As is required by the Diocese of Milwaukee, STOC is holding a series of informational and educational discussions before the Vestry votes, as mandated, whether or not to allow Same Sex Marriages to be held at STOC. The first discussion forum was held on January 24th. An overview of the subject material was covered, and it was then determined that we would like to go through each section in separate discussion forums, as laid out in the study material authorized by General Convention for that purpose. The general concerns expressed in the first week were that it seems to some people that this decision is coming out of nowhere, or very quickly. Father Mark pointed out General Convention has been making resolutions about the subject since 1976. Concerns were also expressed that the Episcopal Church seems rudderless, and that the decision making seems to come without the Holy Spirit or any scriptural studies. A short explanation was given of the governing bodies of the Episcopal Church in the US, where the Presiding Bishop governs, as well as the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, similar to the US government’s system of President, Senate, and House of Representatives. The Norms for the discussions were also laid out.
- Speak for only yourself
- Take Responsibility for everything you say and your feelings.
- Respect the Dignity of All Human Beings, as vowed in the Baptismal Covenant
- Acknowledge Common Ground
- Honor Confidentiality of anything said in the space, unless otherwise given permission to talk about it outside of the discussions
- Practice Sacred Listening- listen for God in the experiences of others, that they are valid for those speakers, and avoid interruptions, arguments, or applause.
- Allow everyone to speak before speaking again
The session on the History of same sex marriage discussions was held on February 7th.
Father Mark distributed handouts, to walk us through what was going on in our own lives, society, and the church in every decade from the 1970’s to the present. We reflected on the changing focus of ourselves as well as society and the church. We then walked through some of the Resolutions that were passed by General Convention before allowing for Same Sex Marriage in 2015.
1976 The Convention affirmed that homosexuals are Children of God, and equal in all things.
1985 The Convention urged parishes to find better understanding of Homosexual persons, and find ways to minister and provide Pastoral Care to them.
1994 The General Convention put a stop to churches who were breaking Church Canons by blessing Same Sex marriages. It also set aside funds toward study of Same Sex Marriage and develiping a liturgy for it.
1997 Affirmed a marriage is between one man and one woman, while mandating further study of homosexual relationships.
2000 Nothing was resolved, but the Convention said many monogamous homosexual relationships met the definition of a Holy Relationship, and the convention denounced all forms of abuse in all marriages and relationships.
2003 After the election of Gene Robinson to be Bishop in New Hampshire the first openly Gay person elected as Bishop, there were 9 separate resolutions about Same Sex Marriage. Like has happened in the present day, the Primates of the Anglican Communion excluded the U.S. church from taking part in some committees and bodies, in response.
We discussed that the problem is that many Episcopalians never knew any of these discussions were going on before 2003, and that Rectors were reluctant to inform their parishes, for fear of reprisal for bringing up such a contentious topic, or causing strife within the congregation.
The next session will be after the 10am service on Feb 14th, and will cover what Theology and Scripture say about homosexuality and same sex marriages. Further forums will be held on Feb 28th, Mar 6th, and Mar 13th.