marriage, remarriage, and same-gender blessings in the Diocese of Texas continue in effect.

No clergy person is required by the state or by canon to perform marriages or blessings. What is clear as of the Supreme Court Ruling is that the State will recognize the Episcopal Church rite for same-gender blessing, approved in 2012 and used in the Diocese of Texas, as a legally binding marriage if a marriage license is obtained. All requirements to officiate at a blessing and/or marriages as defined in our canons and in our policy manual remain in effect including counseling and approvals of the bishop where applicable.

I will work to discern which liturgies will be available for use in the Diocese of Texas. We will both follow the law and we will also discern the appropriate course pastorally for our parishioners.

While some will be elated at this decision still others will be disheartened. Christians are not mean and do not demean one another. My expectation is that the people of the Diocese of Texas will model compassion and love for one another. We are to care for one another as we take our steps through the days and months to come.

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