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Cohabitation Conundrums

By Matthew Townsend

Resolutions proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage have produced quite a bit of work for General Convention. Three packed-to-the-rafters meetings of Committee 13 held on July 5 discussed revising the Book of Common Prayer to include, possibly, liturgies for same-sex marriage — or to find a compromise solution.

Committee 13 — the Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169 — is not the only group considering resolutions that emerged from the task force. On July 5, the Christian Formation and Discipleship Committee held an open hearing on Resolution A087. The resolution’s title promises to develop relationship pastoral resources — or, as the resolution says, to pay for materials that could help clergy guide “persons entering into sexually intimate relationships other than marriage.”

The resolution suggests that this statement should guide development of resources: “Qualities of relationship that ground in faithfulness the expression of sexual intimacy include: fidelity, monogamy, commitment, mutual affection, mutual respect, careful and honest communication, physical maturity, emotional maturity, mutual consent, and the holy love which enables those in intimate relationships to see in each other the image of God.” As much as $30,000 would be set aside for this task.

Samantha Haycock of Forma spoke in favor of the resolution’s intent “and the necessity of resources to engage people of all ages and life circumstances as they make choices about entering into sexually intimate relationships other than marriage.”

“As formation professionals forming disciples of all ages, this has been a topic we have engaged for a long time,” she said. “We also acknowledge that the leadership within the wider church may not be equipped to pastor to or teach on relationships of all sorts.”

Haycock acknowledged that resources currently exist and could be curated.

Martha Hasslacher of Albany spoke against the resolution and described it as “exploitative to women and children, who are very vulnerable without the resources of the state and marriage.”

The committee discussed whether the guiding principle quoted in the resolution — the qualities of relationship that ground sexual intimacy in faithfulness — needed quotation marks or a citation. Discussions and amendments ensued, which led to some deputies wondering why the technical nature of the resolution was discussed before the substance of it.

One committee member, the Rev. Canon Scott Ruthven of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, said he opposed the resolution in principle. “I think this spirals down: we’re giving way, yet one more time, on the sanctity of marriage,” he told TLC. “I’m also thinking to myself, if I were facing this situation where I needed to counsel someone who’s not in marriage, I can still use my marriage skills and counselling skills to walk them through stuff.”

Some committee members expressed doubt that a task force — or $30,000 in funding — would be needed, even though they supported the resolution in principle.

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