Vows in N.C., Wyoming
- Thursday, October 23, 2014
The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, has issued revised guidelines for blessing same-sex couples in churches of the diocese.
A new opening address and a new pronouncement ground the ceremony in state law:
We have gathered together today
to witness N. N. and N. N. [publicly] committing themselves to one another
in marriage according to the laws of the state of North Carolina,
and, in the name of the Church, to bless their union:
a relationship of mutual fidelity and steadfast love,
forsaking all others,
holding one another in tenderness and respect,
in strength and bravery,
as long as they live.
… I now pronounce that they are bound to one another
in a holy covenant,
as long as they both shall live
and united in marriage according to the laws of the state of North Carolina. Amen.
In a similar development, the Bishop of Wyoming offered brief direction in response to same-sex marriage becoming legal in that state:
With this change in the legal definition of marriage, the process I established for performing the blessing of a same-gendered union is no longer necessary. In the interest of the unity of our churches, I ask that our clergy and lay leadership work together to determine how their congregation will respond to this law. Additionally, I will be issuing a pastoral letter to be read in place of the sermon at all of our congregations on Sunday, Nov. 9th.
In this proposal for a statement of the intention of life-long relationship for Same Sex Couples, Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina in TEC appears to be making a subtle distinction between the traditional understanding of Marriage (between two people of opposite gender) and Marriage as defined by the new State Law – which permits the marriage of same-sex couples. This is the wording proposed:
“I now pronounce that they are bound to one another in a holy covenant, as long as they both shall live
and united in marriage according to the laws of the state of North Carolina. Amen.”
This would seem to confine the Church definition to ‘holy covenant’, while yet proclaiming the North Carolina State provision of ‘marriage’ according to law.
This very fine distinction could make all the difference between the acceptance or rejection of the proposed legal marriage of same-sex couples according the state law, while yet upholding the traditional Church understanding of ‘marriage’ as confined to heterosexual unions. Could this be a way through the present controversy over the problem of Church dogma versus pastoral exigency?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand