Bishop’s Letter and Policy Regarding Same-sex Marriages

January 17, 2019

Dear Clergy and Parishioners of the Diocese of Tennessee,

I greet you in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead, and who is himself the Good Shepherd of the flock.

This letter accompanies a Procedure for the implementation of Resolution B012, which governs the use of the Trial Rites for Marriage authorized by the 2018 General Convention. B012 makes the Trial Rites available within every diocese of our Church where civil law permits it.

The Resolution also reaffirms the longstanding principal embedded in our Canons that clergy have discretion to decline to officiate at any marriage. This provision is central to the pastoral charge itself, and the ability of the clergy to be pastors to their people.

It also specifically cites the canonical principal that Rectors and Priests in charge have responsibility for worship, as well as the use and control of parish buildings, under the pastoral direction of the bishop. Again, this is a longstanding principal that is at the heart of pastoral ministry in the Episcopal Church.

The Resolution also acknowledges the pastoral responsibility of the bishop and preserves the apostolic teaching ministry of the bishop. It requires the bishop, when it is deemed necessary, to take action to provide pastoral support from another bishop of this Church, when couples, clergy, and congregations desire to use the Trial Rites.

I thank my colleague, the Rt. Rev’d Brian Cole of the Diocese of East Tennessee, for his willingness to provide the necessary pastoral support called for in the Resolution. I am very grateful for Bishop Cole’s generous spirit and his pastoral ministry to us.

I commend to your attention the provisions of the appended Procedure. They are intended to promote the highest degree of communion and fellowship in a time of challenge for the Church. These provisions require consultation. No document can answer every question in advance. I also commend to your attention the two documents that preceded this Procedure: the two pastoral teachings on the Episcopate and on Marriage.

I thank you for your attention. We are fellow members of the Body of Christ and I love all of you dearly. This ministry to which you have called me is a blessing to me. Please continue to pray for the Diocese of Tennessee.

Yours faithfully,
The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt
Bishop of Tennessee