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July 1, 2004

 

 

My brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

I do hope that you are finding time for some rest and recreation this summer. I am enclosing a Pastoral Statement from me to the clergy of our diocese. The statement concerns blessings of committed life long unions of persons of the same gender in the Diocese of North Carolina.

 

I offer this to provide some pastoral guidance in this area of ministry, placing my comments at last year’s clergy conference in a more formal context. This is not a Pastoral Letter that must be publicly read or distributed, but a pastoral statement to guide and assist us all in our common life and ministry. Please feel free to use this statement in ways that will be helpful to you in the exercise of your ministry. We will make opportunity for discussion available as it is needed.  

 

May God bless and keep you and yours. I remain,

 

Your brother in Christ,

 

 

 

Michael B. Curry

 


 

A Pastoral Statement from the Right Reverend Michael B. Curry

To the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

July 1, 2004

 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another. John 13:35 

 

I am writing to offer some guidance to the clergy of our Diocese with regard to the blessing of committed life long unions of persons of the same gender.  I would like to do so by placing this ministry in the context of the mission of the Church, especially our pastoral calling to be a community of God’s reconciling love and compassion, as commanded by our Lord. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.

 

The catechism of the Book of Common Prayer reads, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, pg. 855).  Living that mission of restoration and renewal is how we share in God’s dream, purpose and mission for creation, which is to establish communion and relationship among God, humanity and all creation. This is the ministry of reconciliation; it is the work of God’s reconciling love (see, for example, John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-20; Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:19-20).

 

For us as Christians, that reconciling love has been incarnate and made known most fully in the life, teachings and person of our Crucified and Risen Lord, Jesus Christ (the Gospel). As such the Church is “the community of the New Covenant,” who through our baptism and commitment to the Gospel seek to live God’s reconciling love, following the way of Jesus as his disciples, in communion with God and each other in Christ (The Catechism of the BCP, pg. 854; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). 

 

We are, therefore, called to be a community of faith in which the Gospel of God’s reconciling love in Jesus is lived, shared and witnessed to in the world. As a community committed to living the Gospel, we are called to welcome, honor and love all persons. As a community committed to the Gospel, we are called to be a people whose lives are defined by love and whose community is characterized by compassion and caring within and beyond itself. In this spirit our baptismal covenant asks: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” (BCP, pg. 305)

 

From my perspective as Bishop, the blessing of the committed life long unions of persons of the same gender is one way our community can live the Gospel through faithful and loving pastoral care and spiritual support for each other.

 

General Convention Resolution C051

Resolution CO51 of the 74th General Convention of ECUSA on “The Blessing of the Committed Unions of Same Gendered Relationships” sought to address this question. While the resolution is primarily descriptive of where we are as a Church and subject to varying interpretations, it does offer some guidance which may be helpful in our considerations. First, it acknowledges that there are a variety of pastoral practices intended to provide such loving and faithful care and support. The resolution reads, “in our understanding of homosexual persons, differences exist among us about how best to care pastorally for those who intend to live in monogamous, non-celibate unions.” 

 

Second, the resolution reaffirmed our Church’s commitment to certain moral and spiritual teachings of the Gospel which should be reflected in life long committed relationships of Christian people who are of the same gender when it says: “We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see, in each other, the image of God.”

 

Third, it “recognized that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same sex unions.”

 

Pastoral Care and Spiritual Support

As I said earlier, the question of the blessing of the committed unions of persons of the same gender is, first and foremost, part of a larger concern for  providing faithful and loving pastoral care and spiritual support for members of the Church. It is incumbent upon the Church to be a community that provides pastoral care and spiritual support for all who are part of it, but that does not mean that such care will be done in the same way in every context.  For some, that may be a pastoral ministry which includes the blessing of the unions of persons of the same gender. For some, it will not include such a ministry. I am not suggesting that all congregations will be called to exercise this particular ministry of pastoral care. Different contexts and communities where we seek to live the Gospel will call forth different ways of being loving and faithful in our common pastoral call.

 

 For those who do have a sense of call to this particular ministry, however, I am asking that the following guidelines be observed:

 

  1. If serious consideration is given to the possible exercise of this pastoral ministry, the Bishop should be first consulted and kept abreast of the process in the parish.

 

  1. As a means of providing pastoral care and spiritual support for members of the Church, this ministry should be undertaken in response to clear and specific pastoral needs within the parish community.

 

  1. As there are no canonical guidelines to provide a sense of direction for rectors exercising their spiritual ministry in this area, it is my expectation that a decision to exercise this ministry will be arrived at by the rector after wide and extended prayer, conversation and education in the parish and in consultation with the vestry.

 

  1. This ministry should include agreed-upon pastoral guidelines outlining spiritual expectations in relationships, process of preparation and means of liturgical expression.

 

  1. The process of preparation and any forms of covenant should be guided by the moral and spiritual teachings of the Gospel about human relationships that were identified in resolution D039 of the 73rd and reaffirmed in resolution C051 of the 74th General Convention which stated, “We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”

 

 

Conclusion

We are called to be a community of faith in which the reconciling love of God that we know in Jesus Christ is made known among us. As followers of Jesus and members of the family of God, we are called to welcome, honor and love all persons. In that spirit and by our care for one another, we as the Church of Jesus Christ can bear profound witness to the truth of the Gospel and God’s vision of reconciling all people and creation to God and each other.

Proclaiming God's inclusive love in and through the Episcopal Church since 1975.


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