West Texas flips over gay blessings

 

West Texas flips over gay blessings

Author: 

George Conger

The Bishop of the Diocese of West Texas has written to his clergy saying he has given his permission to three parishes to conduct same-sex blessings.

 

A member of the House of Bishops told Anglican Ink he was “not surprised” by the 24 April 2015 email. Leaders of the Communion Partners group of bishops and clergy explained that the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge had “moved away” from the center-right group over the last year and was no longer counted among the church’s remaining traditionalist bishops.

However, one of the groups leaders observed the decision by Bishop Lillebridge, who is to retire in 2017, places his coadjutor in a difficult position. The Rt. Rev David Reed, who had been suffragan bishop of the diocese prior to his Oct 2014 election, was the sole candidate of the six standing for election who opposed the “Doyle Plan” for gay blessings in Texas.

In 2012 the Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of Texas, announced that he would pass the issue of gay blessings onto the parochial clergy. Congregations could choose to bless, or not to bless, same-sex partnerships. Those who decline to bless gay relationships would not be compelled to do so, those who wished to do so would be given license to do so if they complied with certain conditions set down  by the diocese.

Elected on the first ballot at the diocese’s October special convention, Bishop Reed, was the sole candidate who stated he would not permit a local option, and would maintain the policy of declining to allow decline same-sex blessings to be performed.

Under Bishop Lillibridge’s plan, three congregations,  All Saints’, Corpus Christi, Church of Reconciliation, San Antonio, and St. Paul’s, San Antonio would be allowed to hold same-sex blessing ceremonies according to conditions set down by the bishop in his letter to the clergy.

A spokesman for the diocese on 24 April told Anglican Ink the bishop would be writing to his clergy over the weekend to announce the news, and would issue a press statement on 27 April 2015 explaining his actions.

In his letter the bishop said he hoped this move would not divide the diocese:

The leadership of the diocese, including the Council of Advice members, has committed to stay together and love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ even while holding different theological perspectives on this matter; and we are deeply grateful for that commitment. In our sacred responsibilities as leaders of this diocese, Bishop Reed and I are committed to one another in this same way when we have varying perspectives on things. When I think of our dedicated followers of Jesus on both sides of the issue of same-sex blessings, I am mindful of the words of our Prayer Book Collect: Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace (p101).Within the congregations of our diocesan family are persons who understand and interpret Scripture differently and who disagree on questions of homosexuality. Yet, they worship together and kneel side by side to receive Eucharist on Sundays. They work together in ministries within and outside the church. And they work, pray, and give for God’s Kingdom. Likewise, our clergy are not of one mind. And yet, they sit side by side in Councils and clergy conferences and find common ground to work together as colleagues and brothers and sisters for the sake of the unity we have received in Christ. We are all aware that no decision on these matters can please everyone. But Bishop Reed and I hope that Christian charity and generosity of spirit will guide us, and that mutual love and respect will flourish as we continue our life and ministry together.

 

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