By John Bauerschmidt, George Sumner, Jordan Hylden, and Christopher Wells
Two days ago, we saw a remarkable outpouring of support for Resolution B012. The bishop of Dallas, George Sumner, and Fr. Casey Shobe, rector of Dallas’s leading progressive parish, both spoke at the microphone in its favor. So did a wide array of young persons from Diocese of Texas congregations. Bishop John Bauerschmidt of Tennessee said this:
I love all the parishes in my diocese. I speak in support of B012 because it guarantees access to the Trial Liturgies for congregations that wish to use them. At the same time it respects the role of bishops as the chief liturgical officers of their dioceses, and their explicit role as teachers of the Faith. It is creative, not perfect. It preserves our present Book of Common Prayer intact; most importantly, it calls for a task force that would seek to preserve our character as a church with a broad spectrum.
As Communion Partners, we were heartened by what felt to us like a movement of the Spirit, bringing people together in charity and unity across divisions that have been difficult and painful for decades now. We are grateful that the amended version of Resolution B012 now before the House of Deputies forgoes Prayer Book revision at this time.
But we are concerned by the extensive amendments made to B012 by Committee 13. Many of our sisters and brothers on the committee and elsewhere are hailing the amended version as a workable compromise for all. But we do not view it that way. Significant items were removed:
The essential mechanism of compromise, by which progressive congregations in conservative dioceses would request liturgical and pastoral oversight from another bishop of our Church who would provide access to same-sex marriage liturgies, was removed. We need this to be reinstated. We need to preserve the role of bishops as chief teachers and liturgical officers for the congregations under their care, and we need to be able to do so while walking together in full communion with Canterbury and the global Anglican Communion. Without this, we no longer have Communion Partner bishops and dioceses.
The new committee version states that all congregations “shall have access” to the trial use liturgies, “allowing all couples to be married in their home church.” This could be interpreted by some to mean that although rectors and priests-in-charge may have “direction” over how such liturgies are used, they must allow them to be used all the same. But this cannot be, since it conflicts with the canonical “authority and responsibility” of rectors and priests-in-charge for the worship life of a congregation (III.9.6). We fear this ambiguity will sow chaos and conflict, as canon is placed against canon and tested in Title IV proceedings. Without the liturgical authority of rectors and priests-in-charge, we no longer have Communion Partner congregations. If we have recognized and made space for progressive congregations in conservative dioceses to extend their practice of marriage to same-sex couples, why cannot we make space for traditional congregations anywhere to practice marriage as we have received it and as Canterbury teaches?
This is not simply our view, but it is the feedback we have been getting in massive amounts of email, text, and social media communication from back home in our dioceses.
It may well be that none of this was the intent of the committee members, working in good faith under conditions that require fast work on laptops at all hours. We present this analysis and perspective in good faith as well.