Hearing no objections

By Rebecca Wilson

A hearing yesterday afternoon was the first open forum of the 76th General Convention to examine an issue that dominated the 75th Convention—the church’s inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

The resolution under consideration today, B012, proposes that “pastoral generosity” in adapting the marriage rite be extended to bishops and clergy in states where civil same-sex marriage is legal. The legislation is proposed by Bishop Stephen Lane of the Diocese of Maine in collaboration with a group of other diocesan bishops from states where same-sex marriage is legal, or is about to be.

More than thirty people spoke to a packed hearing room, and not a single one spoke against the resolution. As the hearing concluded, one committee member was given the floor and spoke haltingly about some of the reasons people had given him for opposing moving forward with this limited trial of marriage equality. When the committee reconvened, two other members spoke tearfully of the pain that their indecision on the issue causes them. But there was no organized opposition and no clear message against full inclusion.

It’s not yet clear what to make of the silence from bishops and deputies who have traditionally opposed marriage equality or the blessing of same-sex relationships. The unanimously supportive testimony may be due to happenstance: The hearing came early in Convention—just after lunchtime on the first day—and may have passed too quickly for some deputies to react. And unlike resolutions on blessing of same-sex unions, which are before the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee, Resolution B012 is assigned to the Social and Urban Affairs Committee and may simply have escaped much notice.

Today the debate on sexuality will pick up pace when the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee holds an afternoon hearing on rites for marriage and blessings, the House of Deputies discusses resolutions relating for Resolution B033 from the 2006 General Convention, and the World Mission Committee holds an evening open hearing on that same issue. The Ministry Committee also holds a hearing at 7 a.m. on C055 Same-Sex Unions: Same Gender Committed Relationships.

ENS also has story on the hearing.

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