The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for blessing same-sex relationships (Resolution C056). The Commission is eager to engage the wider church in theological conversation as one among many sources that will inform our work.
The reflection below was submitted by the Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D., chair of the task group preparing theological resources.
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In the first blog entry here last month, I reflected on some of the challenges and opportunities I have encountered during pre-marital counseling sessions when the couples I work with have not paused to reflect on the spiritual significance of the commitment they were making to each other. At least one of the comments posted here in response to my observations made a connection between the covenant of marriage and the baptismal covenant. I find that very helpful as a way to consider the covenantal aspects of committed relationships.
Even though it’s still common today to talk about “falling in love” with someone, a commitment is not something one “falls into.” Committing one’s self to a covenantal relationship is a deliberate decision involving significant promises. In fact, it might be helpful to think of that kind of commitment as something one is called into, as a vocation. Much like the vocational call to ordained ministry, not everyone is called into a covenantal relationship with another person. Those who are called into covenants certainly need the blessing of divine grace to keep their promises, to live out their commitment “with God’s help.”
So I’m wondering if those who are in long-term committed relationships have a sense of being called into that commitment. Would you describe your relationship as a divine vocation? Do you see similarities here to the baptismal covenant? How might the vocational aspect of covenantal relationships encourage deeper theological reflection in our congregations?
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We invite your participation in this dialogue about blessing same-sex relationships. Your responses and observations here will help inform the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in our work of developing theological and liturgical resources for such blessings. We hope that this conversation will also be a way to renew and enliven a shared vision of the church’s mission in the world.
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