While Catholic bishops in the UK and the US are digging in their heels against marriage equality, the American Episcopal church is (very sensibly) looking ahead, to the inevitable day when they will recognize the need to do away with marriage discrimination in their own church (as some local jurisdictions have already done).
After several years of study, the Episcopal Church has released a draft of what same-sex marriage rites would look like. An important caveat: these are just drafts, and it will likely be years before any final liturgy is approved for official use across the church.
Episcopalians in states that allow same-sex civil marriage (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and others) already have the option to bless same-sex marriages but there is no formal churchwide liturgy. Same-sex commitment ceremonies are permitted elsewhere in the church at the discretion of the local bishop.
From the church’s Office of Public Affairs:
The report’s theological reflection notes that the SCLM [Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music] has reviewed more than 30 years of General Convention’s deliberation on same-gender couples, especially [a] resolution approved in 2000, that identified characteristics the Church expects of couples living in marriage and other lifelong committed relationships: “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
“Such covenantal relationships can reflect God‘s own gracious covenant with us in Christ, manifest the fruits of the Spirit in holiness of life, and model for the whole community the love of neighbor in the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation,” the report states.
– Religion News Service
I am astonished that much as the religious right waxes apoplectic at the idea of lesbian or gay inclusion in church, or secular equality in marriage, family or employment law, what really gets them going is the notion of the trans community being met with basic human dignity. Their pretence that this is based on “religious” principle is beyond my comprehension: from the story of Philip the Ethiopian eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles, the lesson is unambiguous and explicit: for the Christian, “All are welcome”.
My post last week on Genesis emphasised that a primary point of the Creation story is a celebration of diversity
, which includes gender, sexual and orientation diversity. By grand serendipity (I didn’t plan it that way), today marks the start of Transgendered in Faith Awareness Week. to mark this week, I will continue reflecting on the celebration of gender diversity, with reposts of some previously published material, and fresh thoughts, on some transsexual and transgender surprises in the animal kingdom, a look at some books, trans themes in Scripture, and some personal stories.
Trans clergy are finally gaining greater acceptance
Last week, the Rev Dr Christina Beardsley, vice-chair of Changing Attitude, a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual members of the Church of England, was one of the voices featured on 4Thought.tv‘s week of short films featuring trans people and faith.
While the US Episcopal church developed a maverick reputation within the Anglican communion for blessing same sex marriages and ordaining gay and lesbian clergy, the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England’s report Some Issues in Human Sexuality, issued in 2003, contained a chapter titled “Transsexualism”. Currently, one can find about a half dozen trans clergy in the UK and US. These numbers are imprecise, as some clergy do not wish to go public beyond the scope of their individual parish or diocese – a concern that’s understandable given that the trans community seldom receives even the legal protections afforded gays and lesbians .
Beardsley, who was ordained for 23 years prior to her transition in 2001, observes that “some within the Church of England feel the issue of trans clergy has been settled” by citing such cases as the Rev Carol Stone and the Rev Sarah Jones. However, she says: “Not all trans clergy have been supported by their bishop, as these two priests were, and some have been excluded from full-time ministry because of Church of England opt-outs from UK equality legislation.”
During the 2008 Lambeth conference, a decennial gathering of Anglican bishops, Beardsley organised a panel titled “Listening to Trans People”. While only four bishops attended this gathering, it represented the highest number of bishops to participate in an Inclusive Network to date. Also, this panel helped consolidate Changing Attitude’s networking with Sibyls, a UK-based Christian spirituality group for trans people, and the US-based online community TransEpsicopal.
The Rev Dr Cameron Partridge, interim Episcopal chaplain and lecturer at Harvard University, served on this panel as the sole US representative. He transitioned in 2002 during his ordination process and has been an instrumental player in guiding the passage of four resolutions supporting trans rights during the US Episcopal church’s 2009 general convention.
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