Bumped from Feb 2009, please see #36 below (and DFTT).
And no, I don’t know what happened to the comment numbering. [a victim of one of the software upgrades, unfortunately - David]
By Ephraim Radner
February 1, 2008
I remain at a loss as to why this is being proposed NOW, and being made public NOW, just as the Primates meet. I am grateful for the openness and desire for discussion around the concrete proposals (unlike some dioceses with which I am familiar). And in the spirit of such discussion, I included the following in a letter I sent yesterday to two of the Toronto bishops.
It is hard to escape the fact that the process you have now set in motion-one that involves public proposals, discussions, synodical actions, and all dealing with a way of ordering a particular “pastoral response” that involves episcopal oversight and particular permissions, following directives that involve the nature of prayers – cannot avoid being seen as one of ecclesial “authorization” of liturgical matters surrounding same-sex unions. The following words of the Archbishop of Canterbury were given at the end of the recent Lambeth Conference:
One of the problems around this is that people in different parts of the world clearly define ‘public’ and ‘rites’ and ‘blessing’ in rather different ways. I’d refer I think to what I said in the address this afternoon. As soon as there is a liturgical form it gives the impression: this has the Church’s stamp on it. As soon as that happens I think you’ve moved to another level of apparent commitment, and that I think is nowhere near where the Anglican Communion generally is. In the meeting of Primates at Gramado in Brazil some years ago, the phrase ‘A variety of pastoral response’ was used as an attempt to recognise that there were places where private prayers were said and, although there’s a lot of unease about that, there wasn’t quite the same strength of feeling about that as about public liturgies. But again ‘pastoral response’ has been interpreted very differently and there are those in the USA who would say: ‘Well, pastoral response means rites of blessing’, and I’m not very happy about that. (Final Press Conference, August 3, 2008)
I would underline two things in this response by Archbishop Williams. First, the key character of putting the “Church’s stamp” on same-sex unions somehow, simply by there being a publically permitted or authorized form of prayer (“liturgical form” – which is a deliberately vague phrase), is crucial. Second, the fact that “pastoral response” was always understood among the Primates at least – and even here with a great deal of trepidation – as involving no more than “private prayers”. Although you and your colleagues may feel that you are proposing something that would fall within this realm of only informal acknowledgments of private prayer, the very process you are following will make this very difficult to sustain in the judgments of many others around the Communion. The fact is that, among other things, your proposal includes the following:
* Episcopal permission be given to a limited number of parishes, based on Episcopal discernment, to offer prayers and blessing (but not the nuptial blessing) to same-sex couples in stable, long-term, committed relationships, as an extension of the current pastoral norms. * Episcopal guidelines on the nature of the prayers/blessing will be established. A particular rite will not be authorized. * Episcopal permission for blessings will be required. * Evaluation of this pastoral response will be undertaken after one year. * No parish or clergy will be required to participate. * A Bishop’s Commission will be formed to create the guidelines, monitor activity and review.
All of this represents formal, episcopal, diocesan, public, liturgical prayers of blessing. And while it is true that the Archbishop’s remarks above do not carry any kind of formal authority in determining how the Church of Canada and her bishops will define “pastoral response”, I think it fair to say that his rather moderate definitions will be shared by, and even defined more strictly by, many others among our Communion partners. I believe, in short, that it will be very difficult indeed to make the case and persuade others of the fact that the Diocese of Toronto is not moving forward with a contravention of the informal moratorium articulated at Lambeth (and before), not to mention moving in a way that simply does not defer to the general concerns of many Anglicans around the world.