The Bishop Elliott Society has distanced itself from plans announced by the Bishop of West Texas permit same-sex blessings in the diocese. “We believe that to be detrimental to God’s people, not only because it expands the definition of marriage, but because it also convolutes the teaching of Holy Scripture.”
One of the purposes of the Bishop Elliott Society is to uphold traditional Anglican Doctrine and Christian Faith. As such, we are compelled to issue a clear statement regarding Bishop Lillibridge’s “generous pastoral response” to the three congregations seeking permission to offer same sex blessings. In brief, while empathetic and thoughtful, we find the Bishop’s letter to be out of step with Holy Scripture’s clear teaching on marriage, and his decision granting provisional permission to be in error.
In our concern for unity within our diocese, we want to affirm our respect for Bishop Lillibridge and his ministry. His authority as our Bishop is not being questioned.
We stand with Bishop Lillibridge in believing all people to be made in the image of God. We find all expressions of hatred and discrimination against people with same-sex orientation to be wrong. We sincerely rejoice that people who experience themselves as homosexually oriented have found a home in The Episcopal Church. That is not the issue. The issue at hand is that Scripture is clear that marriage was originally intended to be one partnership from both genders committed to a lifelong relationship, and that the Church has no authority to bless any other sexual union or to teach any other doctrine.
We cite here two statements that are authoritative for most Anglicans. First, at Lambeth Conference 1998, the bishops of the Anglican Communion clearly and deliberately stated in Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality that “We cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions,” a statement that was upheld in subsequent primate meetings.
For the resolution’s authors, it was the Bible’s understanding of marriage, e.g., as described by Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6), that was the centerpiece for crafting this resolution.
The second statement is more general, but equally applicable. Article XX of the Articles of Religion, 1801, “Of the Authority of the Church” includes the words, “… it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” The Book of Common Prayer, 1979. p. 871.
Same sex blessing liturgies effectively ordain the covenant between the same sex couple; that is, they recognize and bless the holiness of such union as in the sacramental rite of marriage. Whether the word ‘marriage’ is used or not, its meaning is commonly understood to be modified with such rites. We believe that to be detrimental to God’s people, not only because it expands the definition of marriage, but because it also convolutes the teaching of Holy Scripture.
The Christian Doctrine of Marriage is not ‘indifferent” or “non-essential” (adiaphoria) to Christian life in the Kingdom of God, nor to civilized life in general. Marriage was established by God in creation (Genesis 1:27-28. The Book of Common Prayer p. 423), affirmed in our Lord’s ministry in Galilee, (John 2:1-11, Mark 10:2-8) and used by St. Paul and St. John the Divine as a prime metaphor for Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:32, Revelation 21: 2).
We regret that we are being asked to accept modifications to the historic and Scriptural understanding of marriage in the name of diversity. This strains relationships between earnest Christians, because we cannot say together that we both have the mind of Christ on this matter.
We affirm the importance of all our mission partners in various parts of the world, particularly in Uganda and Kenya. We know that Bishop Lillibridge’s intention was not to directly damage those relationships. Nevertheless, the need now exists to reassure various Communion Partners that our friendship and missional work with them is precious to us. If we may act in lieu of the Diocesan Office to enable shared mission and ministry for the sake of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, then we offer ourselves to that purpose.
In Christ’s name,
The Rev. Milton Black
The Rev. David Chalk
Dr. Steven Emerson
The Rev. Paul Frey
The Rev. Betty Fuller
The Rev. Frank Fuller
Mr. Thomas Hardin
Mrs. B.J. Kershaw
The Rev. Scott Kitayama
The Rev. John Rayls
MajGen (Ret) Garry Schnelzer
Mr. John Warren
The Rev. Stockton Williams