Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rules Are For Other Dioceses

A letter has been set forth from the bishops of New York authorizing their clergy to conduct same-sex marriages beginning September first. OK, so what has changed to permit this? Nothing whatsoever, unless you want to count the change in New York state law which took effect over a year ago. General Convention didn't authorize use of the "provisional" blessings rite until Advent, and did nothing to change the church's theology on marriage at all.

But that's the pattern of progressive Christianity, isn't it? Rules are not for them; they're for the troglodytes who refuse to get with the program. Bishops Sisk and Dietsche aren't going to face any serious discipline for stepping way outside the canons; indeed, I suspect they will be lauded for their courage in doing so. If anyone bothers to bring this as far as a presentment,I predict that the matter will be placed outside domain of "core doctrine" and dismissed. But I don't see a presentment in the offing, really.

One wonders why we even bother with GC any more, except that I know the reason: we have to pass all those self-affirming resolutions about political issues over which we have no influence. So when a diocese authorizes communing the unbaptized (as opposed to merely ignoring the abuses rife in the church) it will be lauded by the "cool kid" progressives, but in spite of the recent rejection at GC, nobody will ever be disciplined for inviting pagans and atheists up to share in the Body and Blood.

Such is the state of order in this church.


Bryan Owen said...

Sad and pathetic.

Jon in the Nati said...

Rules have always largely been made to be broken. The problem is that TEC is a church that celebrates rulebreaking for its own sake, often with a flaccid reference to the 'rules' that Jesus broke ("Well Jesus ate with sinners," and such like).

A diocese that wants same sex blessings on its own terms can have it, because it knows there will be no consequences; in fact, it will be lauded. A parish that wants to commune the unbaptised (one of the poorest pastoral 'strategies' I have ever heard of) is equally free to do so, because even though the matter was technically rejected, it was made clear that there will be virtually no consequences of any kind.

Rules without consequences or means of enforcement are as good as no rules at all; and this, in an environment that celebrates rulebreaking, is a very dangerous thing.

B. Varnum said...

Actually, the last General Convention (2009) resolved (CO56) that bishops, "particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church [...]."

The letter (which, fwiw, I read after writing the above comment) includes that as the justification for allowing the rites, and cites the floor debate in 2012 -- and the lack of attempt to amend away from that discussed understanding -- as a reason for even greater clarity that this is what was intended to have been covered in 2009, and not dissented from by amendment or legislative action in 2012.

So the bishops would seem to be within canonical bounds by means of the "generous pastoral response" clause for allowing the use of the rite "early." On a pragmatic level, this seems very much in line with the step that the church actually DID take in 2012, which I would describe by saying, "When bishops DO exercise that generous pastoral response, they shall have common prayer to use in so doing."

As someone who's been discussing religion so long on the internet, Mr. Wingate, I would hope that you would offer a generosity of interpretation to the actions and intentions of those who may not speak or practice precisely as you do. You certainly have the historical knowledge to understand this letter in a fuller context than as a casual dismissal of tradition or the consciences of others.

C. Wingate said...

What you seem to be saying, then, was that the "do not use until Advent" clause was empty when it was written. Well, maybe so. But then, isn't that just writing out the principle that rules are for other people?

"Generous pastoral response" basically means exactly what I'm complaining about here: if you're a liberal, you can say those magic words, and you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as it isn't actually illegal. So what's the point of having rules, then? Is it that much of an imposition on people to have them wait a few more months? Is the competition for a December wedding that heated?