[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs, press release] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has issued the following report:
The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage has begun to dig into the depth and breadth of its work, enabled by Resolution A050 at the 2012 General Convention. The Rev. Brian C. Taylor, chair, reports, “We’re making enormous progress on the broad charge we’ve been given, thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of our members and those with whom we are already in conversation. This is a conversation and study whose time has obviously come, and we are grateful to be part of it.”
Taylor also said that the Task Force is “hopeful that the broad circle of input we are gathering will help empower the Episcopal Church in its ongoing mission to be Christ’s light to the world in our day.”
The Task Force’s initial meeting was July 29-August 1 during which they were reminded that they were being asked to move more deeply into an understanding of relationships that embody the values that were identified by our church in General Convention 2000: “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God” (Resolution D039).
Coming out of the initial meeting, the Task Force members divided their work into three broad areas, currently being carried out by working groups via conference calls and email:
The working group on Marriage: Historical, Liturgical and Canonical Roots is developing a paper that tracks the evolution of marriage in the Christian, then Episcopal tradition, from post-New Testament times to the present. Another possible outcome for its work will hopefully be a video overview of this history that could be used by dioceses and congregations in preparation for General Convention 2015.
The working group on Marriage: Biblical and Theological Dimensions is also developing a paper, one that looks at various Judeo-Christian teachings on marriage in our scriptures. This paper will also unpack the theology as expressed in the marriage rite of The Book of Common Prayer, especially tracing the arc that moves from creation, through sin and redemption, to the fulfillment of God’s intention for creation.
The working group on Marriage: Conversations and Consultations; Changing Norms is spreading out into communication with various Standing Committees of our church, the Anglican Communion office, the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, ecumenical partners, chancellors, and state legislators. They will also solicit input from individuals and couples throughout our church, who will be invited to post one-minute stories about how they have experienced God’s grace in their own or others’ marriage. And they will review research being done by Pew Research, recognized scholars in the field, and other sources.
Upcoming meetings: Taylor and Joan Geiszler-Ludlum, vice-chair, will provide an interim report and receive input at the March 21, 2014 House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen, Texas. They will also be included in a June 2014 Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music’s consultation with Anglican and Episcopal partners from places where same-sex marriage is legal. The Task Force will meet again in late March for the second face-to-face meeting with the whole group.
While it is possible that, as Resolution A050 itself stated, this work may need to continue beyond General Convention 2015, Taylor says that in preparation for 2015, “As charged by our enabling resolution, we will have a theological paper, a curriculum for local reflection and conversation, a bibliography, videos and other information on the history and current experience of marriage in our church, and a suggested way forward as our church navigates the continuing evolution of marriage in our day.”
Task Force Members
The members of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage are:
The Rev. Brian C. Taylor, chair, Diocese of the Rio Grande
Carolyn M. Chilton, Diocese of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, Diocese of Vermont
Joan Geiszler-Ludlum, vice-chair, Diocese of East Carolina
The Rev. Gail Greenwell, Diocese of Kansas
The Rev. Tobias S. Haller, Diocese of New York
The Rev. Canon W. (Will) H. Mebane, Jr., Diocese of Ohio
The Rev. J. David Knight, Diocese of Mississippi
The Rev. Dr. Cameron E. Partridge, Diocese of Massachusetts
The Rev. Susan Russell, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Very Rev. Dr. Sylvia A. Sweeney, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Diocese of Upper South Carolina
Resolution A050 is available in full here.