Sunday, October 08, 2006

Episcopals Throw Up Hands

At first glance, it appears as though the Massachusetts Episcopal Diocese chickened out. According to the Globe, they want to stop marrying couples. This would avoid the heaving and rending of garments over same-sex marriage here.

However, cowardice is not the driving force for many. The church has kicked around 1) the separation of church and state, and 2) turning to the European model of government marriages and church blessings. On the way there, the local diocese's Bishop M. Thomas Shaw had already decreed that his priests can't perform same-sex weddings, but can bless the couple.

This is a pressing issue because the diocese's annual convention will be in three weeks. A motion to stop all weddings will be an agendum for October 28th session of about 800 voting clergy, delegates and laity at Trinity Church.

Historically (cruise the early posts in this blog), Massachusetts has always had a clean separation for marriage. Even as a colony and carried into our constitution and laws, the state performs marriages, keeps the records and says who is married and divorced. Clergy eventually got the same right as justices of the peace and other government officials to sign the state license, but the church marries no one legally here. It's a religious veneer, a crucial aspect to a solid minority, but not the basis of law.

A sponsor of the resolution hones in on the church/state issue. The vote "is for us in the Episcopal Church, but I think it will have ramifications for our brethren in other denominations, by raising issues about our acting as agents of the state," said Rev. Robert (Skip) G. Windsor.

That could be quite a slap at local Roman Catholic and evangelical clergy and functionaries. They like to mingle religious ritual with the government's interest in controlling who can wed, who is wed, who is divorced, and all the related inheritance, tax and other state concerns.

So, bless the Episcopal clergy here if in fact they would like to let the particulates settle from this marriage roil. The current amendment drive to strip state-authorized marriage rights from homosexuals is just such muck in the water of our daily lives.

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Ryan said...

I don't know, I think this is certainly a dangerous precedent. I don't actually think its a terrible idea on face value, but it would give fodder to bigots across America so they can say "see, we told you gays were ruining the country!"

Never mind the fact that it's the church that's making this decision and not such fabulously gay people such as myself... but the average bigot just isn't able to grasp such deep concepts.

massmarrier said...

I've been blowing that civil contract v. religious ritual for so long, I have to snicker and applaud when even a local church group honks in too.

Many places, like Mexico, require the civil ceremony, and let you put any church marriage or blessing or other ritual you want. The priest, minister, rabbi or whatever are jimmies on the cone.

Anonymous said...

that's the way it's done in The Netherlands. You 'post your intentions' at the town hall, then 3 days later you can get a civil marriage. if you want something religious, that can only happen AFTER the civil to-do. clergy are not officients as they are here in the US.

I've actually heard many non-LGBT people suggest that we reform the system to something like what the Dutch do (and the episcopals are contemplating). i think lots of people would really welcome the change. it removes the fog of misunderstanding swirling around the meaning of marriage (as in, a civil contract - render unto Caesar, right Christians?!), and in no way negates the role of religion in blessing a civil marriage. i hope MA leads the way in this very important point of clarifying just what's what.