Austin Episcopal church to offer first same-sex blessing in Texas


St. David’s Episcopal churchWikimedia Commons

St. David’s Episcopal church

St. David’s Episcopal church is located on East Eighth Street.

Kelsey Acosta
The debate over same-sex relationships has been a very divisive issue in the Episcopal Church for over a decade now.

Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 11:45 pm | Updated: 10:15 pm, Tue Feb 5, 2013.

Posted on February 5, 2013

St. David’s Episcopal church, located in downtown Austin on East Eighth Street could make history next month by becoming the first episcopal church in Texas to bless a same-sex couple.

St. David’s is the largest Episcopal church in Austin with roughly 2,500 parishioner, a significant number of whom are lesbian or gay, according to The Austin American-Statesman.

Last July, the Episcopal Church convened for its national convention where it was decided that the church will accept the blessing of same-sex couples, a rite that involves prayer and the exchange of vows and rings.

This decision made The Episcopal Church the largest U.S. denomination to officially sanction same-sex relationships, according to the Houston Chronicle.

This decision was made possible in part by three years of work between Bishop Andy Doyle of the Dioceses of Texas and former Secretary of State James Baker, who is a practicing Episcopalian, According to My San Antonio.

The debate over same-sex relationships has been very divisive issue in the Episcopal Church, as well as other Christian denominations for over a decade now. It was a conflicting debate between the sanctity of marriage and loving and accepting “one’s neighbor.”

Doyle and Baker saw how divisive and energy consuming this one issue had become so they decided that there needed to be a compromise, since it was clear that the legitimacy of same-sex relationship was not a win-lose issue.

As part of the compromise, called the “Texas Compromise,” St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Houston was also given permission to offer same-sex blessings if the church wished to. So far neither church has blessed any same-sex couples, according to The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, St. David’s in Austin. However, in Houston, St. Stephen’s has two blessings scheduled for April.

Whoever wins this race to be the first Episcopal Church to bless a same-sex couple is far less important that the fact that, finally, such a race can exist.

Although members of the Episcopal church have made it clear that these gay blessings are not the same as a marriage, which many still believe is a sacrament that can only be shared between a man and a woman, it is refreshing to see a major U.S. Christian denomination recognize that same-sex relationship are valid in many of the same ways that heterosexual relationships are.

It is even more refreshing to have them recognize that the sole purpose of the church is not to police marriage rights.

While this is far from securing equal marriage rights for the LGBTQ community, it does speak to a change in heart; from a traditionally anti-gay stance to a more inclusive state of mind. This symbolic act is similar to when the Austin City Council unanimously voted to endorse same-sex marriage. And though it is only a baby step forward, symbolic acts matter.

If there was a better way to go then we would find it, but as it stands, it appears that we will have to continue to gradually progress.

Standing Our Ground

  Tough times lie ahead. The erosion of sympathy for Christians and the faith they hold guarantees this. A period of severe sifting appears stand groundabout to begin. Other countries and cultures are ahead of us in feeling the flames of persecution. Competing faiths and societal attitudes are quickly turning against the folk who confess Christ and as opposition intensifies so the company of confessors will dwindle. An anti-Christian outbreak seems imminent. It may not be the last and final wave of attack but everywhere it seems that men are growing impatient with the rule of Christ and his faithful subjects. We are out of step with modern mores in morals, religion, politics, cultural tastes and amusements. We will be deemed to be intolerant and loveless critics of the current ways of the world. The peace and privileges we enjoy will be withdrawn. There are too many rapidly developing lobbies that would like to see us removed. Adherence to the Gospel is going to be costly.  There are times when God looks upon the earth and faith cannot be found and the love of the many has grown cold. Church and community both, have turned away. The current tide of opinion and events seems to be pointing to a widespread occurrence of faithlessness and recklessness in human behaviour and belief. God may stem the advance of evil and folly but a time of trial may be ahead.

Ancient Israel passed through phases, if not one long lasting phase, of infidelity towards God. At times the nation surpassed the pagan world in depravity and superstition and there was no barrier against the corrosion of faith and morals, no witness to truth and righteousness. By and large the church in our era seems to be beyond hope of recovery. It sinks further and further into irreverence and irrelevance. The peoples of the world stumble in darkness and the masses are lost. Every nation wrestles with its dilemmas and throws up its horrors. The ground that believers thought themselves to have occupied is receding. Influence wanes. Mockery and ridicule wax strong. Our duty as believers will be increasingly daunting and our hearts will be faint.

The prophet Ezekiel faced such a situation of hostility and hardness of heart. Even though the great glory of God was revealed to him, and the guardianship of God was pledged to him, his spirit was still shaken and overwhelmed by the calling assigned to him. The obstinacy of the people to whom he was to preach a word of warning terrified him. He was armed with the authority of the divine word but afraid of the reaction and the seeming hopelessness of his mission.  To survive the ordeal thrust upon him God assured him, “I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them, though they are a rebellious house” (Ezek 3:8-9).

By nature and necessity the spokesmen of God are usually folk of sensitivity. There is much fear of the words they are commanded to declare for these are not congenial to the human mind. They shrink from the orders they have received and are strongly tempted to trim what they are given to say. It takes the strength of God to embolden them and disregard the enmity or indifference aroused. Their resolve has to be stiffened though the pain remains. Secret battles are often fought between God and his prophets and preachers. Subtle escapes from disapproval and unpopularity proffer themselves. Ezekiel was enabled to stand his ground though greatly outnumbered by those who would block their ears to him and scorn his speech and actions. Only when judgment is fully announced can the word of hope be expressed.

The Lord Jesus was constantly assailed by his opponents. Their plotting was always apparent and Jesus’ prowess in outwitting them was always obvious (e.g. Matthew 21: 23-27). They became more and more furious and their hatred ominous. But Jesus always firmly stood his ground. The animosity and trickery of the Jewish leaders could not trip or topple him. His human sensitivity may have been stung but his prophetic song of servant-hood to the will and word of God reveals that his resolve was never overcome. “The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. There fore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near.” (Isaiah 50:5-8a).

Ezekiel and Jesus were flinty folk, unmoveable in standing their ground and contending for truth. Martin Luther was a man of similar character. Neither threats nor rewards would silence him. He was brave but not without fear and apprehension. Often tired, and sick, overburdened with concern and wearied by conflict, he must have had his moments of weakness and anger. The turmoil of his ministry and times must have been overwhelming and difficult for any normal human being to bear. But Luther held out on many occasions. His reputed watchword is so apt: Here I stand! Luther stood his ground. And so, too, did the leaders of the English Reformation.

John Bradford was one of the dearest and most devout of the Protestant martyrs, and among the most able as preacher and theologian, held in high esteem by his peers. He went bravely to the stake in 1555 at the age of 45. He withstood the unpopularity of the people and their leaders, and stood his ground.

  “But, alas!  it is to be pitied, it is to be lamented: we ought to fear the plagues of God hanging over our heads. For notwithstanding God’s most abundant mercy upon us, which should provoke us to repentance, when or where was there more security, and less fear of God, than is even in this realm of England at this day?”

 “ . . . whoso truly understandeth (the law and gospel), cannot by man’s doctrine be seduced from truth, or read the Scriptures but to edify both himself and others: whereas he that is ignorant of the same cannot, though he were a great doctor of divinity, and could rehearse every text of the Bible without a book, but both be deceived, and deceive others . . . . For how can it be, that such as find no terror of conscience, and see not their just damnation in the law of God, which commandeth things impossible to man’s nature and power; how can it be, I say, that such could find sweetness in the gospel of Christ? How can the benefit of Christ show itself to him that needeth it not?”

  John Bradford joined the ranks of those fortified by God-given resolve to endure the hardness and stubbornness of those who oppose and defy the Word of God. His reputedly sweet nature must have suffered under the opposition he endured. He was a flinty man also. The people of God must become flinty in our time. We can see that many in high places of position and authority in church and state have become hardened and unyielding. We can see that society in general cares nothing for the Word. We must stand our ground for the honour of God and the welfare of men.

Do babies need their mums more than their dads?

By Carolyn Moynihan, MercatorNet

The British government is very active on the family front right now. Some of what they are doing is potentially good — like speeding up adoptions, which are often delayed through efforts of the authorities to “match” children with adoptive parents of the same race, and giving fathers the right to share maternity leave (12 months total).
Some of it is of doubtful benefit — like requiring “shared parenting” arrangements between divorcing couples. And some of it is downright bad – like pushing same-sex marriage.
Giving fathers as well as mothers the right to leave from their jobs during the first year of a baby’s life sounds good. But the way business minister Jo Swinson talked about itthis week struck the wrong note, I think. She said it was time to “shatter” the idea that mothers should take the lead in looking after newborns:
“Employers will soon get used to more men taking time off after their child is born and more mothers returning to work earlier, shattering the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay home and look after the child.”
That sounds a bit bossy.
Of course it is good that dads have time to spend with their new baby — good for them, for the mother and for the baby. But how much time? Enough, collectively, to bury the idea that the mother has a special role to play in nurturing the baby — primarily through breastfeeding?

House of Bishops to include eight elected women clergy

The House of Bishops of the Church of England has today expressed its encouragement and support for new robust processes and steps in bringing forward to General Synod the necessary legislation to consecrate women to the episcopate.

At a special meeting at Lambeth Palace today, the House reviewed the progress to develop proposals to enable women to become bishops at the earliest possible date. The meeting also considered changes to future meetings so as to ensure that eight senior women clergy will be participants in all meetings of the House and its standing committee.

The House was briefed on the two meetings held in January by the working group under the chairmanship of the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. All 10 of the members of the working group attended the House of Bishops meeting. The House also received an account of the intensive, facilitated conversations held by the group with 15 others from a wide range of viewpoints on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

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ROANOKE: Rwandan Anglicans Add Fourth Bishop in the US

By David W. Virtue
February 7, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013 was a red letter day for the Rev. Dr. R. Quigg Lawrence Jr., senior pastor of Church of the Holy Spirit in Roanoke, Virginia. He was consecrated the fourth bishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda in North America in his home church.

Presiding over the event was Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje of La Province De L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (PEAR) and Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA.) Dr. Lawrence will be seated as a bishop in the House of Bishops of both Provinces.

Some 700 guests from across the country and around the world were in attendance including Rwanda. Also in attendance were three members of the Rwandan House of Bishops (P.E.A.R.) including Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo (Dean of the Province), and Bishop John Rucyahana. All these men suffered through the Rwandan Genocide. Three PEAR USA bishops were present: Bishop Steve Breedlove, Bishop Terrell Glenn, and Bishop Ken Ross. Three members of the ACNA were also present. They included Archbishop Robert Duncan, Bishop John Guernsey and Bishop Foley Beach.

The Church of the Holy Spirit (CHS) was established in 1986 and is now affiliated with PEAR USA, a missionary outreach of PEAR- Rwanda and a sub jurisdiction of the ACNA. In 2000, they left the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Virginia and its bishop, Neff Powell, over the authority of Scripture and became the first AMiA parish in the US under Bishop Chuck Murphy.

It was an Episcopal Parish from 1988-2000. A prior financial arrangement made it possible for the Church of the Holy Spirit to keep the land and the building when its convictions concerning the authority of Scripture strained its relationship with the Diocese.

In February 2000, the Church of the Holy Spirit chose to connect to the Worldwide Anglican Communion through the Anglican Church in Rwanda. CHS answered the call to spread the gospel through church plants. In October 2002, CHS planted “CHS: Orchard Hills” in Daleville. Begun with about 80 CHS members, Orchard Hills now enjoys a Sunday attendance of over 400. In 2005, another church plant “CHS: The River” was launched in Blacksburg. In October 2012, “Restoration” Church was planted in Salem.

PEAR USA spans 29 states and is committed to the authority of scripture and the hallmarks of the East African Revival: reconciliation, transparency, conciliar decision-making and governance, and gospel-driven mission.

Consecration is a rare event. Statistically, a given Anglican congregation could expect to see one of their priests elevated to the office of Bishop about once every 200 years. As a bishop, Lawrence will care for the clergy of congregations throughout the mid-Atlantic region. He will preside over the ordination of priests and deacons, and will provide counsel to clergy and leadership in mission and decision-making.