Monday, September 24, 2007

Words Matter: "Formal" Same-Sex Blessing "Services"?

It's time for another episode of Words Matter in the ongoing Anglican Communion struggles!

Stephen Bates in The Guardian is reporting that:

Senior Anglican church officials and American bishops were last night meeting in New Orleans to draft a statement aimed at keeping the US Episcopal Church within the worldwide communion in the face of attacks from conservative church members over the Americans' attempt to remain welcoming towards gays.

The move, which will be discussed within the US house of bishops at its meeting today, seeks to allow liberal clergy to continue offering pastoral support to gay couples while ruling out, at least for the present, formal blessings services or the appointment of more openly gay bishops.

Note the wording: "formal blessings services" (emphasis my own).

To this writer's ears, it sounds like a lot like the progressive spin that bishops rarely, if ever, actually authorize same-sex blessings. It also raises the questions of (1) what constitutes informal "blessings services", (2) whether "informal blessings services" are authorized, (3) what constitutes a "formal blessings service," and (4) whether it is possible to hold a same-sex blessing without either a "service" or a "formal service."

Of course, details are lacking at this point, and I have no idea how specific Bates is being in his wording. It's what comes out of the House of Bishops that will count. But whenever you read formal Anglican communications, it's time to put on your analytical hat and remember this guiding principle: every word counts.

Oh, and this too: Watch out for the technicality land mines.

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