The annual council of the Diocese of Virginia, meeting Jan. 23 in Reston, approved a six-week “listening process” on sexuality for 12 of its congregations.
A report by the diocese’s Windsor Dialogue Commission included two liturgies that provide pastoral blessings for same-sex couples. Another proposed rite celebrates friendship.
The report provides detailed instructions for the listening process, including a “facilitator’s script.” The report does not, however, explain what congregations are supposed to do with the proposed rites, which are not authorized but are nevertheless available.
“The majority of the group believes that the time is right for same-gender unions to be blessed, albeit [sic] the liturgies should not be authorized,” the report said.
“In discussion with Bishop Peter James Lee, the Windsor Dialogue Commission was invited to develop liturgical resources in making a pastoral response to the gay and lesbian community,” the report later added. “While we are limited by the [Windsor Report’s] moratorium from offering a Blessing of Same Sex Unions, we did want to offer liturgical resources that would recognize couples in committed relationships.”
Both rites recommend adapting prayers into what the report calls “The Holy Eucharist Rite Two in Thanksgiving for a Committed Relationship.”
One proposed rite borrows concepts from a wedding, changing the vows into prayers of the people instead: “Bestow on N. and N. the grace to be faithful to each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health that they might love and cherish each other until they are parted by death.”
A second proposed rite simply incorporates the couple into one reference in the prayers of the people: “For the special needs and concerns of this congregation; For this couple that comes before us this day.”
Bishop Lee presented the names of the 12 congregations, which will work in pairs, to the commission. The commission instructs that the six pairs of congregations provide written reports before Easter. Another committee appointed by the Bishop will “evaluate the reports and determine next steps.”
Bishop Lee also told the council that he will retire earlier than previously announced as a cost-cutting measure.
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