Bishop Miller's Response to the Standing Committee's Report on the Blessing of Same Sex Relationships
In a letter to the Diocese of Milwaukee, dated June 7, 2013, Bishop Miller said that he would not authorize the use of a rite to bless same sex relationships in the Diocese of Milwaukee. In describing the meeting where he informed the clergy of his decisions he did say,
“Furthermore, I stated my belief that the right to a civil marriage should be available to all people, regardless of sexual orientation and that I would support those seeking to overturn the ban on same-gender marriage in Wisconsin."
In that same letter to the diocese the Bishop said,
“I am also aware that many of our clergy feel the need to offer a generous pastoral liturgical response to gay and lesbian couples. I have agreed to the formation of a task force within this diocese, comprised of people from across the spectrum on this issue, including openly gay and lesbian people living in monogamous relationships, to consider, and propose the same."
On July 1st the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, which had been tasked with making a proposal for a "generous, pastoral, liturgical response," published a report to the Bishop summarizing the diocesan wide conversation around the blessing of same sex relationships and the Standing Committee's recommendation to the Bishop.
The Standing Committee's cover letter
The Standing Committee's report to the Bishop of Milwaukee
After much prayer and consideration around the Standing Committee's report Bishop Miller has offered parishes in the Diocese of Milwaukee a process by which we may begin to bless same sex couples who have been legally married.
Bishop Miller's response, published on the diocesan web site
The process that allows us to begin blessing same sex marriages says,
"The rector of a congregation wishing to offer blessings of same-sex civil marriage in that congregation must bring the matter before the vestry of the congregation for a vote. Prior to the vote the vestry is to review the supporting materials in A049. The Vestry and clergy are also to review "Section VII' of the 2004 Report of the Diocese on Human Sexuality... A two-thirds (2/3) affirmative majority vote of the vestry is required if same sex blessings are to be offered within a parish church."
"Supporting Materials in A049" From the General Convention 2012 "Blue Book"
I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing: Resources for Blessing Same Sex Relationships
The Church's Canon Law and Laws of the States
The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant
"Section VII" of the 2004 Report begins on page 7 of the Bishop's response
In his letter to the Diocese the Bishop says,
"Once again, I am aware that this decision will be seen as going too far by some, and not far enough by others. As your bishop, I believe it offers a way forward that is consistent with our teaching regarding the place of marriage and offers support and prayer for all marriages in the context of Christian Community."
Recognizing that these deeply held differences of opinion exist within the diocese and within individual parishes the Bishop has required us to spend time as a community making sure that we are honoring our diversity as we work through this process:
"Any congregation that offers same-sex marriage blessings must also engage the congregational study set forth by resolution A049 and outline in writing to the bishop how it will make generous space for those who disagree with the rector and Vestry's decision, and provide for pastoral care of these persons."
The congregational Study Guide
At Saint Andrew's we will work through the congregational study guide at the Sunday Forum. We will also offer those same conversations on four Wednesday: October 1, 8, 22 and November 12. Please refer to the study materials listed on the Exploring Your Faith page of this web site.
I am confident that we will all approach this moment with prayer, a generous spirit, and the willingness to listen that characterizes our life together in this place.
If you would like to speak with the clergy about the Bishop's decision and the process we are about to engage please feel free to email Father Andy or Mother Dorota. You should also feel free to contact any member of the Vestry. Our leadership Roster is here. You may email the office or call (608) 233-3249 for a directory that will include Vestry emails.
Here are additional links to:
Bishop Miller's Position Paper: Yes to Bless, or Same-Sex Marriage for All? describing his misgivings about the provisional rite for blessing same sex relationships
Bishop Miller's Bishop's Letter on Resolution A049 and Same-Gender Blessings, dated June 7,2013
The Right Reverend Dorsey W.M. McConnell's Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of Pittsburgh
Here is a report to the Standing Committee detailing Saint Andrew's November 20, 2013 Conversation around same sex blessings.