Congregation Letter from a Clergy Deputy

Below is a letter from deputy Lonnie Lacy to his congregation of St. Anne’s Tifton. This is an example of one deputy’s letter home on the most publicized legislation of this convention:

 

11 July 2012
General Convention
Indianapolis, IN

Dear St. Anne’s family,

There’s a good chance you awoke this week to find the Episcopal Church in the headlines. On Tuesday at the triennial General Convention, the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops and voted by a large margin to allow the use of a provisional rite for the blessing of same sex couples. (“Provisional” means it is permitted but not mandatory.) You, your friends, and your neighbors are sure to have questions, so I wish to offer some context and clarifications.

ABOUT THE RITE

  • It is not mandatory. No bishop, priest, or congregation has to adopt or use this rite. In fact, clergy may only use it with the permission of their bishops and, in some dioceses, in consultation with their vestries.
  • It is not marriage. The rite technically avoids the language of marriage and is supposed to be understood only as a sort of blessing. (It does, however, have several elements that make it “feel” like a marriage–such as an exchange of vows and rings–which is my primary hangup with it.)
  • Georgia voted “no”. Bishop Benhase and the Georgia lay and clergy deputations registered their votes as no’s. My reason for voting no is that I felt the rite too closely and confusingly approximates Holy Matrimony, and based on months of discernment, conversation, and prayer, I did not feel the whole Church is prepared for what will appear to some as a significantly new understanding of marriage.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ST. ANNE’S

  • Though many, we are one. There are many varying opinions on this topic at St. Anne’s. We will continue to be the kind of place where folks can worship together even while holding differing viewpoints. We will each do so with gentleness and humility.
  • Will we use it? The short answer is no. I don’t believe we as a congregation are ready for it, and besides, we don’t yet know Bishop Benhase’s ruling on its use in Georgia, which may render the question moot anyway. It’s important to know that at St. Anne’s, we only perform marriages for members and children of members, so even if you could conceive of a scenario far in the distant future where this rite might be used, the same rule would apply. St. Anne’s has never and will never serve as a rent-a-church or a drive-thru wedding chapel, and the same would be true of this.

HOW SHOULD WE FEEL & REACT TO THIS?

  • Keep the main thing the main thing. St. Anne’s stands for reason, hope, forgiveness, forbearance, wisdom, mission, healing, grace, and most of all the transformative love of Jesus Christ. We experience that every week. This does not change that. Let’s stay focussed on these things, and the rest will sort itself out.
  • Be good to one another, especially those with whom you disagree.
  • Be patient with those who misunderstand or misrepresent the facts.
  • Keep calm, carry on, come to church, and bring a friend.
  • Strive hard to have the mind of Christ.

I will, of course, address all of this much further in my sermon this Sunday, July 15. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to be in touch with me. I return from Convention this Friday, July 13, and am looking forward to being home.

Grace and peace,
The Rev. Lonnie Lacy

 

2 Responses to “Congregation Letter from a Clergy Deputy”

  1. Frederick Buechner says:

    Well done Fr. Lacy.

  2. Harry W Shipps says:

    “Provisional”, as I understand it, has reference to the new lliturgy as ‘provisional’ not the practice of the blessing itself.
    +HW Shipps