Bethlehem Blessings

The Rt Rev Paul Marshall, bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem in the USA has released a set of pastoral guidelines for how clergy are to undertake same-sex blessings in that diocese. That is worthy of a cheer in itself. However, it is worth reading through the guidelines to see exactly what they say. (See here).

The key words at the moment in the American church are that bishops are able to provide “Generous Provision” regarding pastoral and liturgical ministry to same-sex couples. That is to be compared with the “Gracious Restraint” which the bishops in Scotland are currently exercising – restraint which seems to me to be rather less than generous.

Compare and contrast:

From the Diocese of Bethlehem – “….Ordinarily, a bishop presides when one of the parties being joined is a priest or deacon….”

From the Scottish Episcopal Church – “…The College [of Bishops] recognises that very different views exist within the Scottish Episcopal Church as to the appropriateness of informal blessings by clergy of same-sex unions. It is the practise of the individual Bishops neither to give official sanction to such informal blessings, nor to attend them personally…”

Apart from the question of whether that statement was a truthful one, it is that last bit about not attending blessings (or we were subsequently told, Civil Partnership ceremonies) which has always seemed to me to be by far the most personally offensive thing about the last statement that the bishops mader. No international request asked our bishops to refrain from even attending such a ceremony. It is our own special, spiteful, Scottish Moratorium. It implies that a bishop would be tainted by being present at the happiest day of two other people’s lives. That is nasty theology and is unworthy of anyone. It also does not seem to deal with the possibility that a bishop might want to attend the nuptials of his or her beloved gay child.

Our congregations deserve better provision than our bishops have made. Our bishops’ families deserve to be treated with more respect and more love too.

The Bishop of Bethlehem shows that it need not be this way and demonstrates what not only what generosity is but also what graciousness really means.


  1. David | Dah•veed says

    BTW, +Bethlehem is not a raging liberal!

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