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.

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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.

About The Author

The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Bauerschmidt is the 11th Bishop of Tennessee. A native of South Carolina, he was consecrated bishop in 2007.

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Cathy Roberts

Bishop Bauerschmidt FTW! This sums up my feelings about the revision perfectly. In a church that is called “Episcopal” because of its emphasis on apostolic succession and authority of bishops, this resolution strips them of the ability to lead their flocks. And nobody has brought up the “slippery slope” argument. If you can sidestep bishops on this issue, you can sidestep them on anything. They’re suddenly nothing more than figureheads. This action is hardly “Episcopal”!

Cathy Roberts

P.S. I felt that I could remain an Episcopalian with the original version of B012. It was the compromise for which I had hoped. This amendment waters the compromise down to nothing. There is blessed little in it to reassure conservatives that they are still a welcome minority in this denomination. It forces what we consider heresy down our throats. The original B012 seemed to give everyone most of what they wanted, and left everyone just a little dissatisfied. If you’re a negotiator, those are signs of a good compromise!

Bishop John Bauerschmidt

Thank you for your comments. As we outline in the post, we have heard from many people with similar concerns. Our church has a great tradition of comprehensiveness, and we want to continue it. Thanks again for your thoughtful reflection.

Cathy Roberts

Thank you for staying the course and for “speaking the truth in love”, which I’m learning is what a true leader does.

Thank you bishop. I agree strongly with what you say here. It is sad an ironic that The Episcopal Church is trying to discern whether it actually wants be episcopal.

Ironic that “The Episcopal Church” actually needs to decide if it wants to be episcopal.

Dick Mitchell

Is this draft resolution — if passed — enforceable? Will it be canon law? If a CP bishop defied it, and said “Not in my diocese,” will he be brought up charges of disregarding a GenCon Resolution?

It is wishful thinking that the original B012 “leaves the BCP intact” and the updated certainly does not.

John Bauerschmidt

Thank you all for your comments. I think the amended B012 raises questions that are hard to answer.

[…] Full text of the article in The Living Church […]

Kofi Wing

I agree, but I am beginning to wonder whether Canterbury still teaches traditional marriage, given some of his recent comments in interviews and his recently published book. I know this is the least of our worries at this point, but there it is.

David Huff

As someone who attends the parish where Fr. Shobe is rector, I chuckled at the description of us as “Dallas’s leading progressive parish.” Anyone from the wider Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. who got to know us would quickly recognize that we’re a pretty bog-standard, big tent sort of place (more on the high-church side, but not excessively). We may only seem “progressive” compared to some of our sister parishes in the Diocese, and I can think of at least one that is more progressive than we are. But truly, you’ll find no liturgical dance, guitars & drum kits, or… Read more »

Bishop John Bauerschmidt

Thanks again for these comments.