November 21, 2014

December 9, 2012


Bishop of Louisiana Issues Instructions for Diocese to Embrace the Culture

December 5, 2012

Grace and Peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

I write to you regarding the actions of the 2012 General Convention and particularly the action of A049, which commended for study and use “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant: Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships.” This resolution allows diocesan bishops the latitude to decide whether or not this liturgy will be offered in their diocese.

Many of you are aware that from the beginning I have openly supported the blessing of life-long, monogamous relationships between gay and lesbian couples. I am on record stating that if and when the General Convention allowed for such action, we would begin the conversation as to how the blessing would be carried out in this diocese. My friends, the time has come for such a conversation.

Over the past several months I have been in conversation with five priests from around the diocese who represent different points of views surrounding issues of sexuality. I am grateful for their frank but gracious exchange. They were instrumental in helping me articulate my own understanding. I have also had open conversations with our deacons and priests before General Convention and following. While the ordained have had opportunities to share with each other their own understanding, 1am well aware that many lay individuals may not have participated in such teachings. I urge the whole community to prayerfully and respectfully enter into such a dialogue.

At this time, congregations who are prepared may begin using the prescribed form for blessing same-sex relationships. What do I mean by being prepared?

I. I ask all Rectors and Priests-in-charge to lead their vestries and others who desire, in a conversation regarding the blessing rite and its implications for their congregation’s life.

2. Realizing it is the duty and responsibility of each Rector and Priest-in-charge for the carrying out of all liturgical acts, I ask that they share and teach with all gentle care and hospitality.

3. Upon an understanding between the Rector, Priest-in-charge and vestry, I ask that a statement be made to the local congregation regarding this action.

4. If this liturgy is to be a part of the local congregation, the prescribed liturgy, Liturgical Resources I: 1 will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, will be used. You can contact my office for the prescribed liturgy.

5. The couple who wishes to have a union blessed must be prepared in the same manner in which we prepare heterosexual couples for Holy Matrimony.

6. Only parishioners active in the life of that particular congregation will be allowed to have their union blessed. I do not wish to be known as the local “wedding or blessing chapel.”

We have attached the customary that gives direction for the couple, priest and congregation.  Like all new beginnings, what is presented is a work in progress. I’m sure there will be changes as we live more fully into this liturgy. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call my office.

As we enter this season of preparation, know that you remain in my prayers. I give thanks daily for your presence in this wonderful ministry we share. May God continue to hold us in the palm of His hand.

I am as always

Your servant in Christ,
The Rt. Rev’d Morris K. Thompson, D. D.
Bishop of Louisiana

The rules for what Mr. Thompson believes is a liturgy are found here

My question is are all individuals who have elected an alternate lifestyle required to participate in this “liturgy” in order to hold positions of leadership?  I ask this question because (unless it has changed) the diocese has a policy that does not allow heterosexual singles to live together outside of marriage and hold leadership positions. 


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25 comments

This bit leaps out:

“I. I ask all Rectors and Priests-in-charge to lead their vestries and others who desire, in a conversation regarding the blessing rite and its implications for their congregation’s life.”

I can understand why a rector should meet with his vestry to discuss whether or not to follow the bishop’s urgings that they use the same sex blessing liturgy.  But why are the rector and vestry also obliged to include in this conversation “others who desire”?

It does rather sound as though the bishop doesn’t trust his rectors and vestries to make the right decision and therefore wants to bring in others from outside the congregation to help them make the right decision!

[I should add, I am assuming that ‘vestry’ means all active communicant members of the parish, as it does in Australia.  Apologies if I am wrong about that]

[1] Posted by MichaelA on 12-9-2012 at 03:57 AM · [top]

How is the diocese of Louisiana going these days?

ACNA has four parishes mentioned on its web-site in this area, although I understand that newer church plants sometimes take a while to get on the web-site, but no idea if any are within the boundaries of Dio La.

[2] Posted by MichaelA on 12-9-2012 at 04:05 AM · [top]

MichaelA #1, The vestry in a TEc parish is an elected body. We have 12 members in our parish and each member serves a 3 year sentence.

The money quote to me was,

“I do not wish to be known as the local ‘wedding or blessing chapel.’”

Is he kidding? He thinks by restricting the blessings to active members he can avoid the problem E. Tenn. will face where only one participant has to be a member. In TEc in order to be active in a parish all you have to do is show up twice a year.

[3] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 12-9-2012 at 08:46 AM · [top]

Well, I can see he attended the GC “how to write newspeak to your congregations” seminar.  Note that what he says in the beginning, “I am on record stating that if and when the General Convention allowed for such action, we would begin the conversation…”
But note that “beginning the conversation” actually means “At this time, congregations who are prepared may begin using the prescribed form for blessing same-sex relationships.”

And, if you aren’t already prepared ... see 1, 2, and 3 above.

So, the conversation is not about WHETHER OR NOT to have gay blessings, but about the best way to go about it, and preparing your congregation for the fact that it is going to happen, in their parish, upon request, for a parishioner, or someone “active in the parish” (as Pewster points out in 3).

[4] Posted by tjmcmahon on 12-9-2012 at 09:28 AM · [top]

And another one bites the dust.

Maranatha!

[5] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 12-9-2012 at 10:01 AM · [top]

“The couple who wishes to have a union blessed must be prepared in the same manner in which we prepare heterosexual couples for Holy Matrimony.” That is because he really sees this as a marriage rite or a transitional rite that will eventually become a marriage rite. It is really incremental behavior modification.

TJ,
I agree. The word “conversation” is not really a a conversation at all. It really means “conversion”, helping those who are opposed, convert from that way of thinking to the bishop’s way of thinking.

[6] Posted by Fr. Dale on 12-9-2012 at 10:09 AM · [top]

6. Only parishioners active in the life of that particular congregation will be allowed to have their union blessed. I do not wish to be known as the local “wedding or blessing chapel.”

A policy that will last about ten minutes until:

(1) Some hard-up parish ignores it because they can get fees from renting out the chapel for weddings and blessings

(2) Some rector or vicar ignores it in the name of ‘radical inclusive hospitality’

(3) A very hurt letter to the local paper about how the son/daughter of a family which belonged for generations to this particular church wanted to affirm their relationship with the loving support of the congregation, but the mean ol’ bishop wouldn’t let them, all because their pookie wasn’t an active member/a Christian/baptised/an atheist

(4) First lawsuit from a gay/lesbian couple who were refused (the diocese will have even less of a leg to stand on than other similar cases, because if they’re already permitting same-sex blessings, then refusing the hire of the premises to this couple is blatant discrimination)

[7] Posted by Martha on 12-9-2012 at 01:11 PM · [top]

“The vestry in a TEc parish is an elected body. We have 12 members in our parish and each member serves a 3 year sentence.”

Nice turn of phrase, UP!  Okay, so that is what we would call the Parish Council.

It will be very interesting to see how this turns out - I wonder just how many clergy and pew-dwellers in Louisiana will be happy with this…

[8] Posted by MichaelA on 12-9-2012 at 04:27 PM · [top]

Well, as long as parishes get to decide for themselves, it’s okay, right?  I mean, they’ll only be drilling holes in their end of the rowboat, so everything will be just fine.

[9] Posted by Jeffersonian on 12-9-2012 at 08:11 PM · [top]

I now understand why they need to be members, and the blessing is given, even if their marriage is illegal in the state.

The word racket is used to describe a business (or syndicate) that is based on the example of the protection racket and indicates a belief that it is engaged in the sale of a solution to a problem that the institution itself creates or perpetuates, with the specific intent to engender continual patronage.

[10] Posted by Dr. N. on 12-9-2012 at 08:59 PM · [top]

Dr. N.,
Have you coined a new term? “word racket” If so you win the description of the week award. What better way to portray ‘newspeak’.

[11] Posted by Fr. Dale on 12-9-2012 at 10:11 PM · [top]

I thought Dr. N’s “engender perpetual patronage” was the phrase most appropriate to this thread.

[12] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 12-9-2012 at 10:15 PM · [top]

Ok, the bishop authorized a rather restrictive process but didn’t require the congregation to vote approving that particular liturgical act as part of their congregational life. Apart from that, the rest seems canonically correct. This seems somewhat canonically fundamentalist, perhaps, but at least he’s trying to do something positive, actually; though of course it’s Biblically forbidden.

[13] Posted by A Senior Priest on 12-9-2012 at 10:50 PM · [top]

UGP,
Both expressions are excellent.

[14] Posted by Fr. Dale on 12-9-2012 at 11:31 PM · [top]

“canonically fundamentalist” - perish the thought! smile

[15] Posted by MichaelA on 12-10-2012 at 03:23 AM · [top]

MichaelA - The Diocese of Louisiana has experienced a very gradual, consistent drop from about 6,000 to about 5,000 ASA since 2001. The drop does not appear to have affected their giving, with plate-and-pledge rising form about $9 million to $11 million during the same time period.

Recently I spoke with a parishioner in the diocese who observed a lot of turnover in the past few years—families departing and being replaced by gay couples, many of whom are former Roman Catholics. This is the “trains passing in the night” phenomenon.

I am told there is one ACNA plant in New Orleans—St. Stephen’s—which shares space with a Presbyterian church near Tulane.

[16] Posted by Jeff Walton on 12-10-2012 at 10:43 AM · [top]

No surprise here.  Thompson was Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, KY, under the reign of +Stacy Sauls, Schori’s Eichman.

[17] Posted by evan miller on 12-10-2012 at 10:53 AM · [top]

“Realizing it is the duty and responsibility of each Rector and Priest-in-charge for the carrying out of all liturgical acts, I ask that they share and teach with all gentle care and hospitality. ” I read this to say that carrying out these rites is not optional. Now that we have won, it is a time to be gentle and hospitable.

[18] Posted by Pb on 12-10-2012 at 11:10 AM · [top]

I would think this might be the tipping point in sending conservative evangelicals and Anglo Catholics to the ACNA — or the Ordinariate.

[19] Posted by windhamnola on 12-10-2012 at 12:39 PM · [top]

7.  Martha, you hit the nail right on the head!  I can just imagine the cries of woe and outrage from these folks claiming “discrimination” against their LGBT friends and offspring.  I thank God that no such “rites” will ever occur in our Diocese of San Joaquin.

[20] Posted by cennydd13 on 12-10-2012 at 01:44 PM · [top]

Hi Jeff Walton,

Many thanks, I am always interested to know what is happening “on the ground” with the Anglican groups in USA. 

According to ACNA’s web-site, it has four churches in Western Louisiana – St Paul’s REC and All Saints Anglican in Baton Rouge, St Alban’s Reformed Episcopal mission which meets in the Ethel Methodist Church, and St Stephens in New Orleans. 

But I often find that ACNA has new church plants that haven’t yet made it onto their web-site, so just wondering if there were any others down there.

Regards

[21] Posted by MichaelA on 12-10-2012 at 05:20 PM · [top]

Thank God for small favors. The process at least seems well thought out, especially item 6. I fear few other diocese and parishes will establish this sort of restriction. Many, especially in places like California, will relish the prospect of becoming the local gay wedding chapel.

All in all it seems like the most prudent way to go about doing a fundamentally foolish and ridiculous thing wink

[22] Posted by Ecclesiastes 1:18 on 12-11-2012 at 12:25 PM · [top]

In a past life,  I have served two diverse congregations in Louisiana,  one in the northeast corner the other in the southwest.  One would have ridden me out on a rail if I had even hinted at SSU or SSM.  The other would have made sure I had received counseling.

[23] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 12-11-2012 at 03:11 PM · [top]

“One would have ridden me out on a rail “

Fr. Chip-  When the bishop makes his next pastoral visit to that parish, could you let me know?  I’d like to get some video…

[24] Posted by tjmcmahon on 12-11-2012 at 04:30 PM · [top]

On one view, this bishop is passing the buck - trying to spread the blame for acceptance of same-sex blessings in his diocese.  Probably many will fall for this.

[25] Posted by MichaelA on 12-11-2012 at 04:41 PM · [top]

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