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 these blog posts, I’ve been suggesting some ways the wider church might engage in some theological reflection on the blessing of same-sex unions—not only the blessing a community evokes for the couple but also the blessing a couple offers to the wider community. When I reflect on that “double blessing,” I’m always reminded of how biblical writers turned frequently to marriage as a metaphor for humanity’s relationship with God. It’s a powerful image, and a key aspect of the good news of the Gospel: We are invited into intimate, loving communion with God-in-Christ.
Among the many blessings of a covenantal relationship is the sign it offers to the church of our Gospel hope: the promise made in Christ of loving union with God. In that sense, the covenantal relationships in our congregations always point beyond themselves toward that powerful and hopeful vision. When we offer a blessing to a couple in a committed relationship, we are certainly engaged in an act of pastoral care, but also much more. That liturgical act, it seems to me, is part of the mission of the Church in the world. Covenantal relationships can inspire our Gospel witness to the hope of union with God-in-Christ.
Vocation, service, mission, and ministry—do couples really think about these things when they reflect on their relationship? How would this kind of theological reflection make a difference in congregational life? How could we make the pastoral care of couples more closely linked to the Church’s mission in the world?
I’m eager to learn how clergy, congregations, and couples are thinking about these questions and already living them out in their congregational patterns of ministry.
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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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