Dear Sisters and Brothers,
It is with great joy that I share with you Bishop Andy Doyle’s paper, “Unity in Mission,” which you can download here. In this paper the Bishop outlines his theology of marriage and his plan for allowing congregations within the Diocese of Texas to celebrate Same Sex Covenants, once the liturgy is approved at General Convention. He has named St. Stephen’s as the first congregation in Houston to be allowed to offer this rite.
St. Stephen’s has been invited to this ministry because of our consistent and faithful work with the GLBT community for over 30 years. The Bishop has asked St. Stephen’s to serve as a resource for the preparation and implementation of the rite here in the Diocese of Texas. Our policies and practices will be an example to other congregations in the Diocese and Houston.
We have many steps to take in order to prepare for this responsibility.
- While our Vestry has been aware that this opportunity was in the offing, the Bishop’s paper was just released yesterday. The Vestry will be conducting its own study of the paper in order to discern how this opportunity will impact our mission.
- The congregation will be invited to study the Bishop’s paper during the Adult Forum beginning May 20.
- The Worship Committee will be reviewing our marriage customary to see how we will need to amend our practices to include the covenant rites.
- The General Convention will be meeting in July to vote on the proposed rites. If they are passed, there are study materials to be worked through as a congregation. The rites will not be allowed to be offered until Advent 2012. After consultation with the Bishop, the vestry and I will decide when St. Stephen’s will begin to offer the rites here.
- The congregation will engage in a disciplined study of the materials in the late summer and early fall. The congregation will have an opportunity to react to the materials the ministries will be generating.
- The Vestry will work with me to outline the requirements for couples, the preparation needed, and the costs for couples who choose to have their partnerships blessed by God in the church.
Bishop Doyle views his plan as a means to sustain our unity in mission as a Diocese and I agree. His plan offers three options in the implementation of the proposed same sex covenant rites—congregations may do nothing, refuse to offer the rites, or celebrate them. The choice is up to the rector in concert with the vestry. Regardless of choice, the Bishop wishes to ensure that we all share in the mission of incarnating the grace and love of God.
While I long for the day when there will be full marriage equality in the Church and in the State, I consider this a very important step in that process. St. Stephen’s has an opportunity to witness to the action of God in our midst in the lives of couples in our community. I trust that this witness will extend a welcome to those who have felt cut off from the Church because of our exclusion and what has been perceived to be our hypocrisy. I plan to encourage St. Stephen’s to offer a generous pastoral hospitality to couples in our midst now and to those who may seek us out in the future.