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Same Sex Blessings Focus Group, by Rev’d David Bailey

15 October 2009

{Elder’s Note:  Received via email today, from Rev’d David Bailey, a conservative priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.  Bp. Breidenthal will be approving same-sex blessings within DSO.  From what I gather, this particular focus-group meeting took place on 14 October (Weds, of this week).}

I was invited to this meeting based on my work with the diocesan Human Sexuality Study Task Force in 2004. Present were:
Bishop Tom Breidenthal
David Bailey
A retired moderately liberal priest
A conservative laywoman from a conservative congregation.
Three very liberal rectors from three very liberal parishes.
A partnered lesbian deacon.
A partnered lesbian priest.
An extra-parochial liberal priest.
When we introduced ourselves, I pointed out that I was the only conservative at the table (the lay woman had not yet arrived) and that many of my colleagues thought I was crazed to even attend the meeting. I was assured by all that the voice of a conservative was welcomed, desired and would be listened to throughout.
I passed out copies of Diocesan Resolution R2003-3 and reminded everyone that both the “pro” and “con” positions on both the blessing of same sex unions and on partnered gays and lesbians in ordained ministry were recognized theological positions in the Episcopal Church. This resolution was a surprise to some – including the Bishop, who seemed to be pleasantly surprised at the work we had done in the past.
I then took an unofficial “point of personal privilege” and vented about the somewhat Machiavellian  approach Bishop Thompson had taken to controversial issues, and on his broken promises to orthodox clergy. There was pretty much agreement among those who had been around during Bishop Thompson’s tenure that this approach extended to just about everybody, regardless of theological position!
Bishop Tom then asked us to review two resolutions from General Convention upon which he will base his move to authorize same sex blessings liturgies:
D025 – Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion. While the Bishops would not characterize this resolution as a repudiation of B033 from GC2006, there was broad agreement in our meeting that this was a de facto repudiation of B033.
C056 – Liturgies for Blessings, particularly the following Resolve: “That Bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church”. Bishop Tom agrees, contra +Parsley, that this Resolve applies to ALL bishops with jurisdiction, not just those where the State recognizes such unions.
The Bishop repeatedly stated that no priest will be required to bless same sex unions unless he or she so desires to do so. He has refused to allow some priests to perform same sex blessings until this time.
There was a lot of conversation about whether congregations needed to approve the use of same sex blessing services before they were used by a priest. The consensus appears to be that, while the priest can perform such blessings without the approval of his or her congregation, it would be good to have a conversation about such blessings with the congregation BEFORE the first one occurs!
My role in all of the above was to serve as a respective witness to the Anglican majority consensus on same sex blessings, and to request that room be left in the diocese for conservative clergy.  I was repeatedly assured on that latter concern by the Bishop and the others in attendance.
All of the conversations were respectful.
There will be another meeting of the focus group next week. I stated that I thought I had contributed all I needed to the discussion, and did not plan to be there. The Bishop specifically asked me to attend and to serve as that conservative witness. So there will be another report next week.
Any questions? I’ll try to answer them!

( – Rev’d David Bailey)

  1. Pearls Before Swine
    16 October 2009 at 8:45 PM

    Rev. Bailey – thanks for providing all this information!

    You asked for questions, so here a some (most are for the Bishop though):
    1. Since there are no Same-Sex Marriages in Ohio and Same-Sex Blessings have not been allowed; does that mean that all unmarried clergy have either remained celibate or been disciplined up until now?
    2. Does the diocese view a couple that has had a “Blessing” any different than a couple that has been Married?
    3. Can heterosexuals just have a “Blessing” and then shack-up or do they have to go through the legal marriage process? If Same-sex marriage is ever approved in Ohio, will the answer be the same for homosexuals?
    4. Will the bishop now require all homosexual clergy to have their relationship blessed before they can live together and/or be sexually active?
    5. If (I know, a big IF) the Anglican Communion Covenant clearly states no Same-Sex Blessings, what does the Bishop intend to do?
    6. What positive effect will the token “conservative witness” have on this process?
    7. Does being there just lend a false legitimacy so they can say they listened to the opposition before doing what they were going to do anyway?
    8. Do they think this will somehow grow the diocese?

  2. David Bailey
    17 October 2009 at 1:20 AM

    Dear Pearls,

    Great questions! I just got back from Denison University and am exhausted, so let me get back to you and/or the Bishop on these in the next two days . . .

  3. David Bailey
    20 October 2009 at 11:30 PM

    Just got back from Denison again, and I am STILL exhausted, but I hope to post comments by tomorrow.

  4. Fr. Theoden
    27 October 2009 at 3:55 PM

    Ever seeking to be helpful, Fr. Theoden respectfully submits the following Questions as grist for Fr. Bailey’s mill.

    Pleeeeease know that these are from a spirit of esprit d’ corps, discernment, ecclesial interest, and a modicum of incarnational irreverence. Fr. Theoden wishes Fr. Bailey to know of his affection and respect for Fr. Bailey’s persistence as a conservative voice in this Diocese.

    Fr. Theoden earnestly prays that Fr. Bailey (DB+) will continue to add his perspective in the post-Annaheim SSB “process.”

    Fr. Theoden wonders if he is the only reader of this blog who believes that the SSB “process” in the DSO mysteriously and inexorably accelerates each time Bishop Breidenthal (+TB) opens his mouth on the matter?

    And so, drumroll please, Fr. Theoden’s Salient Questions for Anyone Still Listening This Radio Station:

    Fr. Theoden wishes to know, how does DB+ interpret +TB’s “pleasant suprise” upon learning that the DSO debated/discerned/committed to a diversity of theological positions on SSB’s in Diocesan Resolution R2002-3?

    Does DB+ see this as anything other than +TB’s bemusement, dismissal, or merely academic interest in old DSO history?

    Does DB+ have any sense that +TB believes this Diocesan Resolution continues to actually reveal the mind of Christ in the Brave New Post Annaheim TEC World?

    Will DB+ humbly ask +TB to clarify his thinking on this matter?

    Will +TB, in the interim period, affirm that DR 2002-3 continues in pastoral force and effect until such time as a subsequent Diocesan Resolution supplants, refines or dismisses it?

    Will DB+ publicly ask +TB to enlighten us all as to his rationale and canonical basis for personally, without consultation, process, or discernment of the larger body of Christ, unitlaterally expand the scope and intent of C056?

    Will DB+ publicly ask +TB to help us understand what part of his theology allowed him, personally, to expand SSB development to ALL states, regardless of civil statutes already legislated around SSB’s?

    If DB+ cannot/will not agree to #13, 14, 15, might he suggest any conservative laity or clergy in the DSO who will?

    Finally, on a matter of eschatalogical hope to many conservatives, what does DB+ think of the Phillies chances against the Yankees? 🙂

    Fr. Theoden eagerly awaits Fr. Bailey’s reply….

    Re: CO56:
    Where is the “generous pastoral response” to those baptized members and clergy of this Diocese who cannot in conscience countenance, much less bless SSB/SSM?

    If a generous pastoral response is forthcoming by +TB to these members, what official, transparent, and publically accountable form will it take? Diocesan Resolution? Pastoral Directive?

    If no to # 11, when and how will +TB own the fact that this represents a de facto violation/reversal/reneging on part from “pleasant suprise,” what publicly accountable, transparent recognition will +TB make that Diocesan Resolution R2002-3 still stands as an official theological position taken by this Diocesan Convention?


  5. Fr. Theoden
    28 October 2009 at 4:15 PM

    Fr. Theoden sincerely apologizes for the typos at the end of his above post. The last four paragraphs were redundant. He will dutifully learn to edit more carefully before hitting the “submit” button. 😦

  6. 9 November 2009 at 5:36 PM

    By all means attend, David.
    Will you be able to change the ultimate outcome? No.
    Is your witness important? Yes.

    Question to ask:

    1. Is the relationship between DAvid and Jonathon an example of “Holy love” in same sex relationships?

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