Task Force on Study of Marriage issues update and report
The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has issued the following report:
Report of work from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage
September 22, 2014
The Task Force on the Study of Marriage is continuing the work of identifying and exploring the biblical, theological, historical, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage – as charged by 2012 General Convention Resolution A050 here http://www.generalconvention.org/gc/resolutions?by=number&id=a050
“We are deeply gratified by the response to our work so far,” said task force Chair the Rev. Brian C. Taylor, chair, Diocese of the Rio Grande. “Dearly Beloved – a resource for study and discussion about marriage – has been distributed in both English and Spanish, and its continuing use throughout the church is enhancing our process of church-wide consultation. Engagement through social media on our Facebook and YouTube pages has further extended that process. We strongly encourage those who haven’t yet participated with these resources to do so prior to General Convention, so we’re better prepared as a church to discuss these matters in Salt Lake City.”
Members of the task force also participated in a consultation sponsored by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) on same-sex marriage in Kansas City in June. This event provided an opportunity to consult with Episcopalians, ecumenical partners, and those from the wider Anglican Communion on issues regarding marriage in general, and same-sex marriage in particular.
Bishop Thomas C. Ely of Vermont, who serves on the Task Force on the Study of Marriage as well as the SCLM, said this gathering offered “much to be able to take back into our work, based on conversation with people living this reality on the ground, and hearing the pastoral challenges local clergy are facing.”
Regarding the SCLM consultation, Taylor said, “Part of our charge is to consider the challenges and opportunities of the changing societal norms around marriage. So it was helpful to our task to come together for deep listening, as we continue to consider the primary question that shapes our work: ‘What might our church want to say to the world today about what it is that makes a marriage holy and particularly Christian?’”
Taylor continued, “The Explanation section of our enabling resolution A050 itself raises this same question in a variety of ways, and framed both the June SCLM gathering as well as much of our work over the triennium,” i.e.
As the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music developed liturgical resources for blessing same-gender relationships, it faced repeated questions about marriage. What makes a marriage Christian? What is the relationship between the Church’s blessing of a relationship, whether different-gender or same-gender, and a union, “marriage” or otherwise, created by civil law? Is the blessing of a same-gender relationship equivalent to the marriage of a different-gender couple, and if so, should this liturgy be called “marriage”? Because the Church’s understanding of marriage affects so many of its members, the Commission believes it is important to engage in a Churchwide conversation about our theology of marriage.
Working in three study groups, Task Force members are now focused on finalizing their report for presentation to the 78th General Convention. The report will include:
- Theological and biblical essays on marriage
- articles on the history of marriage and marriage rites
- a look at our marriage canons past and present, and questions that they raise
- a report on consultations, conversations, and research on current trends and norms
- a response to the Resolution A050’s charge that the task force “address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same- sex couple,” and
- the toolkit Dearly Beloved.
The task force is also actively considering resolutions that may flow from the content of their reports and/or from Resolution 2012-A050 itself.
Taylor spoke for the Task Force in saying, “All of our members are grateful and honored to be a part of our church’s consideration of marriage, a work that builds upon the history, ministry, struggle, and life experience of so many others through the years that have led up to this day.”