On Feb 28th, we continued our forums on Same Sex Marriage with a discussion about the changes to the Liturgy.
The change to the Liturgy for the Blessing of a Marriage isn’t about “gay marriage” but about a marriage that honors what it is meant to be. “Man and “Woman” hasn’t always been specified in the service. The original 1662 version had them, along with spelling out Paul’s reasons for marriage, but the 1789 Book of Common Prayer- the first printed for use in the United States, removed it. Later versions added man and woman back in. The Liturgy itself, not just for marriage, has a history of being changed.
The proposed changes to the Liturgy that would allow same sex marriage takes out “man and woman” and replaces it with “These two people”
Marriage wasn’t even considered a Sacrament until the 12th Century, and only the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Churches still consider it thus. Other denominations consider it “sacramental”- blessed by Jesus- but not a “Sacrament”- something Jesus himself did.
The main concern about the changes that were brought up was the removal of the word “Matrimony” and now the people involved are promising a “Lifelong Covenant” Along with most changes in the wording, this seems to primarily be a change to the way that words are used now- more common speech- such as syntax was changed between the 1928 BCP and the 1979 BCP, where now the 1979 version seems as dated and formal to modern ears as the 1928 version did in 1979. A new prayer book is in the works, and the proposed language of this liturgy is just a part if the overall changes that will fit in to the new prayer book.
There was a discussion about how Canon and the prayer book allow for different versions of the services, as long as they follow some basic rules, that are spelled out in the prayer book. It was also pointed out that all previous versions of the prayer books are still valid and able to be used, although Fr. Mark believes you need permission from the Bishop to do so.
The only other concern expressed was that the handout below states that any new liturgy needs to maintain the metaphors in the 1979 Prayer Book, and many of the metaphors have been removed.
Handout F -Principles for Evaluating Liturgical Materials
Materials proposed for blessing same sex relationships must above all be consistent with the implicit theology and ecclesiology of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. This would suggest, for example, that they must reflect the Prayer Book’s underlying assumption that the entire life of the Church finds its origin in baptism. Nearly as important is that the proposed liturgical materials embody a classically Anglican liturgical ethos and style. Recognizing the varying notions of what makes public prayer recognizably Anglican, the task group identified these qualities:
•It resonates with Scripture and proclaims the gospel.
•It is rooted in Anglican theological tradition.
•It has high literary value; it is beautiful according to accepted and respected standards.
•It uses the recurring structures, linguistic patterns, and metaphors of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
•It is formal, not casual, conversational, or colloquial.
•It is dense enough to bear the weight of the sacred purpose for which it is intended.
•It is metaphoric without being obtuse.
•It is performative: that is, it effects what it says.
At the same time, these rites must resonate as natural speech in contemporary ears. A religious or sacred tone must be achieved without the use of arcane or antiquated words or patterns of speech.
The rites should provide explanatory notes and rubrics. The material must be considered as the script for an event, not merely a collection of texts.
Any rite of blessing must be an expression primarily of the entire Church, not of the couple seeking a blessing. These rites must allow for robust communal participation, reflecting the baptismal ecclesiology of the Prayer Book. Related to this, since the eucharist is the symbol of the unity of the Church through unity with Christ, these services of blessing should normatively take place within a celebration of the eucharist.
Such rites must enact the notion of sacramental reciprocity by suggesting that, even as the Church blesses the relationship of the couple, the relationship of the couple is a blessing to the Church.
Options for various elements of the rites, particularly Scripture and the Prayers of the People, must be provided so that this action of the entire Church — this common prayer — does not degenerate into a generic rite.
Any rite of blessing a couple must hold up the two people making the covenant as the primary ministers within this action of God and of the entire Church. Such rites should give expression to the Church’s understanding that the couple is freely assuming a vocation that can be expected to yield the fruits of mutual fidelity for the couple, for the Church, and for the entire world, and that points ultimately toward the fulfillment of all human relationships and unity in the eschatological Reign of God, when G od will be all-in-all.
The rites must be what they purport to be—liturgical prayer— not didactic or polemical statements in the guise of liturgy.
The next forum will be on March 6th, and covers the change to Canon (law)