Bishop Daniel Martins on GC79

Paige Daugherty • Diocese of Springfield

The Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, reflects on the 79th General Convention, and especially on its decision regarding same-sex marriage:

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer (p. 423), in accordance with all of its predecessors, the official teaching of the Anglican Communion, the overwhelming consensus of the Christian community across both space and time, resting upon the bedrock of Holy Scripture and the words of our Lord Jesus, teaches that marriage, established by God in creation, is a lifelong covenant between one woman and one man. It is my sense that a solid majority among both the laity and the clergy of the Diocese of Springfield adhere to this understanding.

Our position is clearly a minority one within the Episcopal Church, and also runs against the cultural and legal tide in North America and Europe. So we are both a minority and a majority—a fairly small minority in our immediate environment and a quite substantial majority in the larger one. So it behooves us to behave well in both contexts—as the majority treating those who are the minority with the same grace and charity as we would, as the minority, hope those who are in the majority would treat us. Those who differ from us on this are not our enemies. The bond that unites us in baptism transcends our differences (though it does not make them trivial). I am, as ever, committed to the hope that we may “walk in love, as Christ loved us.”

However, this most recent General Convention has constrained the authority of bishops to simply prohibit same-sex marriage within the diocese. This is deeply lamentable. It undermines and erodes the ancient and appropriate relationship between a bishop and a diocese as chief pastor, teacher, and liturgical officer. It obscures the sacramentality of the Bishop’s identity and role, that all liturgical and teaching ministry in the diocese is an extension of the Bishop’s own liturgical and teaching ministry. The action of this convention flouts the notion that the Episcopal Church is true to its very name—“episcopal” means “pertaining to the Bishop”—let alone that it stands in the broad stream of Catholic Christianity. We have grievously erred, and are in need of repentance and amendment of common life.

Contrary to what you might read in various media, though, the resolution passed by the convention is not simply carte blanche for any cleric, congregation, or couple that wishes to celebrate a same-sex marriage. First, none of this takes effect until December 2 of this year, the First Sunday of Advent. This is certainly a minor detail in the long run, but, in the meantime, it does seem worth mentioning. Second, such an event would need the consent of the Rector. Here’s the specific language: “provided that nothing in this Resolve narrows the authority of the Rector or Priest-in-Charge (Canon III.9.6(a).” Since I am canonically the Rector of all unincorporated Eucharistic Communities, the general policy that I enunciated three years ago remains in force in those places.

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