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November 16, 2012


Diocese of Georgia Authorizes Same Sex Blessings

Udpate:  Pastoral letter with appendixes from website

Received via email

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia

Concerning the Blessing of Same Sex Couples in this Diocese

Dear Friends in Christ,

Since the decision by our Church to offer a provisional rite for a Blessing of Same Sex couples this last July at our General Convention, I have been praying to God and listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I have also been listening to the voices of clergy and lay leaders around the Diocese of Georgia. The Holy Spirit also speaks through each of them. All this has been a healthy, holy experience for me. You have assured me of your prayers and you have convinced me that whatever divides us pales in comparison to that which unites us: our calling together as disciples of Jesus to proclaim and live out his Gospel of love, mercy, and redemption.

I want to first remind us all of some recent history. Earlier this year, anticipating General Convention, I wrote the Diocese explaining the challenges before us, as I understood them. I stated clearly that during the search process for the 10th Bishop of Georgia, I articulated my support for the Church establishing a Blessing Rite for same sex couples. That support remains and has not wavered. I stated after my consecration, however, that no Blessing Rite would be used in the Diocese of Georgia until the Church took formal action to authorize such a rite. My interpretation of past General Convention actions, prior to 2012, led me to conclude that such specific authorization had never truly occurred.

I also pointed out that my understanding of Holy Matrimony is that it can only be between a man and woman, regardless of what secular governments understand it to be. Secular understandings of marriage should not shape how the Church understands Holy Matrimony. Of course, we know that the culture does shape our thoughts, at least to some extent. It is nearly impossible to hermetically seal the Church off from cultural influences. Nevertheless, I must make decisions as free of cultural influences as possible and rather focus all discernment through the lens of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and his grace bestowed in the New Covenant. Thus, in my judgment, any Blessing Rite that is authorized in the Diocese of Georgia had to be plainly distinguished from Holy Matrimony in order to receive my approval.

The Rite approved by General Convention in July of this year failed, in my judgment, to plainly distinguish between Holy Matrimony and a Blessing. The enabling resolution for the Rite that was passed, however, provided Diocesan Bishops with the ability to “adapt” the Rite for use in their respective dioceses. I had hoped the language would have authorized something more expansive than “adaption,” but that did not happen. So, we must work within the structures of what the Church has decided. None of this is perfect. We all look “through a glass darkly,” as St Paul reminds us. I am unconcerned by what is politically, socially, or culturally expedient, or what will be the majority opinion. I am concerned with doing what is right in the eyes of God.

I have discerned that we in the Diocese of Georgia will offer a Rite of Blessing for our homosexual sisters and brothers using the adapted rite found in Appendix 1. This will be the only Rite authorized in the Diocese of Georgia. In Appendix 2, you will find criteria for how the Rite may be offered in the Diocese of Georgia. These criteria are not suggestions. They are expected provisions and guidelines required of clergy and lay leaders who discern within their congregation that they should offer the Rite.

It should go without saying, but I will say it here because uniformed people often create needless alarm. No congregation or priest is required to offer such a rite. The criteria in Appendix 2 requires formal discernment between the parochial priest in charge and the vestry before it may be offered in the congregation and that discernment must be first initiated by the parochial priest. That means I will not allow non-parochial priests (or any deacon) to preside at such a Blessing Rite disconnected from a pastoral cure in a congregation. They may, however, assist the Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-Charge of the Congregation at the Rite.

Doubtless some may conclude from the requirements in Appendix 2 that I am requiring an unfairly high threshold of mutual consent that is not required of other rites of the Church. I certainly understand how some may reach such a conclusion and I am not unsympathetic to the claim. For some my decision will go too far. For others my decision will not go far enough. I understand. Nevertheless, as your Bishop I must lead us through this in the best way I can given the constraints present and the diversity of positions we respectively hold in the Diocese of Georgia.

My fervent hope, as we go forward together, is that we not stoop down to the secular political practice of creating winners and losers. Lord, we have enough of that. My hope and expectation is that we will continue as we have in this Diocese to love and respect one another even when we cannot always agree. I ask each of us to reach out to someone who we know disagrees with us on this, declare to them our unity in Christ, and our promise of love and support in the common bonds of the Gospel of Jesus. This will not negate whatever differences we have, but it will be a clear witness that we do not give only lip service to the unity of our faith, but that we practice amongst ourselves the reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ.

The Rt. Rev. Scott A. Benhase


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28 comments

I would respectfully invite the Bishop of Georgia to answer the following doctrinal questions in his capacity as a Bishop in the Church, and Bishop of the sovereign Diocese of Georgia, providing references to Holy Scripture, to the extent that he can do so.

1. Please provide a doctrinal definition of sex, giving examples of what is sex, and what is not sex.

2. Please provide doctrinal guidance as to whether sex between men (as doctrinally defined in #1) is sinful.

3. Please provide doctrinal guidance as to whether sex between women (as doctrinally defined in #1) is sinful.

4. Please provide doctrinal guidance as to whether sex outside of Christian Marriage (as defined by the Book of Common Prayer) is sinful.

5. Please provide doctrinal guidance as to whether bisexual practice is sinful. In other words, in a male-female Christian marriage, is it sinful for either party to engage in extramarital sex with a same-sex partner?

6. Please provide doctrinal guidance on matters of fidelity for same-sex couples. In other words, in a same-sex relationship, is it sinful for either party to engage in sex with other persons?

7. Please provide doctrinal guidance as to whether the Diocese of Georgia will recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that now permit this.

8. Please provide doctrinal guidance on how self-avowed, practicing, and unrepentant homosexuals might “please God in body and soul.”

9. Please define exactly what the officiant is asking God to bless, in this “Rite of Blessing for Same-Sex Couples Diocese of Georgia.”

[1] Posted by Ralph on 11-16-2012 at 10:19 AM · [top]

Two more questions to ask: Does the Holy Spirit to whom the bishop listens for guidance inspire people to adopt practices that run contrary to the word He inspired?  And how do you know, Bishop Benhase, that it is really the Holy Spirit you are listening to and not just the spirit-of-the-age or even something worse?

[2] Posted by Ross Gill on 11-16-2012 at 10:47 AM · [top]

He appears to be doing whatever is right in his own eyes, with the religious words being meaningless window dressing. 

Yet whatever tool it is that enables Bp Benhase to reach this outcome, is a tool that can simply be turned against any other part of scripture or Christian teaching, with a similar effect.  Select the uncomfortable passage(s) and then excise until comfort is achieved.  Anything goes for those not bound to the legalism au currant.

Of course, those who are driven a bit further will either reject Christianity altogether - because of his poor witness - or seek a more orthodox body.

rolleyes

[3] Posted by tired on 11-16-2012 at 11:20 AM · [top]

[3] Sorry for the typo - au “courant” - maintaining a skill in french spelling does not appear to be my raisin d’etre.

wink

[4] Posted by tired on 11-16-2012 at 11:29 AM · [top]

I don’t see the referenced appendices, but I suspect this may be the model for a certain neighboring diocese to take.

[5] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 11-16-2012 at 11:50 AM · [top]

Not sure what “spirit” the bish is listening to, but it isn’t the Holy Spirit - in fact, what he is saying is nothing less than blasphamy! 

How do I know this?  Because the Holy Spirit will NOT be out of sync with God’s Holy Scripture.  And what does God’s Holy Scripture say about the matter?  Well, actually, lots…

1. Gen 1 & 2 - we see from the beginning that the complementarily of the sexes reflects God’s inner unity and His creative power and Fatherhood. God created man and woman to become one flesh which is consummated in the act of marital love.

2. Gen 2:18 – throughout the creation story, God says “it is good” seven times. But when God pointed out that man was alone, God says “it is not good.” God then created woman. Man and woman therefore belong together by God’s design, according to His natural and supernatural law.

2. Gen 2:24 – God created man and woman so that they could share communion. This communion is consummated in the marital act (which must be between a man and a woman). This communion is also a reflection of the eternal communion of the Blessed Trinity, who created man in His own image and likeness.

3. Gen 19:24-28 - the Lord rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah as punishment for the sin of homosexuality. Homosexuality perverts God’s covenant with humanity.

4. Gen 13:13; 18:20 - while homosexuals argue that the sin in Genesis 19 was the sin of in-hospitality, these verses show that the Sodomites were evil and wicked people before the alleged sin of in-hospitality. That is because the Sodomites were guilty of homosexuality, not in-hospitality. In fact, 2 Pet 2:6:8 says that Lot witnessed their evil sexual practices “day after day.” The Sodomites’ sin was daily and pervasive.

5. Gen 19:5 - this confirms that the Sodomites’ sin is homosexuality. Here, the Sodomites mistaken the two angels for men and, surrounding Lot’s house, ask to have sex with them. When the yell to Lot “bring them out that we may know them,” the Hebrew for “to know” (yadah) in Gen 19:5 means having sexual relations. See, for example, Gen 4:25 where “yadah” refers to sexual relations between Adam and Eve.

6. 2 Pet 2:6-10 - Peter also proves that the Sodomites were guilty of homosexuality. He says God condemned them for “licentiousness” and “lust of defiling passion,” which is where we get the title “Sodomite” for a homosexual. The Greek “aselgeia anastrophes” for lustful behavior is also found in Rom 13:13; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19 and Jude 4.

7. Jude 7 - Jude also confirms the Sodomites’ sin is homosexuality. Jude says they “indulged in unnatural lust” (Greek, ekporneusasai) and went after “strange flesh” (Greek, sarkos heteras) in reference to their homosexual sins.

8. 2 Peter 2:4-6 - Peter also reveals that the Sodomites are suffering in hell for their sins by comparing the Sodomites’ punishment to the eternal punishment of the evil angels. Just as God did not spare the angels when they sinned but cast them into hell, so He did the same with the Sodomites when He “condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly.”

9. Jude 5-7 - Like Peter, Jude confirms that the Sodomites are in hell by saying that they had the same fate as the evil angels. Jude says just as the evil angels were condemned to hell, the Sodomites “likewise” (Greek, hos) acted immorally and are undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. “Undergoing” (Greek, upechousai) is a present participle which means their suffering is ongoing. See also the clear polarity between those who are saved (v.5) and those who are condemned (vv. 6-7,11,13).

10. Lev 18:22, 29 - God commands a man never to lie with a male as with a female, or he will be cut off. This refers to supernatural death which is eternal separation from God. While the Old Covenant laws have been abrogated by the New Covenant, the Church has adopted their moral principles. Thus, the moral prohibitions on homosexuality still apply in the New Covenant, as Peter, Paul and Jude demonstrate.

11. Lev 20:13 - God says that if a man lies with another man, he shall be put to death. From the very beginning, God has revealed that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, unhealthy, and mortally sinful.

12. Deut 22:5 - cross-dressing is also considered an abomination before God.

13. Matt 19:6 - after referring to God’s divine plan for man and woman, Jesus says a husband and wife become one flesh, which ultimately reflects God’s union with humanity through the Church. Homosexual unions pervert this divine truth of God’s love for and union with the human race.

14. Rom 1:26 - also, when a woman lies with another women (lesbianism), this is unnatural and a perversion. God wants His children to be pure and holy as He is holy. Paul condemns all homosexual acts, whether committed by men or women.

15. Rom 1:27 – Paul calls the practice of homosexuality shameless, unnatural and a perversity. It is contrary to the natural law, as it eviscerates the life-giving aspect of human sexuality and reduces it to a selfish, pleasure-seeking end.

16. 1 Cor 6:9 - Paul teaches that sodomites will not enter into the kingdom of God. The Greek word for “sodomite” (arsenokoites) literally means “male copulation” or “male sexual relations.” The Greek “arsen” means “male” and “koites” means “coitus” or “sexual relations.” Paul uses the same word in 1 Tim 1:10.

17. 1 Tim. 1:10 - sodomites are called ungodly and sinners, unholy and profane, lawless and disobedient. They are called by God to chastity. It is important to note that homosexual attractions and inclinations, while disordered and dangerous, are not by themselves an act of sin. It is the acting out on homosexual attraction that is sinful. Those with homosexual desires can still live a life worthy of Christ by remaining chaste and pure as they abstain from acting out on their desires.

‘nuff said…by GOD…but apparently our friend in Georgia aren’t listening…well, not to GOD or the HOLY SPIRIT anyways.  Very sad, as they are leading others to sin and death.

[6] Posted by B. Hunter on 11-16-2012 at 12:25 PM · [top]

Tired,
We all have had our correct spellings made incorrect by these “auto correct” mechanisms that don’t know other languages.  That is my assumption and I am sticking to it.  smile

[7] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-16-2012 at 12:26 PM · [top]

“So, we must work within the structures of what the Church has decided.”

(Insert loud snorting sound here) “Bishop,” you didn’t just right that—tell me you didn’t! You’re killing me!

[8] Posted by polycarp on 11-16-2012 at 12:42 PM · [top]

Check out the reaction at Jim Naughton’s fine establishment.  They are NOT happy campers over there.

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/bishops/bishop_of_georgia_authorizes_a.html

[9] Posted by Christopher Johnson on 11-16-2012 at 12:45 PM · [top]

“I have been praying to God and listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

You see, that says all that it is necessary to say. Just say those magic words and you can make up any theology you want and call it Christianity. Anyone who contradicts you is blaspheming the Holy Spirit and calls upon themselves the condemnation of Mt 12:31.[/s]


Why is there no theological review board to call this kind of boilerplate garbage out for what it is?

[10] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 11-16-2012 at 01:25 PM · [top]

This kind of pious crap has got to stop. It is a way of trying to give an imprimatur of divine inspiration and infallibility to what you say.

But as Protestants the way to measure someone’s words is to compare them to what Scripture says. This kind of sleazy cheat should not be tolerated. Yet people still fall for it, it is still tolerated, else people like this would not do it.

[11] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 11-16-2012 at 01:29 PM · [top]

This is exactly the position he took when being considered for election. It says more about what has happened to DGA than it does about himself.

[12] Posted by Pb on 11-16-2012 at 02:03 PM · [top]

[9]  Christopher Johnson,

The next AoC needs to read those comments before he gets any fancy ideas about “dialog.”

[13] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 11-16-2012 at 03:20 PM · [top]

Thanks, #9. It would seem that both Susan Russell and Gene Robinson are whining. Oh, and also Elizabeth Kaeton.

I got a huge kick out of SR writing, “Let’s do Bible” followed by her ignorant misuse of Holy Scripture in an attempt to make a point.

Would that this bishop have had the courage to say, no SSBs at all. Period.

And, it’s coming just at the right time - fall stewardship campaigns. Nice.

[14] Posted by Ralph on 11-16-2012 at 03:42 PM · [top]

THIS undoubtedly calls for a PB intervention at the behest of the gayphorics!  Somebody complain about this bishop right away!  Maybe that way the TEO can save money, what with DIOSC and DioGA so close and all!

[15] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 11-16-2012 at 03:55 PM · [top]

And an ongoing $24.25 million capital campaign going on.  That sound you are not hearing is the money staying in people’s checkbooks and not going into his golden coffers.  BTW, the diocesan financials aren’t looking too good after Q3 either.  See the website for more details.

[16] Posted by Cranmerian on 11-16-2012 at 04:27 PM · [top]

Christopher Johnson and all,
WOW! What crybabies they are! They *ask* for a blessing of a same sex union and then they are disappointed when that is *exactly* what they get. Also….. Have they never been to an Episcopal wedding??????  it is a short ceremony buried in the middle of an eucharist- duh! The blessing of the couple does not take long. What were they really expecting? That the church would just roll over and say sure, we will just change a few pronouns and everything will be hunky dorey??? They wanted it and now they don’t like what they got. Too bad. soo sad.

[17] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-16-2012 at 04:56 PM · [top]

Also, I am sure the diocese of SC would be pleased to add to our numbers those who are not happy with direction of the diocese of GA. Now with the Dio GA offering such rites, priests here who are asked to perform such blessings can just send dem down to GA for this. Sounds like a deal to me.

[18] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-16-2012 at 04:59 PM · [top]

Those who live on the border from Augusta to Savannah would find it relatively easy to cross into the Diocese of SC for Sunday worship. It would be harder to be involved in the weekday activities of a parish, such as an evening Bible study or choir practice. Those who live inland, and south of Savannah will have to wait for ACNA or some other entity to come in and establish a presence, which is what happened when the Diocese of Atlanta went full tilt into heresy some years ago.

The Diocese of Georgia does have some conservative clergy who will disagree with a SSB ritual of any kind, even one that’s watered down so much that it’s less meaningful than a Blessing of the Animals. One wonders what provision Bishop Benhase will make for them. I wonder in particular about St. John Savannah, which is very conservative, and Christ Church Frederica.

The court decision in the matter of Christ Church Savannah makes it clear that even the colonial parishes cannot exit the diocese with their property. My guess is that the conservatives will band together in loyal opposition until they can develop a viable exit strategy.

The diocese is poor, as pointed out by #16. If it loses support from both the revisionists and the faithful, it will tank.

In the meantime, here’s a song for a sing-a-long:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6RUg-NkjY4

[19] Posted by Ralph on 11-16-2012 at 06:18 PM · [top]

What were they really expecting? That the church would just roll over and say sure, we will just change a few pronouns and everything will be hunky dorey???

Yes, SC blu, that IS exactly what they are thinking.  I loved the comment on Naughton’s site from that noxious gasbag from New Hampshire with a plug to follow him on Twitter.

I parse with them from time to time but I’m coming to see them as more unhinged from reality than progressive liberals.  Based on some recent comment exchanges over there - and I think you see it in the thread in question - they seem to believe that the Faith should change so as to fit into secular society.  They think that in the much-debated “Three-legged Stool” Reason is superior to Scripture.

The fun of the debate goes away and you just feel sorry for them.

[20] Posted by Nikolaus on 11-16-2012 at 06:46 PM · [top]

#17. SC Blu Cat Lady,
“WOW! What crybabies they are! They *ask* for a blessing of a same sex union and then they are disappointed when that is *exactly* what they get.” Crocodile tears. I have to go through more red tape to buy a hand gun in California.

[21] Posted by Fr. Dale on 11-16-2012 at 07:52 PM · [top]

Paint the cathedra and pews rainbow and put on some sparkly puff-painted kicks.  They might as well have a good old time on their ride to hell.

[22] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 11-17-2012 at 06:58 AM · [top]

I knew Benhase at Virginia Seminary.  He was a better man then.  I had hoped he would not have surrendered so much to the pressures the TEc puts on its clergy to go along to get along.

[23] Posted by AnglicanXn on 11-17-2012 at 07:25 AM · [top]

Hey Nikolaus,
Actually that we would just play along and say everything is hunky dorey is exactly what they want. No opposition to our *beloved *agenda, please!

I used to read those sites but my emotions just can’t stand it anymore. Can’t be any worse than reading certain-not-to-be-named blogs that are from South Carolina. As a friend advised us it was better to read such blogs in the AM rather than late PM as it can interfere with sleep!! Yep. learned that lesson…... sigh.

[24] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-17-2012 at 09:29 AM · [top]

Seems to me it is a bit dangerous to claim the guidance of the Holy Spirit to do things the Holy Spirit has never supported in the past.  Isn’t that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit!  Isn’t there a penalty for that?

[25] Posted by Frances S Scott on 11-17-2012 at 10:57 AM · [top]

Yes, Frances S Scott, very dangerous indeed! However when they are deluded by the Spirit of the Age, they don’t see that the Holy Spirit does not ever lead against scripture.

[26] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-17-2012 at 11:39 AM · [top]

A shame that he’s compelled to slander our brave men and women in uniform.

[27] Posted by paradoxymoron on 11-17-2012 at 12:55 PM · [top]

Rather gauche, coming so quickly on the heels of Veteran’s Day.

[28] Posted by paradoxymoron on 11-17-2012 at 12:58 PM · [top]

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