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March 11, 2019


How do the choices of the United Methodist Church affect the thinking of Episcopalians? Your church was one of the leaders in sexuality issues years ago. Is the church turning away from its open position?

Hi Peter, thanks for asking this question. I don't think the United Methodist ruling will affect either the Episcopal Church of the United States, or the Anglican Church of Canada. I can't see either of them going backwards in terms of the ordinations of gay clergy or bishops, which have been approved in both for a long time. The blessings of same-sex unions already take place here in some dioceses, including Montreal, following a vote in 2016 that approved it. However, the decision to allow same-sex marriage won't become canon law until this year, 2019, when it would have to be ratified by the Synod, and would probably cause a censure or worse with the Anglican Communion, as occurred with the Episcopal Church over this issue. I've heard it's unlikely to be passed, which is a great disappointment. However, I don't think that has much to do with what other denominations have decided, or the position of the Anglican Communion at large. It's a reflection of conservative values in certain dioceses of the Canadian Anglican Church. And it's certainly not the prevailing view where we are, or on the West Coast. This article explains the situation in more detail: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/canadian-anglicans-approval-of-same-sex-marriage-far-from-unanimous

Here is the way things stand in the Episcopal Church of the United States (via wikipedia):

As the Episcopal News Service reported on the 2015 Seventy-eighth General Convention, “in the wake of the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage for all Americans, General Convention followed suit on July 1 with canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians.” A canonical change eliminated “language defining marriage as between a man and a woman” and “two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples.” These new marriage rites are to be used “under the discretion and with the permission of the diocesan bishop.” Also, “clergy retain the canonical right to refuse to officiate at any wedding.”

The two new marriage rites have been made available online without charge by the Church Publishing House. “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” (Church Publishing House, 2015) and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2" (Church Publishing House, 2015)

The General Convention also approved The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant: Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships for “continued use.

Thank you Beth.

Sheena (someone who is privileged to call Beth a friend, and who is in a long-term relation with another woman).

I can only view the agonies of the last two archbishops of Canterbury with detachment, yet not a little sympathy. Both have struggled with LGBT problems within the Anglican church and, before that, with the ordination of women. To an outsider the arguments appear incomprehensible and are not alleviated when it appears that senior prelates in African countries take a more "evangelical" approach than those in the northern hemisphere. In this case evangelical seems to mean sterner and/or less loving. Both Welby and Williams are, or have been, equipped to lead a modern-day church yet it is difficult to do so when dioceses in distant countries with different politics threaten to leave the Anglican church and set up shop as schismatic variants. I am further restrained by the fact that our present prime minister is a regular churchgoer and yet is able to lead our present disastrous decision to leave the EU without a trace of regret about cutting the geographical and cultural ties with countries whose original and prevailing wish has been to maintain peace in Europe.

Prayer is denied me. I can only "preach" the elevated state and apparent selflessness that music may confer. It seems trivial in the face of these immediate and somewhat ugly problems. The fact that I can take comfort from what I see as the reality in Purcell's setting of the line:

For love has more power and less mercy than fate.

doesn't mean that others may profit from its ambiguity. I wish you well with your letter.

Lovely letter Beth. I grew up in the Methodist Church. I was dismayed at the vote of the world-wide church to refuse to perform same sex marriages, etc. The thought is that the negative votes came out of Africa in particular. Many American churches have made it clear that they welcome diversity. I'm not sure how they'll handle the marriage issue. There is also some thought that this may cause the American churches to split off from the world-wide Methodist church. I hope they do, although I no longer attend.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.