In June and July of 2015 I was a clergy deputy to the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church. At this Convention, we were going to be considering important resolutions related to same-sex marriage. A special committee was formed to handle all marriage-related resolutions. I was appointed as the chair of the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage for the House of Deputies. My dear friend Brian Thom, Bishop of the Diocese of Idaho, was the chair of the committee for the House of Bishops. Both Committees met together with Brian and I alternating the responsibility of chairing the meetings.
Unlike other committees, some of which had many, many resolutions to consider, we had only 10, and several of those were identical or similar. We really had only three questions to consider: 1) should we change the church canons to allow for same-sex marriage, 2) should we adopt rites (liturgies) with gender neutral language to be used to wed same-sex couples and 3) should the Marriage Task Force continue its work. Rather than speeding through a host of issues, we were able to spend time focusing on these three. We knew our task was important, and potentially history making. We also knew that there was a good chance the Supreme Court of the U.S. would announce its ruling on same-sex marriage while we were in session.
At General Convention a hearing must be held on every resolution before the committee can act on the resolution. We held three hearings at heard moving testimony on both sides. After the hearings, we wrestled with how to move forward. Continuing the work of the Task Force was an easier issue. There are so many questions still to be considered when talking about marriage and the church's role that we unanimously supported its continuation. (For example, the report of the first task force pointed out the preponderance of couples that choose to cohabitate as a prelude to, or instead of marriage. Consideration of that trend and the church's appropriate response was beyond the scope of the work of the first task force.) The bigger question was about authorizing same-sex marriage. Should we change the nature of marriage by authorizing same-sex marriage? If so, should such authorization be church-wide, or only for dioceses whose bishops support same-sex marriage? If the answer to the first question is yes, how can we do it in a way that honors our constitution and canons?