Episcopal Church: Book to Include ‘Inclusive,’ ‘Expansive Language’ for God



Episcopal Church Closer to Revising Official Prayer Book to Include ‘Inclusive,’ ‘Expansive Language’ for God

(PHOTO: COURTESY WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL) Washington National Cathedral of Washington, D.C. A congregation of The Episcopal Church, it is one of the largest church buildings in the world.

The Episcopal Church is one step closer to revising their official Book of Common Prayer to include more “inclusive and expansive language” for both God and humanity.

At the mainline denomination’s 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas, the House of Deputies voted to adopt a resolution that approved beginning a revision process to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that will likely remove masculine language for God.

Known as Resolution A068, the measure passed on Saturday with clergy voting 63 yes, 30 no, and 17 divided while laity voted 69 yes, 26 no, 15 divided.

“Resolved, That such revision utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity,” states the resolution in part.

“That such revision [will] utilize the riches of Holy Scripture and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship.”

If passed by the House of BIshops, which isthe other legislative house of the bicameral General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the denomination will appropriate approximately $1.9 million to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for the 2019-2021 Triennium to work on the process, with some estimating that the final cost could be as high as $8 million.

Many expect the revision process of the prayer book to involve implementing more gender-neutral language for God than presently exists in the 1979 version.

Another goal is to broaden the marriage rite to allow for same-gender ceremonies. While same-sex weddings are allowed in the Episcopal Church, the Book of Common Prayer book has not yet been edited to include such rites.

House of Deputies member the Rev. Jane Johnson of Fond du Lac said during the debate last week in support of the resolution that “God’s pronouns are them and their, not he.”

Many have expressed opposition to the revision proposal, with some noting that adding more gender inclusive language for God runs contrary to Scripture and tradition.

“Who are we to change … references to God? The Jews have used the male pronoun Elohim to refer to God for thousands of years,” commented one Episcopal News Service reader.

“‘Our Father who art in Heaven’ has been passed down to us over the centuries and now we are special enough to change it? This doesn’t sit well with me.”

Last revised in 1979, the Book of Common Prayer is the source for the Episcopal Church’s liturgies and theological statements, and is used for many sacred ceremonies, including marriages and baptisms.

“The Book of Common Prayer is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity,” states the Church.

If the resolution is approved, the process will still take many years, with a three-year trial run for the revised book and a final vote of approval not expected until 2030, according to Episcopal News Service.

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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Mississippi law that protects people who oppose gay marriage


A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Mississippi law that protects people who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds from being sued.

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant arrives to attend B.B. King’s funeral in Indianola, Mississippi, May 30, 2015.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, the panel concluded that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue the state over House Bill 1523, also called the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, reversing a lower court’s decision.

“The governor of Mississippi and the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services appeal a preliminary injunction. Because the plaintiffs do not have standing, we reverse the injunction and render a judgment of dismissal,” wrote Circuit Judge Jerry Smith on behalf of the panel.

In April 2016, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law, which prohibits the state from compelling businesses and individuals from supporting or servicing gay weddings.

(Photo: Reuters/David McNew)A same-sex wedding cake topper is seen outside the East Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office on Valentine’s Day during a news event for National Freedom to Marry Week in Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 14, 2012.

“The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth,” reads HB 1523 in part.

LGBT groups and their allies denounced the legislation and sued to have it struck down. For his part, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order last year banning non-essential state travel to Mississippi.

“[I]t is the policy of the state of New York to promote fairness, protect the welfare of the citizens of the state of New York, and combat discrimination,” read Cuomo’s 2016 order.

“All agencies, departments, boards, authorities and commissions [will] review all requests for state funded or state sponsored travel to the state of Mississippi so long as there is law in effect there that permits and enshrines discrimination against LGBT citizens and unmarried individuals …” Cuomo’s order added.

Last summer, Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked Mississippi’s law from taking effect, concluding that it was “a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement Thursday that he commended the panel’s ruling on the “commonsense law.”

“No person should be punished by the government with crippling fines or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed until five years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” said Perkins.

“Today’s ruling leaves us more confident that the courts will uphold the ability of elected officials to protect the freedom of their citizens to believe and live according to those beliefs”

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The Scottish Episcopal Church voted to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples


The Scottish Episcopal Church voted on Thursday to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, becoming the first major U.K. church to break from the Anglican majority, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

image: http://d.christianpost.com/full/111439/590-412/church-marriage.jpg
(Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters)Gay rights campaigners protest in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury during the Anglican Primates meeting in January 2016.

The change to canon law on marriage was agreed by the required two-thirds majority in each section of the synod — the bishops, clergy and laity. Sixty-seven percent of clergy and 80 percent of bishops and laity voted in favor of gay marriage.

The new clause removes the language stating that marriage is a “physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman.”

It recognizes that there are different understandings of marriage within the church and allows clergy to solemnize marriage between same-sex couples. Clergy who do not agree with gay marriage will not be obligated to go against their conscience.

“This is the end of a long journey,” said the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. “We have studied, thought and prayed.

“This is a momentous step. By removing gender from our marriage canon, our church now affirms that a same sex couple are not just married but are married in the sight of God.”

The Scottish Episcopal Church, which has over 350 churches across Scotland, is a member of the Anglican Communion — a global church body that defines marriage as between a man and a woman and rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.

Responding to the controversial vote, the Church of England said that it will continue opposing gay marriage, noting that the majority of the Anglican Communion stands by its side, despite growing disagreement on the issue.

“The Church of England is unable by law to marry couples of the same sex and the teaching of the Church of England remains unchanged. However, this is a matter on which there is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England,” a spokesperson said.

Ian Ferguson, of Aberdeen and Orkney, the only Scottish diocese to oppose the change to redefine marriage, lamented the vote, saying, “This is one of the saddest and most painful days for us … We are broken. This schismatic move … will cause serious harm to our unity.”

He added that some congregants “may seek alternative episcopal oversight.”

The Telegraph pointed out that the conservative Anglican group Global Anglican Future Conference had said before the vote: “If this action is taken it will further marginalize faithful Anglicans in Scotland who seek to uphold Jesus’s teaching on marriage.”

Chillingworth acknowledged that the decision is “difficult and hurtful” for those who believe redefining marriage is unbiblical and wrong. “For them this new chapter will feel like an exclusion — as if their church has moved away from them.

“So the journey which we now begin must also be a journey of reconciliation.”

He said the Scottish church body will move forward with “two honorable and historic understandings of marriage —– one which sees the marriage of same sex couples as an expression of Christ-like acceptance and welcome — and another which says that the traditional view of marriage is God-ordained and scripturally defined.”

Supporters of the change in marriage law praised the outcome of the vote, BBC News noted, with the Episcopal Church’s Bishop of Edinburgh, the Right Reverend Dr. John Armes, stating: “I am very pleased for the couples who can now have their relationships recognized by the church and blessed by God.”

“I’m also pleased for what this means about our church and the way we have been able to do this. But obviously any change like this creates pain and hurt in some as well, so as a bishop of the church I feel for them.”

Other major members of the Anglican Communion, such as the U.S. Episcopal Church, have also voted to support gay marriage. The U.S. church was temporarily suspended from the Communion for its stance last year, but it has refused to go back on its decision despite the controversy.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said that the Scottish church has made “a departure from the faith and teaching upheld by the overwhelming majority of Anglican provinces on the doctrine of marriage.”

He pointed out that that the churches within the Communion are “autonomous and free to make their own decisions on canon law,” however, and said the Scottish Church’s change to canon law will be discussed at the next meetings of the primates of the Communion in Canterbury in October.

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Washington Post, Gay Marriage & Taiwan Christians


April 25, 2017

Washington Post, Gay Marriage & Taiwan Christians

Christians comprise less than 5% of Taiwan. But, according to a recent Washington Post story that read more like a commentary, they are the main obstacle to Taiwan’s becoming Asia’s first country to ratify same sex marriage.

The story fulsomely quoted Taiwanese advocates of gay marriage, but the reporter evidently either didn’t interview any opponents or didn’t find their comments sufficiently interesting to include. These unnamed opponents are instead dismissively paraphrased, accused of making claims “contrary to evidence,” at least in the reporter’s view. Supposedly they resort to “homophobic tropes” and pander to “parental fear.”

On Twitter, the reporter responded to congratulations for her slant with: “Trying my best not to report bigotry as fact.” So the views of several billion people in the world, possibly the majority of humanity, apparently don’t merit serious treatment if they clash with Western elite political correctness.


Meanwhile, unnamed church groups are ominously described as “well-funded” without saying by whom. Public comments by Taiwan’s justice minister opposing judicial redefinition of marriage are cited mockingly.

That justice minister belongs to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, elected to power last year led by a presidential candidate supporting gay marriage. The government seems to prefer redefining marriage through legislation rather than judicial fiat. Such legislation has been stalled due to apparently growing opposition. Unmentioned directly in the Post article, there is a multi faith coalition opposing this legislation, which includes Christians but also Buddhists and Taoists, who respectively each represent about one third of Taiwan’s population. Taiwan’s Christians are deemed “homophobic” but the more numerous religious groups are not cited.

Catholics comprise about half of Taiwan’s Christians. Their bishops have published a lengthy pastoral letter explaining why Catholic doctrine opposes same sex marriage. You can read it here. Presbyterians are the largest Protestant denomination, and although they are politically on the left and often aligned with the Democratic Progressive Party, their General Assembly has opposed same sex marriage with its own pastoral letter.

The Post article offers quotes denying allegations that same sex marriage is a Western imposition on Taiwan. Supposedly Taiwan’s sexual openness is due to its history of free spirited seafarers and their “seafaring gods.” Asian history is full of seafarers and traditional seafaring gods, on which Taiwan has no monopoly. Same sex marriage, especially conceived as a “right,” is a uniquely Western creation.

Same sex marriage as a right is also ironically a legacy of Western Christianity, especially Protestantism, with its stress on equality and individualism. Egalitarianism of persons has led to egalitarianism of sex. Taiwan is being asked to accept the social mores of Scandinavia, Holland and New England, where secularized Protestantism reigns.

And Taiwan is partly receptive, unlike the rest of Asia, because it is so Westernized. The Post article asserts same sex marriage is the logical legacy of Taiwan’s struggle against dictatorship. There’s more to the story. After losing Mainland China, Chiang Kai-shek created one party rule under his Kuomintang. But it fostered capitalism and close ties with the West, especially America. Democracy’s advent in the 1980s was the unintended but predictable result.

Taiwan because of its unique political status is arguably the least Asian of Asian countries. More than other Asian countries, it is experiencing a battle between Western individualism and traditional Asian mores centered on family. My guess is that many Taiwanese same sex marriage proponents are themselves from Protestant backgrounds and have secularized their understanding of human rights to include marriage and gender redefinition, like many in North America and Western Europe.

Here’s a postscript. Chiang Kai-shek was Methodist, and Taiwan under the Kuomintang had relative religious freedom while Communist China under Mao tried to destroy Christianity. Yet today Taiwan is at most 5% Christian (with only a few dozen Methodist churches) while Mainland China, where religion still faces restriction, is at least 5%, and some estimate approaching 10%. Under current church growth rates, China in 20 years or so may have more Christians than any other country.

Taiwan’s religious landscape and its debate over same sex marriage are far more complicated and interesting than the Post story, with its editorial caricatures, was able to admit.