"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Thursday, January 20, 2005 Last week, Landen Romei, one of our students, emailed me an article about Rev. Michael Ray, the rector of St. Thomas' Church in New Haven, CT, who has decided to stop performing any weddings in response to the diocese of Connecticut's refusal to allow same-sex blessings. I can always count on Landen to toss stuff at me that challenges me!
I've been thinking a lot about marriage recently. For one, I've been wrestling with whether I can continue to act as an agent of the state in weddings. I've finally decided that in good conscience I cannot.
Basically it comes down to this: I believing acting as such an agent contributes to a blurring of lines that has the state convinced it has the right to define a sacrament of the church and who can (and cannot) receive it. My role as priest is to lead the people in blessing and to announce that God has blessed relationships that through their mutual love, joy and fidelity are a blessing. It is not to be involved in the legal aspects of who can and cannot be legally attached to one another.
I am making one exception to this ... a couple at whose wedding I agreed to preside before I made this decision so as not to go back on my promise to them (so Eric and Minette, you can exhale now!).
But Michael Ray's decision introduces a whole new aspect. Previously, I had figured since Bishop Smith (at last check) was permitting same-sex blessings to take place in our diocese as a pastoral matter, I would do a blessing of a civil marriage for some couples and some suitable liturgy of blessing for others. But as I read about Michael Ray's decision, more and more that strikes me as sort of "separate but equal" thinking (which invariably is actually "separate but unequal").
What I really would love to have is one liturgy that I could use for everyone -- a service of a blessing of a committed relationship. Obviously, canonically it couldn't be a marriage, so I guess I would be saying that I wouldn't do any more weddings. But practically speaking, it would serve the same function as a wedding -- gathering the couple in the midst of the community, leading them all in blessing and announcing that God has blessed this relationship that through its mutual love, joy and fidelity is a blessing.
What appeals to me about this (besides it allowing me to function in good conscience) is that it seems at least a small way that I as a straight person can stand with my GLBTQ sisters and brothers. That's been the missing piece for me. I believe in what we did at General Convention. I also believe that we need to honor our relationships in the broader communion and in some ways that means sacrifice and (yet again) patience for a population that has already done that aplenty. But if I, as a member of probably the most privileged class in the planet's history (straight, white, educated, wealthy by global standards, American citizen, married with two kids, the list goes on) am going to call my sisters and brothers who are less privileged to sacrifice, I need to find a way ... even a small way ... to stand with them.
I had this conversation with some clergy friends online, and it led to some talk of trying to come up with such a liturgy. But it also led me into a deeper conversation with a priest friend who is living in a committed same-sex relationship. A conversation about what it might really mean to stand with GLBTQ people.
In that conversation I saw a depth to that life that I hadn't seen. I heard a story of a person who felt unable as a priest to talk about spouse and children publicly. As usually happens when I move from thinking and talking about issues to actually listening to people, I began to get a different and more profound sense of the depth of what's involved here.
I don't know what the answers are. Like everything else, I think the road needs to be traveled with care, patience and humility. For me, most of all it's a question of how I can live with integrity -- and if there's a more complex question out there, I'm not sure what it is. I'm just glad there are other people struggling with it, too.
| Mike at 1/20/2005 08:35:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."