Same morning routine as yesterday. The retreat-style meditation (in name only, it was actually a sermon) was by Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina. His topic was the vow that bishop's take to "proclaim the gospel." Put bluntly, the man can preach. It made me wonder why I even attempt to do so, except that I know it to be my calling. But ... wow. As with yesterday, we had about 75 minutes on our own for prayer and reflection, then gathered at our tables to continue to process the subject. I am actually finding this pattern to be quite welcome, especially in the wake of the extremely content-heavy agendas of the last two meetings.
Lunch was with the group of Communion Partner bishops. Ten were in the room--diocesans, retired, and suffragans--with three more who would have been there but for other commitments. We now form the "right wing" of the HoB, though, in times past, most would have been labeled "moderate conservatives." The center of gravity has shifted. We did some organizing and broad stroke strategizing in anticipation of this summer's General Convention. There is no path to "victory" of any sort, so it's all about the most faithful and effective way to simply bear witness. This is actually kind of liberating. And we are aware of a need to exercise more visible pastoral leadership as a group on behalf of those who will find the actions of that convention cause for consternation.
The agenda for the afternoon was a report from five bishops who have been involved in the development of a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships, with accompanying supporting materials. There was actually a read-through of the liturgy, with two bishops taking the lines of those committing themselves to one another. After a few "clarifying questions" in plenary (some of which did not actually meet that description), we had a period of discussion at our tables, and then were sent to breakout rooms where larger groups (about three tables worth) engaged in Indaba-style dialogue.
No one should be surprised that I am among those opposed to the entire project, on principle. I will vote against it, whatever form the rite takes in the end. For that reason, I'm not in a position to offer feedback on its details, fine-tuning language, etc. So I have the luxury of observing, as it were, from a distance. And what I see is a developing struggle between hard-core ideological liberals for whom anything but "full marriage equality" will still be a denial of justice, and institutional liberals who would like there to be some authorized rite for same-sex blessings but are not really interested in it looking anything like marriage. The rite that is being proposed is, in my estimation, marriage by another name, despite the protestations of its authors that it's simply a "blessing" liturgy. It's doesn't use the word "marriage," but it borrows heavily from the vocabulary and structure of the marriage liturgy. And can anyone question what the headline will be in the secular media the day after we pass the authorizing resolution?
The silver lining in all this is that the proposal is for this rite to be new resource entitled Liturgical Resources One--that is, not appended to any currently extant liturgical book, thus placing it under the authority of the Bishop Diocesan as to whether it may be used.
In the evening, eleven of the twelve bishops (one being "under the weather") of the Class of 2011 (those elected during 2010) journeyed up to College Station for dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Very, very nice.