Deputies Scrap Consultation

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

The House of Deputies overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to have a task force on marriage “consult with other members of the Anglican communion and our ecumenical partners” as it continues study on the topic.

The proposal came as the House of Deputies was on its way to concurring with the House of Bishops and empowering the task force to continue its work on marriage-related issues for another three years.

Now authorized by both houses, the task force will report to the next General Convention on topics from cohabitation to a vocation to singleness. But it will not do so with any new consultation with Anglican provinces in the Global South or other churches at odds with the Episcopal Church’s accommodating stance on same-sex relationships.

“In fact we’ve had a great deal of conversation with these folks in the beginning of the original task force,” said Bonnie Perry, a senior deputy from the Diocese of Chicago and member of the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage, at an end-of-day press conference. “Ecumenical partners were invited to be part of that.”

On the House of Deputies floor, the Rev. Jon Davis of the Diocese of Central Florida rose to push for a wider consultation.

“While the majority of the Episcopal Church supports changing the teachings on the sacrament of marriage, the overwhelming majority of the Anglican Communion does not,” Davis said. “And for that reason, I think this conversation is important for us to have.”

But others rebuffed the effort in the name of expediency and caution. Michael Wood of the Diocese of New York said the allocated funds would not be sufficient to allow for a wider consultation with other churches.

“This resolution has already passed the bishops,” Wood said. “If we change it too much, I worry that it will not pass the House of Bishops.”

The task force will study a host of marriage-related topics, including the trend of choosing not to marry, blessings for unmarried couples, and the prospect that Episcopal clergy might stop performing civil marriage ceremonies and celebrate only church rites.

Other marriage-related issues have not yet come before the House of Deputies, including a proposed change to the canonical definition of marriage in the canons.

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