2015: General Convention (GC78) and the formation of ASAP
At the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, liturgies for same-sex marriage and the blessings of same-sex unions were approved. However, Resolution 2015-A054 included the provision that the liturgies had to be used with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop.
In November 2015, Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee issued a Pastoral Directive that the liturgies were not to be used in his diocese, not to be used on any Episcopal owned property, and not to be used anywhere by any priest canonically resident or licensed to officiate in the Diocese of Tennessee. ASAP was formed in December 2015 by concerned Episcopalians seeking full inclusion for LGBT Episcopalians.
2018: Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee and the Memorial
At the 2018 convention of the Diocese of Tennessee, five congregations working with ASAP brought forth a resolution to send a Memorial to the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (July 2018) asking that the terms and conditions for the Trial Use liturgies for same-sex marriage and the blessings of same-sex unions be updated in such a way that the liturgies be made available to every priest. After two hearings and long hours in deliberation, the General Resolutions committee put forth this substitute resolution, which passed almost unanimously, sending a Memorial to General Convention expressing the pain and separation caused by the current terms and conditions. Read more about this convention in two articles published in The Tennessean on Saturday, January 20 and Sunday, January 21.
2018: General Convention (GC79) and Resolution B012
Via Resolution A169, the 2015 General Convention continued the work of The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage until the next convention. Its Report to the 79th General Convention is available to download here. This report includes the Task Force’s proposed resolutions including “A085 Trial Use of Marriage Liturgies” which “presents a road map for General Convention to fulfill forty (40) years of promises of full inclusion in the life of The Episcopal Church.” The resolution itself states that “bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision, will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial liturgies.” The Episcopal News Service’s story about the report includes information about ASAP and about other dioceses where the rites have not been available during this triennium.
Just a few days before the 2018 General Convention, a group of bishops proposed an alternate resolution, the original Resolution B012, which originally included “delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO),” a provision saying that “where diocesan canons or bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority do not authorize the use of these liturgies for persons of the same sex,” that parish would request and receive oversight from another bishop.
At General Convention (#GC79), Committee 13, The Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169, heard testimony regarding these resolutions. Two ASAP supporters were able to testify before that committee. After the hearings, the committee put forth a modified version of Resolution B012, which stated “provision will be made for all couples desiring to use these marriage liturgies in their local congregation or worshipping community.” (paragraph 7) When the modified resolution reached the floor of the House of Deputies, the “Hayes Amendment” was added, providing that “in dioceses where the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority (or, where applicable, ecclesiastical supervision) holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples, and there is a desire to use such rites by same-sex couples in a congregation or worshipping community, the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority (or ecclesiastical supervision) shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites.” (paragraph 8) Note that this is not DEPO, which indicates a broken relationship between a bishop and congregation, but supplemental oversight just for one matter, same sex marriage.
The House of Deputies overwhelmingly passed this modified and amended version Resolution BO12. Two days later, the House of Bishops passed the resolution (by voice vote) which had one additional clarifying phrase, so the amended resolution returned to the House of Deputies for another vote. On Friday, the final day of GC79, Resolution B012 passed the House of Deputies even more overwhelmingly than the first vote.
2018: Post GC79 Statements
Of the eight bishops who originally forbade the use of the Trial Use Liturgies, three have made statements. The Bishops of Springfield, IL and of Dallas seem to be calling for full DEPO for parishes who wish to use the liturgies, and both have forbidden their use in missions. In his letter to the Diocese of Tennessee, the Bishop Bauerschmidt states that “B012 ensures that the Trial Liturgies will be available in Middle Tennessee” under “supplemental episcopal pastoral care.” Additionally, he states, “the nature of the supplemental episcopal pastoral care extended to couples, clergy, and congregations will be determined in the time between now and the First Sunday of Advent, when the Trial Liturgies will be available on this new basis. During this period there will be consultation with clergy and vestries that desire to use these rites, as well as with the clergy as a whole.” On November 10, the Bishop of Albany stated his refusal to live within the resolution. You can read about his decision and find a link to his Pastoral Directive here on the Episcopal Cafe’ website. Also in November, The Bishop of Dallas has now announced that the Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, will be the visiting and assisting bishop for the three parishes which have requested access to the trial use rites for gender-neutral marriage according to Resolution B012.
ASAP will gather Advent I, when we should know how the resolution will be implemented in the Diocese of Tennessee, for a service of Hope and Healing onTuesday, December 4, 7 pm, at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 419 Woodland St, Nashville, TN 37206. There will be time after the service for discussion.
The statistics in the video are from the September 14 2017 Progress Report from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.