Episcopal Church SCLM: Outline of Theological Principles for Same Sex Blessing Liturgy Development

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Covenantal relationships are one way for Christians to live out their baptismal calling in the world. As the Church discerns the fruits of the Spirit in faithful commitments – such as households marked by compassion, generosity, and hospitality – these commitments become a blessing to the wider community. Blessing covenantal relationships, including same-gender unions, thus belongs to the mission of the Church in its ongoing witness to the good news of God-in-Christ and the Christian hope of union with God.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Global South Churches & PrimatesInstruments of UnitySexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessingsWindsor Report / Process* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilySexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Religion News & CommentarySexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyTheology: Scripture

36 Comments
Posted March 10, 2011 at 7:32 am

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The URL for this article is http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/35330/



1. David Keller wrote:

Two points—(1)  Christian life is NOT rooted in the sacrament of Baptism. (2)  This is a bunch of TEC psycho-babble.

March 10, 9:39 am | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

These people could make child sacrifice to Baal seem good.

March 10, 9:55 am | [comment link]
3. Br. Michael wrote:

Oh, and of course there is nothing in here about the pro-creation of children since same sex coupling is sterile.

March 10, 9:58 am | [comment link]
4. BlueOntario wrote:

Wow.

Why be married? I could be in a committed relationship, or two, and TEC could check the “Fruit of the Spirit” and “Ministering Christian” boxes. Is there no end to this ‘60s mush? As has been noted before, if there’s nothing from which repentance is necessary, Jesus is just as cool a dude as Buddah.

This part especially struck me as pretty good trashing of any efforts that have been made to put the brakes to such action: “The proposed rites must be an expression primarily of the entire Church…” Wrapping this stuff up in the guise of Christianity is just deceitful.

God save us.

March 10, 10:35 am | [comment link]
5. JeremiahTOR wrote:

Why is it that every statement coming from TEC sounds like the product of a bunch of people sitting around and brainstorming ideas with no filter, no self-critique, no critical thinking or—most important—no grounding in Scripture or Tradition?  [I think I know the answer to this question]

By comparison the documents/statements from the RC seem to always be filled with references to Scripture, the Fathers, previous councils, etc.  And these references aren’t just thrown in after the fact to support a conclusion.  The conclusion (whether we agree with it or not) actually derives from critical, intelligent reflection on Scripture and Tradition.

What a concept!

March 10, 10:49 am | [comment link]
6. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Can you “covenant” with more than one person?  How about a blessing on that, too?  A whole commune of “covenants”, all blessed…

Off the wall…

March 10, 10:51 am | [comment link]
7. Milton wrote:

#5 Actually, I think Christopher Johnson (MCR blog) was closer to the truth - these sound more like the product of a bunch of people sitting around taking bong hits.

March 10, 11:13 am | [comment link]
8. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

What I find interesting is that in the five points of ” Renewing the Church’s Theological Reflection,” God is never mentioned as an active component within the covenant nor is Scripture or Tradition a lens for reflection apparently. In fact, the terms Scripture, Tradition, and Jesus are completely not there in any way, shape, or form.

If there is not grounding in some way of Scripture or Jesus, what makes this particularly Christian?

March 10, 11:23 am | [comment link]
9. Undergroundpewster wrote:

They could just come up with a generic blessing of friendship, but they note that they do not want this to “degenerate” (an unfortunate choice of words found in the 3rd paragraph from the end) “into a generic rite.”

It appears that they want to make it look like the rite will stay out of the bedroom and bless the friendship, but (wink, wink, nod, nod) everybody knows what this is all about.

March 10, 11:27 am | [comment link]
10. Creedal Episcopalian wrote:

UP: It is only possible to have a “conversation” if you DO ignore what It  is all about. It  is about people who deliberately behave in ways that ignore the words of Christ, and who now insist that the rest of us call them blessed or be thrown from our community.
It ‘s about people who establish brotherhood (sisterhood? there are no words) based on shared guilt, or shared rejection of guilt, in lieu of repentance, and wish to dress this disobedience in the clothing of holiness.
It  is a dance macabre which by aping Christian sacraments mocks them, and The mocking of Christian sacraments is revealed as the true goal. It  is truly dangerous.

In that light, and from that perspective, doesn’t it become obvious what principality is behind It ?

And that’s not even considering the yuck factor.

March 10, 12:09 pm | [comment link]
11. deaconmark wrote:

Elves, is this the high ground that has been requested?  How interesting that this is the opening salvo for Lent.  Searching in vain for some new comment but finding none.

March 10, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
12. jamesw wrote:

deaconmark - Whether you like it or not, the posters here have a very good point that the SCLM statement posted here is completely and utterly devoid of any intellectual or theological weight.  It is a visible definition for “intellectual vacuousness”.  There is absolutely nothing in this document that would make it any more difficult for TEC to “bless” multiple-partner covenantal relationships, inter-sibling covenantal relationships, etc., then same-sex covenantal relationships.  This just seems one further example of TEC’s decline into anti-intellectualism under the guise of pseudo-erudite language.

March 10, 1:24 pm | [comment link]
13. Mark Baddeley wrote:

I think on first glance, the things that strike me are:

1)

The Christian life is rooted in the sacrament of baptism, an effective sign of our participation in God’s mission in the world and a reminder of our hope for the fulfillment of all things in God-in-Christ.

This seems strange. It’s not sufficiently efficacious to come across as ‘Catholic’ and the notion that the Christian life is rooted in the sacrament of baptism seems more Lutheran (or at least Luther) than more generically Protestant.

And it’s difficult to see what NT teaching stands behind its view of what baptism is a sign. I would have thought that baptism was a sign of union with Christ in his death should be fairly prominent. Yes, baptism is a reminder of our hope for the fulfilment of all things in God-in-Christ, but it is so because it is a sign of our union with Christ in his death which has accomplished that.

How can baptism be an effective sign of our participation in God’s mission in the world? Isn’t part of the idea that the sacraments are effective signs connected to the idea that they communicate the reality they signify directly to the participant? So how can the sacrament effectively communicate my participation in God’s mission in the world? Surely, under any theological schema, that’s an outworking of what the sacrament communicates, not the thing communicated. As it stands, this almost suggests that I have participated in God’s mission by being baptised. I suppose there’s a sense in which that is true, but it seems a very Zwinglian take on the sacrament to make it basically a sign of my participation in what God does rather than a sign of what God has done/is doing.

2. As far as I can see from this, “covenantal relationships” seems to uniformally be glossed as “long-term committed relationships”, “loving faithfulness”, “love in faithful relationships” and the like.

None of those are actually the meaning of a ‘convenant relationship’.  Those qualities can be present apart from a covenant relationship and a covenant relationship can exist in the absence of these qualities. These qualities are the bene esse of any relationship, not the esse of covenantal relationships.

By casting it this way, the liturgies they are seeking to develop would seem not blessings of convental relationships at all, but relationships where either the couple aspire to good relational practice, or where the minister judges that such qualities are present.

That seems to me to be fairly serious. Given how significantly that this seems to make ‘covenant’ do all the heavy conceptual work for these new liturgies, to then not actually capture ‘covenant’ at all is likely to have some collateral damage IMO. At the moment, my impression from this is that the use ‘covenant’ is put to actually eliminates the distinction between covenanted and uncovenanted relationships - any relationship which is ‘faithful’ and ‘loving’ is a ‘covenant relationship’.

3.

The eschatological vision inspired and evoked by covenantal relationship (the desire that leads us to commit ourselves to another person reflects the human desire and hope for union with God-in-Christ).

It is difficult to see how this squares with any but the most revisionist take on eschatology. Our experience of covenantal relationships inspires and evokes an eschatological vision? Wouldn’t classical theology have said that an eschatological vision generates covenant relationships? It is God’s revelation of the end, and the hope that that produces, which forms our covenant relationships. The relationship is entirely backward here, and so makes our hope a ‘work’ - a product of our involvement in faithful relationships. And so an ‘eschatological’ vision is nothing more than my desire and ‘hope’ for union with God-in-Christ, it has no sense of a ‘certain’ hope set before me that is objectively real apart from desires and ‘hopes’ (and perhaps even dreams…)

There’s more worrying stuff here than just the fact that this is a ‘how to’ for SSB liturgies. It’s a deformation of Christian theology in a revisionist (and quite pelagian) direction quite broadly I think.

March 10, 1:33 pm | [comment link]
14. Caedmon wrote:

“Don’t believe that crap?  Neither do we.  The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.”

http://www.queerty.com/wp/docs/2009/07/the_episcopal_church1.png

Several years ago I met a fellow who was on his way out of TEC for somewhere else. (He was investigating Orthodoxy at the time.)  His remark, and I’ll never forget it:  “The Episcopal Church has turned ambiguity into an art form.”  That was then.  Nowadays that body has turned apostasy into an art form.

March 10, 1:34 pm | [comment link]
15. Br. Michael wrote:

The idea that this is limited to two is simply assumed in the next to last paragraph.  There is nothing in the “theological guidelines”, if that can be dignified as theology, that requires a covenant relationship to be limited to two or to same sex couples who are not siblings—brother/brother; sister/sister; brother/sister or even, I suppose, parent/offspring.

March 10, 1:35 pm | [comment link]
16. First Apostle wrote:

What stuns me is how the strong theology of marriage in the Prayer Book has been discarded. Marriage between one man and one woman was established by God in creation and affirmed by Our Lord at Cana. Marriage between one man and one woman is the properly ordered building block for human society; even if the procreation of children isn’t the PRIMARY intention (but nonetheless ONE OF the intentions) of marriage. TEC’s uber-sacrament of baptism can never make this biblical theology go away.  All of this is to say: issuing liturgies for same sex blessings or gay marriage consigns the theology of the Prayer Book to the scrap heap. There is no way to achieve this desired consistency.

March 10, 2:09 pm | [comment link]
17. JeremiahTOR wrote:

#5:  Good one.  You may be right.

#13:  Well said—on a number of points. 

The other aspect of eschatological witness that I wondered about is this:  If these relationships are supposed to be the equivalent of marriage, how can they give witness to the end times when Christ Himself has told us that we will no longer be given to each other in marriage. but be like “the angels in heaven.”  So while marriage won’t exist in the eschaton, I guess “covenantal relationships” will?

March 10, 2:49 pm | [comment link]
18. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Christianity if radical because it is not rooted in ritual or sacrament or prayer or liturgy or works or duties or doctrine or dogma.  Important as those things are.  As much as they unite us in belief, as much as they bring true Grace into our lives they are not what Christianity is rooted in.

Christianity is radical because it is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.  I wish more would consider just how this turned the world upside down.  We do not have a religion that says we must work through ritual or ordinances to reach Christ.  We say we have a religion in which God has reached down and reaches down to us to give us Grace through the sacraments and by other means.

If we say the Christian life is rooted in the Sacrament of Baptism we turn it into an ordinance evidencing our belief and common faith.  It then no longer is a Sacrament.  The Sacrament of Baptism joins us to the Body of Christ.  The life of that Body is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.  The sacramental grace of Baptism gives us our new birth. 

The sacrament of Baptism when put in the context “The Christian life is rooted in the sacrament of baptism, an effective sign of our participation in God’s mission in the world and a reminder of our hope for the fulfillment of all things in God-in-Christ.”  becomes nothing more than a vain work, a non sacrament.  Worse it becomes our servant used to advance our desires.  It also becomes a club with which to beat those who object to the new faith of the heretics within TEC. 

To demand that the Sacraments become the tool of heresy is shameful.

March 10, 2:53 pm | [comment link]
19. Larry Morse wrote:

You are all missing the point as I did for years. The grounds for your objections, however correct, rational and/or gospel centered, are not at stake here because the TEC position MUST be one that cannot be refuted by such argument. Rather, the generations of narcissisists have evolved a different definition for truth, and a very successful and widespread one it is, that a belief, springing from one’s self centered preferences, if held in common by a large enough number, MUST be the truth because such a generalized position cannot be refuted. It cannot be refuted because there is no outside standard, not outside referent - I do not say objective, merely outside - which is held in common by both sides. Because of this, any internal assertion, widely enough held, is impregnable to ALL external argument, nor can it be scored as merely self centered because it is so widely held.
    It is pointless to tell me that such a position cannot be defended, or that it is basically circular - all that. It can be defended precisely because it is unassailable from the outside. That this is powerful and effective is the great Truth that the solipsistic have discovered, and we have no response, no cannon that will breach these walls. Larry

March 10, 3:39 pm | [comment link]
20. Larry Morse wrote:

Of course I can see that the vocabulary is traditional and recognizable, but the driving force behind it is not. In a sense, you are looking at an alien in human clothing.  Larry

March 10, 3:42 pm | [comment link]
21. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Larry, A pod religion.

March 10, 3:56 pm | [comment link]
22. Br. Michael wrote:

True Larry.  And I think we all recognize the truth of your comment.  We have no argument that they will recognize.  But, the fact that they will not recognize it does not mean that it is not the truth.

That is why TEC is failing.  As they distance themselves from scripture they finally have nothing.  Ultimately nihilism destroys itself.  But how many people will they destroy?

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

March 10, 3:59 pm | [comment link]
23. Ad Orientem wrote:

There is nothing I could post on this subject that would not get deleted by the elves.

March 10, 4:11 pm | [comment link]
24. TomRightmyer wrote:

‘Twill be interesting if the commission can draft a service for church approval of same-sex sex that is “not didactic or polemical statements in the guise of liturgy.”  My bet is that the task cannot be done.

March 10, 5:59 pm | [comment link]
25. Sarah wrote:

RE: “Searching in vain for some new comment but finding none.”

Heh—us too, with *your* comments.

Good stuff, the rest of you!

March 10, 6:11 pm | [comment link]
26. Larry Morse wrote:

Br Michael, the church of TEC may be failing - if the numbers are to be believed - and I suppose they must. On the other hand, the Religion of TEC is in fact in the ascendent because so many people approach truth as they do; that is, it is the accretion of like agendas into a wall, like concrete blocks, each relatively weak, but collectively a genuine wall, held together solely by the stacking. This is real, not metaphorical. The wall, like the blocks, is its own evidence. Is this evidence sound and coherent? Try to break through it, as so many here have, and you will see. 
  the reason we cannot touch this wall is that it is not in our world and doesn’t obey our rules. I cannot emphasize this too strongly. This truth is not in our world, but this does not make it less real or less effective. 
  There is an analogy though. If you go to MOMA , look at the strange piles of objects. Tell me, can you bring the aesthetics of Rembrandt to these things? Well, you can, but to what end? The assertion that these piles of junk are art is unassailable because your evidence exists in an unrelated world. They are art if enough people say they are, and enough people will give this assent if enough money is spent thereon and the right people concur.
  I look and laugh. How not? Can’t you see the emperor has no clothes?
  The response is crushing and irrefutable: YOU are the one who cannot see the emperor.  Look with fresh eyes! This is not a pile of barbed wire, coiled, with weeds attached, this is American society brought into essential focus by a fresh artistic talent who speaks to us through our failed agrarian/capitalistic/puritanical tradition.
  And if you say, “Well, maybe, but it isn’t art,” guess where you are in this non-debate.
  the church may fail, the religion will prosper because it brings the religion of science and the religion of the constitution into a common
epistomology.  Larry

March 10, 6:28 pm | [comment link]
27. Alta Californian wrote:

I can’t seem to be able to open the thing.  I’ve decided this is a blessing from God for the start of Lent.

March 10, 6:30 pm | [comment link]
28. Pigeon wrote:

In case anyone missed it, the SCLM announced today that it will broadcast a “Church-wide consultation of the Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music"next week. 

The consultation will “center on the 2009 General Convention Resolution C056 to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for same-gender blessings.”

Whatever else can be said about this, it appears to be an important step in the relentless march towards same-sex blessings in TEC.  The Commission will apparently provide some type of update on their ‘progress’ to date… should be interesting.  Significantly, they are inviting the press to attend and cover the event in person. 

The event is next Friday and Saturday.  Details here: 

http://extranet.generalconvention.org/f/af6c1c1c2e0f9c8f

March 10, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
29. Pigeon wrote:

Further to my last post, here’s the SCLM’s blog entry on the church-wide consultation on same sex blessings:  http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/church-wide-consultation-to-be-webcast/

March 10, 6:38 pm | [comment link]
30. driver8 wrote:

The proposed rites must be an expression primarily of the entire Church

The ecclesiology here is weirdly incoherent:

1.There’s the claim that TEC via its 1979 Prayer Book revision adopted a distinctive baptismal theology. Presumably that means, distinctive in respect of some other previously or currently existing parts of “the entire Church - at the least distinctive in respect of TEC’s own previous baptismal theology. (When I hear such talk, I wonder if they are suggesting that TEC’s baptismal theology is distinctive enough to make it “another” baptism. In it’s ecumenical conversations TEC has repeatedly said that its baptism intends the same as baptism done in other churches).

2. The claim that TEC’s distinctive same sex rites “must be” expressions of the “entire Church”. Obviously “the entire Church” can’t mean even TEC considered as a body over time, nor the Anglican Communion, let alone a wider ecumenical consensus. So just who are “the entire Church”?

Of course, the recognition that sacraments in some sense “must” express the faith of the “entire Church”, might have led the authors of the text to consider more deeply whether TEC’s proposals can possibly meet that criterion.

March 11, 3:18 am | [comment link]
31. BlueOntario wrote:

Driver8, I agree. The commission throw around that phrase as if it has meaning and gravitas and merits some awe. But what are they talking about? The buildings? The TEC members in them? Strangers attending a TEC ceremony? TEC? The greater Anglican Communion? The Church catholic?

To me it’s just deceitful to use, but as Larry Morse points out, TEC is no longer speaking the same language as the remainder of the “entire Church” and “truth” can be defined by them on the fly.

March 11, 2:14 pm | [comment link]
32. nwlayman wrote:

The SCLM not only serves to drag what’s left of the sacrament of marriage through the sewer, but its March 9th entry has the almighty gall to try and scam some kind of relationship with St. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century.  I suppose it’s hopeless to think SOMEONE involved with that group might consider that St. Gregory would never in a million years have anything to do with an organization that proposed “same sex marriage”.  That would mean they had to have more than the IQ of a pine board.  If the purpose of this organization is to insult every Orthodox Christian, mission accomplished.  If it’s to try and cobble together some kind of history including people **they have never been in communion with for a second**, mission impossible.

March 12, 12:12 am | [comment link]
33. Larry Morse wrote:

We pine boards take exception to your derogation.  PB

March 12, 10:00 am | [comment link]
34. nwlayman wrote:

Oh, by the way, now that genders of the marriage parties are interchangeable, it should be recalled that starting in 1979 the Trinity was made completely optional* in the wedding service too.  Progressive revelation.  Abandoning invoking the Trinity in the wedding got less notice than the change of who gets “married”.  Priorities change starting from the top.  I guess it was the SCLM of that era that came up with that one too? 

*Page 427

March 12, 2:54 pm | [comment link]
35. Undergroundpewster wrote:

This is for Nwlayman.

Information about 1979 BCP changes can be found in How Episcopalians Were Deceived by Francis Read (1981) who quotes Dean Urban T. Holmes of the School of Theology of the University of the South.

“They were correct when they said, as they did repeatedly and sometimes abrasively, that the theologies of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and STU (Services for Trial Use. i.e., what was to become the 1979 book) were different. The SLC probably was strategically wise in not affirming this too loudly, but its members knew that the SPBCP was correct. There is a clear theological change.” (emphasis added.)

He further admits the duplicity of the SLC:

“It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost 200 years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon ‘come home to roost’ in one way or another.”

March 12, 6:08 pm | [comment link]


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For original material from Titusonenine (such as articles and commentary by Dr. Harmon) permission to copy and distribute free of charge is granted, provided this notice, the logo, and the web site address are visible on all copies. For permission for use in for-profit publications, please email KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com


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