Interpreting “pastoral generosity”……mmmm?

Bishop releases statement interpreting “pastoral generosity”

Source: Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky


January 21, 2010

Questions recently have been raised regarding Bishop Ted Gulick’s interpretation of the 2009 General Convention’s resolution (C056) on “Liturgies for Blessings,” approved last summer by the House of Deputies and House of Bishops. The resolution asks The Episcopal Church leaders to gather and create “theological and liturgical resources” for same-gender blessings for future consideration by General Convention and, in the meantime, to allow bishops to permit their clergy “to provide generous pastoral response” to gay and lesbian Episcopalians who wish to affirm their partnerships, especially those residing in dioceses in which same-sex civil unions are legal. Last fall Bishop Gulick met with the diocese’s clergy to discuss how “pastoral generosity” should be practiced in the diocese.

Bishop Gulick provided the following statement offering his interpretation of “pastoral generosity,” informed to a large extent by his conversation with the clergy.

My Present Interpretation of Pastoral Generosity and Same-gender Blessings

In the early fall following our recent General Convention, I asked the clergy of our diocese to have a discussion with me around actions taken in the summer by the governing body of The Episcopal Church.

Specifically, I asked them to describe what “pastoral generosity” would look like for gay and lesbian Episcopalians who desire some form of liturgy around their partnerships, and I also asked them to reflect on what “pastoral generosity” would look like for those who have theological and pastoral issues with same-gender partnerships.

Our discussion was careful, in depth, honest and reflected the full breadth of opinion that would be found in our church around this issue. In short, there was no strong movement to move beyond the present pastoral practice that has been the policy of our diocese for at least seven years.

Simply stated, it is the pastoral practice of our diocese to welcome into our life all persons without regard to sexual orientation. We are profoundly grateful for the generous service of gay and lesbian lay members and clergy, who contribute to and enhance our common life.

Following the General Convention’s resolution, the clergy are obligated to offer pastoral care and support to individual gay and lesbian parishioners and to offer care and support that nurtures their covenant partnerships.

We trust each other to minister faithfully to all of our people, including gay and lesbian parishioners, and this ministry may include private services that honor the integrity, covenant realities and commitments of same-gender partnerships.

If the conscience of the ordained minister allows, private liturgies of blessing and support and public services of the Eucharist in thanksgiving for the covenanted, lifelong, monogamous realities of these committed relationships can be held in the churches of our diocese.

It was not the consensus of our meeting that we were of sufficient clarity to have public blessings at this time. Some of the reasons for this would be that there are no official liturgies approved for such blessings, that the civil authority of the Commonwealth does not recognize same-gender marriage, that there has been a call within the Anglican Communion for restraint on such liturgies, and that there remain many loyal Episcopalians who are not ready to welcome such rites as a normative part of Episcopal Church life.

Since a guiding principle of Episcopal church life has been the phrase “lex orandi lex credendi” (the law of praying is the law of believing or “as we pray so we believe”), it would seem to many of us that until the “we” on this issue becomes very large it is dangerous to place such rites “front and center” in our liturgical life, since our liturgical life is our bottom line of theological belief. In other words, the altars of our church are to be “issue free zones.” By refraining from such blessings at this time, it is important to notice the issue that the lack of blessings raises for many among us.

As bishop I would point out that we are in a process of discernment and that we must be very careful with each other. Proceeding in this careful way will maintain the highest degree of communion while the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth.

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