Process for same-sex blessings in Virginia

The Rt. Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston, Bishop of Virginia, has written to his diocese about the process for blessing same-sex unions. His article appears (both in English–page 12–and in Spanish–page 14) in the July, 2011 issue of the Virginia Episcopalian.

And so “move” I have done. With the Standing Committee’s advice and concurrence, I met on April 28 with a group of 24 clergy who had self-identified as being ready to proceed with the recognition of same-sex relationships in their congregations. At that meeting, I made it clear that we are not talking about “marriage,” which by definition in the Book of Common Prayer is between a man and a woman. Consequently, the Prayer Book’s marriage service may not be used or mimicked by simply editing it. Until the General Convention specifically provides otherwise, there will be no officially authorized liturgy for general use. Liturgies would be locally produced and approved on a case-by-case basis. Also, I set three criteria to be met to my satisfaction before I would give permission for this local option: (1) A statement of where the congregation is with this issue. What preparation has been done? What program of teaching was followed? (2) Has this been discussed with the vestry or vestry committee? What is their position? (3) A substantial exposition of the theology of recognizing same-sex relationships. This must include exegesis of the relevant passages from Scripture, not neglecting those which are cited as speaking negatively about same-sex couples. If any of this seems to be over the top, I reply by saying a change of this magnitude requires extraordinary considerations.

Three such applications have been received and I am now reviewing them. I plan to hold additional meetings for those who wish to consider this process. I will also hold meetings for those clergy whose discernment has led them to conclude that blessing same-sex relationships cannot be part of their ministry, strongly assuring them that their position and witness will continue to be wholly respected. I am neither so naive nor so prideful as to overlook the fact that others have also prayed and received answers different from my own. This is precisely why we need one another during these challenging times.

Here is his address to the January Diocesan Council.

Past Posts