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Law and Ecclesiastical Polity: A Theological Approach

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Thursday, July 19th, 2012

The passing of Resolution A049 to authorize rites of blessing for same-sex couples was a cause of joy for many, and a cause of sadness for others. But one way or the other, the resolution has created something of a theological puzzle—for what does it mean to “authorize” rites that declare God’s blessing upon same-sex unions, while at the same time stipulating that those rites are “provisional,” and cannot be performed without the permission of the diocesan bishop? What status does such a rite possess when it manifestly has not reached the level of consensus within even the Episcopal Church, let alone among the increasingly divided Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners?

Given these issues, the theological difficulty is clear: In what sense can it now be said that with the passage of this resolution by General Convention, a priest of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church may now declare God’s blessing upon the union of same-sex couples? Is it not the case that any such blessing would have to be bestowed, as it were, only “provisionally”—with the implication that “this Word of God is for trial use”? And if so, how can it possibly carry the authoritative weight of the church’s apostolic blessing?

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July 19 2012 | Articles