11 December 2008

Gay marriag rite? No, a new marriage rite.

It takes a lot of impress me and I'm not known for handing out compliments unless they are well deserved. I've lost friends because I wouldn't hand out gratuitous compliments.

Today I'm both impressed by and handing out a compliment to the Rt. Rev'd J. Jon Bruno who has released a new form for the blessing of marriage in his the Diocese of Los Angeles. You must read the released document.

The rite begins
We have gathered to celebrate the joining of N and N in a covenant of love. This covenant is the promise of hope between two people who love each other, who understand their love as a gift of God, who trust that love, and who wish to share the future together.

It enables two separate people to share their desires, longings, dreams and memories, and to help each other through their uncertainties. It provides the encouragement to risk more and thus to gain more. In this covenant, these two people belong together, providing mutual support and stability, and if it be God’s will, a place in which their children may
That sums it all up in my opinion. Love is being stressed here, not the legal transfer of a woman to a man. I've long said our present forms really do not recognize the "love factor" of the commitment. The collect reflects that love and commitment:
O gracious and everliving God, look joyfully upon N. and N., who come before this assembled community to make a covenant of love, fidelity and life-long commitment. Grant them your blessing and assist them with your grace, that, with true fidelity and steadfast love, they may honor and keep the covenant they make, through Jesus Christ our savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
What I found most interesting - and inspired - was the lack of sexist language. As I read the document, I kept thinking "This is wonderful!" For years I've thought that our present forms (whether BCP or otherwise) stress the fact that the woman is losing her individual identity and becoming, instead, a man's spouse. That is traditional marriage, after all. This document doesn't do that. The God-given integrity of both people is preserved. The service stresses the companionship and friendship aspect of marriage. Yet, all the things we have come to see as necessary are there including the "til death do us part" bit.
N., will you have this man/woman to be your spouse; to live together in this covenant of love? Will you love him/her, comfort him/her, honor and keep him/her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him/her as long as you both shall live?
Even the community's support and approval is there, but it's not just a "we will" statement - it is an affirmation. The priest asks if the assembly supports the two people and the reply is:
We do in the belief that God has blessed N. and N. by calling them into their covenant with each other.
Then the priest asks the best question of all:
Will you, brothers and sisters in Christ, give your pledge to honor and uphold N. and N.; to recognize them as a family in this community, to guide and pray for them in times of trouble; to celebrate with them in times of joy, to respect the bonds of their covenant, and to seek to discern the continuing presence of Christ within them?
And then there is the priestly blessing of the couple - it actually made me go all "moist eyed."
Most gracious God, we give you thanks or your tender love in sending Jesus Christ to come among us, to be born of a human mother, and to make the way of the cross to be the way of life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, pour out your abundant blessing upon NN and NN. Defend them from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle upon their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking, in their joys and in their sorrows, in their life and in their death. Finally in your mercy, bring them to that table where your saints feast forever in your banquet; through Jesus Christ our Lord who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns one God, now and forever.
I love it! And I particularly love this part: "Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle upon their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads." That's absolutely beautiful -- the imagery is stunning.

I see Bishop Bruno's form replacing the ancient forms we have had heretofore.

As those who've been with me for a number of years (First at Fr. Jake's and now here) know, I am really a conservative in most things and I see Right II as heresy. But this conservative Anglo-Catholic would have no problem attending any marriage ceremony using this form. It is perfect in every way, in my opinion. Okay, it will be perfect when it is put into Elizabethan English.

If I were a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles, this is the only form I would use for anyone, "straight" or "Gay."

A tip of the biretta and a hearty thank you to Bishop Bruno and his liturgical commission for the best new liturgy I've seen since 1928.

Go read the document.

UPDATE: Thinking Anglicans has a link to the suggested readings. All the usual readings are there and some very interesting readings have been added. Check it out the readigns here.