A coalition of conservative and moderate bishops attending the 77th General Convention has released a statement denouncing the passage of Resolution A059: "Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships."
The "Indianapolis Statement" joins declarations by the bishops and deputations of South Carolina and Central Florida in rejecting the authorization of provisional local rites for gay blessings as being contrary to Scripture, the Prayer Book, the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the undivided theological, pastoral and moral witness of the universal church for the past 2000 years.
The Rt. Rev. Michael Smith, Bishop of North Dakota, rose at the start of the morning session of the House of Bishops today and said:
“Presiding Bishop, thank you for allowing me to rise to speak on behalf of at least twelve members of this House. Those of us known as the Communion Partners have expended a great deal of energy for at least the past six years working to persuade theological conservatives to remain in the Episcopal Church and theological liberals to remain in the Anglican Communion. Two actions of this General Convention have made this task more difficult: the authorization of same-sex blessings through the passage of Resolution 049, and our decision to ‘decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant’ by the passage of Resolution D008.
"We find ourselves between the proverbial 'rock and a hard place.' We struggle to hold together the evangelical faith of the Church, from which we see this Convention as departing, and the catholic order of the Church, which causes us, for the sake of the unity for which Jesus prayed, to resist the temptation to leave this fellowship.
"Therefore, we submit to this House the following Minority Report:”
The text of the Indianapolis Statement said:
The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, in passing Resolution A049, has authorized the provisional use of a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. The purpose of this statement is to record our dissent from this action.
1. At our ordination as bishops of the Church, we have all taken a solemn oath: “I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.” We remain committed to that oath. Our commitment to the biblical witness includes its teaching on sexuality. We believe that the Scriptures clearly teach thatGod’s vision for sexual intimacy is that it be exercised only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman.
2. We serve in a Church whose Book of Common Prayer offers clear teaching on Holy Matrimony. The opening address in the marriage rite (BCP, p. 423) summarizes that teaching and affirms that marriage is a “union of husband and wife”; that God established marriage in creation; that our Lord “adorned this manner of life” during his earthly ministry; and that marriage points beyond itself to the “mystery of the union of Christ and his Church.”
3. The liturgy entitled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” is for all practical purposes same-sex marriage. It includes all of the essential elements found in a marriage rite: vows, an exchange of rings, a pronouncement, and a blessing. We believe that the rite subverts the teaching of the Book of Common Prayer, places The Episcopal Church outside the mainstream of Christian faith and practice, and creates further distance between this Church and the Anglican Communion along with other Christian churches.
4. Our dissent from this action of the 77th General Convention is thus rooted in the teachings of our own Church; in the historic biblical and theological witness upon which those teachings rest; and in the wider context of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and our conviction that no part of the Church is free on its own to alter basic Christian teaching.
5. We are grateful that the rite, as approved by General Convention, contains provisions that protect diocesan bishops and parishpriests who cannot for the sake of conscience authorize or use the liturgy.
6. We are committed to the gay and lesbian Christians who are members of our dioceses. Our Baptismal Covenant pledges us to “respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP, p. 305), and we will continue to journey with them as together we seek to follow Jesus.
7. We reaffirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion of which The Episcopal Church is a constituent member, and to the historic See of Canterbury with whom we are in communion. We will honor the three moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and will do all in our power to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
We invite all bishops who share these commitments to join us in this Statement, as we seek to affirm our loyalty to our beloved Church even as we dissent from this action.
+John Bauerschmidt, Diocese of Tennessee
+Gregory Brewer, Diocese of Central Florida
+Dan Herzog, Diocese of Albany (resigned)
+Paul Lambert, Diocese of Dallas Suffragan
+Ed Little, Diocese of Northern Indiana
+Bill Love, Diocese of Albany
+Daniel Martins, Diocese of Springfield
+Ed Salmon, Diocese of South Carolina (resigned)
+Michael G. Smith, Diocese of North Dakota
+James Stanton, Diocese of Dallas
Update: The Rt. Rev. Russell Jacobus, Bishop of Fond du Lac, and the Rt. Rev. William Skilton, retired Bishop of the Dominican Republic gave their oral endorsement to the document to Bishop Smith before he presented the Indianapolis Statement to the House of Bishops. However, their names did not appear on the statement released by Bishop Smith to the media after its release. Further names will be added as they are known.