The Bishop of Milwaukee’s Thinkpiece on Same-Gender Unions on the Eve of GC 2012

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Episcopal Church has been wrestling with issues surrounding human sexuality for many years, a wrestling made more urgent because of the approval of an openly gay partnered person to be Bishop of New Hampshire, the authorization of same sex blessings in the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada, and the Windsor Report published in October of 2004—a report written in response to these actions. All throughout this time the General Convention passed nuanced resolutions open to broad interpretations on the matter, many of which are reviewed in the Report of the SCLM and depending on where emphasis is placed can be understood to say very different things.

This issue has been one which I have wrestled with a great deal. Like many in this Church I have known the faithful witness and wise counsel of openly gay clergy. I have had the privilege of working with life-long partnered persons as the rector of a parish. And like many of my generation I have wept for people I loved who died from AIDS. On the other hand, as a bishop I have promised to guard the faith and unity of the Church, a unity which has been challenged by the actions of this Church and the responses to it both within The Episcopal Church and around the world. I have taken seriously the concerns of our mission partners in Africa. And I cannot think about this issue without recalling the memory of a young Egyptian boy, the grandson of a former bishop of that diocese, telling me the effect our actions had on him as a member of the Christian minority in a predominantly Islamic country.

I am also aware that, in our context and that of much of Western Europe, this issue will cease to be one in a very short period of time. This is already true for many people under 30....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)General Convention --Gen. Con. 2012TEC BishopsSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture

11 Comments
Posted July 5, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ralph wrote:

I agree with him to the extent that authorizing an SSB or “marriage” rite without first changing the Constitution and Canons, and the BCP makes no theological sense.

However, I obviously don’t support changing the Constitution and Canons, and the BCP to redefine Christian marriage. TEC doesn’t have the authority to redefine Christian marriage.

July 5, 9:24 am | [comment link]
2. Adam 12 wrote:

Here is the suggestion that the controversy will die out with the old guard…I think people thought that about drug use and the repeal of 21-year-old drinking laws sometime back.

July 5, 11:34 am | [comment link]
3. Sarah wrote:

Yup, Adam 12—and abortion too!

It didn’t die out at all—and the next generations are even more opposed to abortion.

I’m not worried.

July 5, 11:52 am | [comment link]
4. Albany+ wrote:

What is right-headed about the Bishop’s reflections is his quest for genuine clarity about the standard for sexual intimacy as marriage and marriage alone. He is concerned especially that young people will be confused by anything less than this single, clear standard. He uses the word “clarity” which is the operative word in a Church that does all in its power to live out ever-growing murky permissiveness. He also makes clear that the theological work has NOT been done and that incrementalism will not do. The best part is:

“...it is my opinion that the blessing rite falls short of our call as Christians. By failing to offer a new hermeneutic it invites the church to bless something for which it has no warrant to bless. Moreover, it creates a second tier of relationships, clouds the teaching on the appropriate place for sexual intimacy, and may delay much needed work on this matter.”

July 5, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
5. David Keller wrote:

#4—Isn’t that totally ingenuous?  Isn’t he totally for SSB/M’s so long as the paper work in order?

July 5, 1:16 pm | [comment link]
6. David Keller wrote:

Whoops disingenuous (on the bishop’s part, that is).

July 5, 3:47 pm | [comment link]
7. fatherlee wrote:

This pile of garbage is grounds for his never, ever, ever, being invited in any official capacity to Nashotah House.  Shameful.

July 5, 6:32 pm | [comment link]
8. Capt. Father Warren wrote:

#7, don’t hold your breath….....he stirred up a lot there…....

July 5, 7:43 pm | [comment link]
9. MichaelA wrote:

“He is concerned especially that young people will be confused by anything less than this single, clear standard.”

Permitting pederasty and incest is also a “single, clear standard” - but how does that make it right?

July 5, 11:57 pm | [comment link]
10. Albany+ wrote:

#9 But that isn’t what he said. He says that the context for all sexual activity is marriage. This is someone a conservative can work with. We cannot forget that the overwhelming problem numerically is heterosexual Biblical noncompliance. It’s not just the gay issue. Imagine what our churches would look like if the heterosexuals were only sexually active in the context of marriage. We have to fair about this. He at least starts with the actual problem.

July 6, 12:21 am | [comment link]
11. MichaelA wrote:

I didn’t say he said that, rather I said that it was the natural response when you attempted to justify him by saying “well at least he holds to a single clear standard”.  There is nothing admirable about that unless the single clear standard is the RIGHT standard.

“He says that the context for all sexual activity is marriage.”

Then he is wrong.  Marriage is not the context for homosexual activity.

“This is someone a conservative can work with.”

On the arguments you have presented so far, this is someone that faithful Christians want to stay as far from as possible.

“We cannot forget that the overwhelming problem numerically is heterosexual Biblical noncompliance.”

Since the number of people who are heterosexual is probably well over 95% of the population, that is hardly surprising.  In what way does the prevalance of one sin entitle us to completely overlook another?

“He at least starts with the actual problem.”

Quite the reverse.  He is just trying to use one sin to justify another.  Its not as though these sort of tactics are even new.  We have seen it all so many times before.  They are fundamentally dishonest, and one of the major reasons TEC is in nose-dive, both as to membership and income.

July 6, 8:05 am | [comment link]
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