On Thursday, July 5th, the committee had open hearings on two resolutions. First, A085, designed to add the two marriage rites available to all couples to the Book of Common Prayer, and to require all bishops to make the rites available with “reasonable and convenient access.” Second, B012, designed to continue to allow access to the marriage rites under the official banner of “trial use” but also leave open the possibility for diocesan bishops to prohibit their use within their diocese while providing an alternative access point for same sex couples. Over the last triennium the vast majority of the church has been able to access these rites, but in the case of eight dioceses, bishops have prohibited their use.
In the hearings, trans Episcopalians brought unique perspectives to the table, highlighting the absurdly implicit focus on body parts that often pervades opposition to marriage equality. My own testimony revisited a point (and blog post) I made at the 2015 General Convention. I asked the committee to consider the contradiction embodied in my life. For the first 46 years of my life, the church happily would have allowed me access to marriage with a man, while denying me access to marriage with a woman. After becoming Iain the opposite could now hold true. Now that I have a receding hairline and beard, no one would be troubled if I marry a woman. When I contemplate my reality, I have to wonder what sacred truth is being upheld. It would seem what matters to the church is the visual and outward representation of heterosexuality. In this way, the church has made an idol of heterosexuality. To move forward, we need to realize – to truly realize— that marriage is not about body parts, but rather about the love between the couple.
The Reverend Gwen Fry, President-elect of Integrity, stood up and challenged the committee to act now:
“As a trans queer priest I know the importance of resolutions that make real and substantive change in the church in concrete ways. A085 does that. If the church is serious, really serious about full inclusion of all the children of God and full access to all the sacraments of the church, this resolution is the only one that will accomplish that. We have been waiting patiently for decades to have what every straight person has enjoyed and never had to think about because the sacrament has always been available. No one wants to take that away. We are simply asking for what the majority of the church already has.
Separate but equal is not equal and it is not inclusive. If we don’t make these revisions in the Book of Common Prayer when will we? The time is now.”
Julianne, an alternate deputy of Iowaand trans woman, offered a powerful witness, telling the committee that she is part of a 45 year marriage: half in an opposite sex marriage and half in a same sex marriage. She recommends both! She also asked the committee to not hold 20 plus years of her marriage as second class to the other 20 plus years.
As our words joined others in favor of adding marriage rites for all into the Book of Common Prayer, others rose in opposition. The committee deliberated. It ultimately put together a compromise version of B012. The Reverend Canon Susan Russell, who helped hammer out the compromise, describes it in this post. The result was that a changed version of B012 went to the House of Deputies. If passed, it will continue the use of marriage rites under the rubric of “trial use” until comprehensive revision to the Book of Common Prayer is complete.It also limits Episcopal oversight regarding marriages to its intended area, namely, marriage after a divorce.
With this turn of events, attention has turned more acutely to the larger question of Prayer Book revision, which we have written about in two previous blog posts this Convention (here and here).
At the end of the day yesterday, June 6th, the House of Deputies decided to extend its deliberation into today’s morning session. The Deputies made several amendments were made to A068, the resolution setting forth a plan for comprehensive Prayer Book revision. Yesterday comments about this resolution seemed evenly split in favor and against Prayer Book revision. It was not at all clear which way the House would go. But right around noon they finally took a vote. By a measure of almost two thirds, the House of Deputies voted in favor of A068 (read more about it here). Now the resolution heads to the House of Bishops. Liturgical marriage equality is very much tied into this vote which only adds to our keen interest in it. Stay tuned.
The Reverend Iain Stanford, Priest of the Diocese of Oregon & TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member