Report to the 186th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee: The LGBTQ Task Force

Report to the 186th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee

The LGBTQ Task Force

 

The 184th Annual  Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee, held in January, 2016 adopted a resolution entitled “Pastoral Response to the LGBTQ Members of the Diocese of Tennessee” and thereby formed The Task Force on Pastoral Response to LGBTQ Members of the Diocese (LGBTQ Task Force for short). This resolution acknowledged the faith and ministries of LGBTQ members in our congregations and diocese and reminded us that we were not of one mind on this matter as a diocese or as parishes, and called for the formation of the task force to encourage ongoing prayer, study, and conversation within the diocese regarding same sex marriage and related concerns.

A follow-up resolution entitled “On Episcopal Authority, the General Convention, the Trial Use Rites for Marriage in the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Tennessee” was adopted by the 185th Annual Convention in January of 2017.

The heart of that resolution follows:

Resolved, that this 185th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee direct the Task Force to assess the role of Episcopal authority, as described and implemented by the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, in providing a compassionate response to those LGBTQ members who seek access to ecclesiastical rites for marriage within the boundaries of the Diocese of Tennessee as presided over by clergy canonically resident or licensed to serve in the Diocese of Tennessee.

Specifically, this Convention directs that

  • The Task Force organize Diocesan-wide gatherings to inquire after the effect of the requirement for a bishop’s permission in the application of the Trial Use liturgical texts for marriage on local congregations and local clergy;
  • Task Force provide periodic updates to the Bishop and the people of the Diocese including a written report (due 11/01/2017) to the 186th Diocesan Convention, summarizing what it has learned regarding the exercise of Episcopal authority and the Trial Use liturgical texts for marriage in the Diocese of Tennessee:
  • The Task Force include in its report any recommendations for action by the 186th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee, including Diocesan memorial to be considered for the General Convention 2018.

 

Responding to the resolution the Task Force created the following Mission Statement:

To create a safe place where people can come together in prayer and conversation to nurture mutual respect and understanding concerning inclusion of LGBTQ members in the life of the church.

 

The Goals to accomplish this mission include:

  1. Provide adequate number of diocesan meetings to facilitate open discussions.
  2. To explain to members of the Diocese of Tennessee the resolutions of the 2015 General Convention affecting same gender marriage and civil unions, and Bishop Bauerschmidt’s pastoral response to the same.
  3. To communicate periodic updates to Bishop Bauerschmidt and the Diocese of Tennessee on the progress of the Task Force.

Timeline of Task Force actions since 2016

  • Early 2016: Bishop Bauerschmidt asked Susan Huggins and the Reverend Brian McVey to be co-chairs of the Task Force; the discernment process to determine the membership of the task force begins.
  • November/December of 2016: The task force membership is finalized taking into account a recognized ability to work with people of differing perspectives, diversity of gender, age, race, and sexual orientation, as well as the location and size of their parish.
  • January 12, 2017: Initial Meeting of the Task Force.
  • January 2017: Second resolution passed by diocesan convention (Task force is now governed by both resolutions).
  • March 17/18 2017: Task Force Retreat.
  • March, 2017: Co-chairs invited to St. Bartholomew’s Church, Nashville where a parish meeting is facilitated.
  • May 13: Facilitator training for Task Force members
  • Late Spring/Early summer: Outreach to clergy to schedule gatherings on parish, convocation, and diocesan levels.
  • July 24th: Task Force members invited to and attend gathering hosted by All Sacraments for All People (ASAP) at St. Augustine’s Chapel.
  • October 8th: Diocesan-wide gathering at Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville.

 

Task Force Report according to Goals

  1. Provide adequate number of diocesan meetings to facilitate open discussions.

See the above time line.

Future actions: A letter has been mailed to every priest of the diocese regarding the availability of Task Force members to meet with members by congregation and convocation. We are also happy to meet with diocesan committees and commissions.

 

  1. To explain to members the resolutions passed at the 2015 General Convention in relation to same gender weddings and the blessing of same gender civil marriages and our bishop’s responseThree General Convention resolutions relate to this goal. They are:
  • A-054. Authorize for Trial Use Marriage and Blessing Rites Contained in "Liturgical Resources I.” [1]This resolution gives permission to use these trial liturgies “under the direction and the permission of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority…” and states the “[t]rial use is only available under the direction and the permission of the Diocesan Bishop.” Bishop Bauerschmidt has not given permission for use within the Diocese of Tennessee, by either canonically resident clergy or clergy licensed to officiate in the diocese. In addition canonically resident clergy, serving under the authority of the Bishop of Tennessee, cannot perform these liturgies in other dioceses in states where same gender marriage and blessings are lawful and the local bishop has given consent. The other part of this resolution directs bishops to make provision for all couples asking to be married in the Church to have access to these liturgies. Bishop Bauerschmidt has made arrangements with the Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky to provide pastoral care and provide that these liturgies are available to a same gender couples from the Diocese of Tennessee.
  • A-036. Amend Canon I.18 [Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony].[2]

There are numerous revisions. One such revision includes the deletion of the language that Holy Matrimony is a “physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman….”

  • A-037. Appoint an Expanded Task Force on the Study of Marriage.[3]

One pertinent part of the resolution requests that dioceses and parishes use the study materials on marriage entitled “Dearly Beloved” toolkit.

For more details see The General Convention Journal of the Episcopal Church, Salt Lake City, 2015 (New York: General Convention, 2015) or The Acts of Convention section of the Episcopal Church’s Digital Archives, found online at this address: https://www.episcopalarchives.org/e-archives/acts/.

  1. To Communicate periodic updates to Bishop Bauerschmidt and the Diocese of Tennessee on the progress of the Task Force.
  2. Regarding attendance at two gatherings with the Task Force, the majority of those attending disagreed with Bishop Bauerschmidt’s current policy decision. It was evident that the majority of those who attended were struggling with the bishop’s current policy.
    1. There were approximately 130 people who attended the October 8th event at Christ Church Cathedral. They represented eleven congregations. There were small group discussions led by members of the Task Force. Recorders were recruited. All the groups responded to the same three questions.
      1. What was your initial response, and how did it affect you, to the bishop’s decision to not allow the same-sex liturgy in the Diocese of Tennessee?
      2. If you were talking to the Bishop Bauerschmidt one-on-one, what would you want him to hear?
      3. Given varied opinions on this, how do you imagine remaining in community with those who disagree?
    2. A document with all the recorded responses from the October 8th event can be found here:   LGBTQ Pastoral Response Task Force 2017 Conversations Event Comments.
  1. The event at St Augustine was sponsored by All Sacraments for All People (ASAP), and was attended by one hundred people. The event was well planned with a potluck supper, the celebration of Holy Communion and a question and discussion of attendees and the members of the Task Force. The leadership of ASAP did video interviews. It was stated that once a video of these interviews will be available to our bishop and members of the diocese. Again, this gathering was attended primarily by people who disagree with the bishop’s decision.

 

Task Force Recommendations

Recommendation 1.

It is recommended by the Task Force that Bishop Bauerschmidt consider ways to communicate pastoral availability to, and awareness of the concerns of those affected or troubled by these issues. The desire for more face to face and personal responses was clear from our conversations with members of the diocese.

  1. It is evident that providing a pastoral response by referring our LGBTQ members to the Diocese of Kentucky and Bishop Bauerschmidt’s effort to make this happen is appreciated. At the same time, numerous individuals expressed disappointment at a response they felt did not involve their church community in the way they would have hoped. This may explain why no members of the diocese have chosen this option.
  2. The Task Force stands ready to offer assistance to the bishop where desired and appropriate in shaping future responses and furthering conversation.

Recommendation 2.

That the Task Force examine ways to “spread the net” to include members who support the current policy and to provide opportunities for those with opposing opinions to have face to face, honest, respectful, and open dialogue.

An Invitation to all Members of the Diocese

You are invited. Members are invited to submit their responses to the three questions that guided the diocesan-wide discussion at Christ Church Cathedral by going to the following site and answering the questions there. The first page of the survey is informational and provides background resources that may be of interest. The survey itself begins on page two:  https://www.cognitoforms.com/TrialUseLiturgyTaskForce/SameSexLiturgyFocusedConversationSurvey .

Past updates of the task force: If you would like to read the updates that the task force sent out over the past year, you can download them from the diocesan web site: http://edtn.org/governance/committees-2017/task-force-pastoral-response-lgbtq-members-diocese/ .

The Task Force will continue in 2018. Please contact any of our members as we continue our work in 2018.

There has been some reticence on the part of parishes and their priests to host conversations. Calendar issues seem to have played into this, but the anxiety felt by leaders—clergy and lay—in broaching these issues, particularly in public forums (even if they are public only in the parish) cannot be denied and highlights the importance of this ongoing work to encourage respectful and honest engagement with one another in the context of our shared faith.

Our creation and work as a Task Force appointed by our Diocesan Convention has been a journey. This journey has challenged us in our individual efforts to learn what it means to be mutually respectful and to seek reconciliation as part of a Christian community. Yet through our work and relationships as a task force, and the heartfelt comments of those in the diocese who have spoken to us, we believe strongly in our commitment to our charge, to members of this diocese, to our bishop and to our Lord Jesus Christ who we look to lead our footsteps.

 

Dr. Jennifer Ballard, St. Peter’s Columbia

The Rev. Rick Britton, St. Ann’s, Retired

The Rev. Bonnie Lloyd-Downs, Good Shepherd, Brentwood

Kirby Horton, St. Paul’s, Franklin

The Rev. Jody Howard, St. Joseph of Arimathea, Hendersonville

Susan Huggins, St. David’s, Nashville. Co-chair

Adam Hutson, Christ Church, Nashville

Scott Kammerer, St. Philip’s, Nashville

The Rev. Brian McVey, Church of the Advent, Nashville.  Co-chair

Dr. Micah Weedman, St. Bartholomew’s, Nashville

[1] A full legislative history and the final resolution text may be accessed here: https://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution-complete.pl?resolution=2015-A054

[2] A full legislative history and the final resolution text may be accessed here: https://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution-complete.pl?resolution=2015-A036

[3] A full legislative history and the final resolution text may be accessed here: https://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution-complete.pl?resolution=2015-A037