or, of the danger of diplomatic language
There has been some interesting back and forth between Jim Naughton and Kendall Harmon, and a cloud of various witnesses in the comment sections at their respective blogs, concerning an alleged “loophole” concerning blessings of same-sex relationships.
Let me begin by backing up to Lambeth 1998.1.10. This resolution is capable of little spin, as I see it. It clearly states that same-sexuality is unacceptable and unbiblical. Because of this, the legitimization or blessing of same-sex relationships cannot be advised; nor can the ordination of any person involved in a same-gender union. I have some question as to whether by “legitimising” the Bishops were referring to civil or ecclesiastical law; but apart from this it is clear they intend there to be no blessings of any kind, nor ordinations — and I point out that the order of ministry is not specified.
The Windsor Report, however, backed away somewhat on both counts. In spite of the confusions about the extent to which the General Convention “authorized” or “allowed” for same-sex blessings, the one significant addition to the formula throughout this Report is the phrase “public rites.” It is also clear that the Windsor Report spends no small amount of energy in shifting its attention to ordination to the episcopate, from ordination tout court. There is some possible ambiguity at paragraph 23; but the thrust of the section beginning with paragraph 63, and the final recommendations, focus solely on the office of bishop — a focus no doubt drawn by New Hampshire.
The Primates at Dromantine continued this language, focusing on “public rites” and the episcopate. However, and this is where I agree with Dr Harmon, the statement adopted at Dar es Salaam returns to the language of Lambeth, and removes any reference to “public rites” (except in the footnote that references the Windsor Report); and in the final recommendations substitutes the request that Bishops “not authorise any Rite of Blessing.” The position on ordination seems to hold at the Windsor/Dromantine level, restricting ordination only regarding the episcopate.
I think it is important that we be very clear what we are being asked to do concerning same-sex blessings, and not try to weasel around the matter. If we do not choose to comply with the exact request, let us frame our rationale for not doing so, rather than pretending that we have complied.