| Sunday Holy Eucharist
GET IN TOUCH
between Atlantic and Beach
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
PLEASE SEE AN IMPORTANT LETTER FROM FATHER FRANK BELOW
Monday, 24 February 2014 The Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle
Dear Friends in The Lord:
The 2003 General Convention consented to the ordination and consecration of a gay, partnered man as Bishop of New Hampshire, and a larger conversation began in the American Church. That conversation extended throughout the Anglican Communion and around the World. Deriving from that consent in 2003, the Church has had the inevitable conversations about the nature of covenanted human relationships generally, and the Church’s place in supporting them.
As those conversations emerged across the Church, I scheduled and encouraged public discourse in the Parish. The only caveat was that the conversations be thoughtful and respectful. In several Coffee Hour forums and Wednesdays-in-Lents, the Parish had lively conversations about full access to Holy Orders, as well as to the blessing of same-sex unions. We were/are not all of one mind, a full range of opinions was heard, many questions were asked. The conversations hewed to my imperative about civility, and however anyone felt about it one way or the other, we all regarded each other with respect. That civil respect is perhaps the first enduring legacy of those conversations.
When those conversations took place, the blessing of same-sex unions was not possible in New Jersey. On advice of The Chancellor, our Bishop ordered our clergy to provide “generous pastoral” response as cases arose in the Parishes, and forbade public conduct of what at that point were informal undeveloped liturgies.
Though the matter was legally moot, I volunteered to the Wardens and Vestry that should a case arise in this Parish, I would not undertake such a blessing without giving them notice, providing ample opportunity for comment. The issue subsided as headline conversation, and the Church moved forward on other matters.
Since that time, The Bishops of New Jersey and Newark have testified before the State Assembly on the matter of same-sex unions and ultimately “gay marriage,” supporting the issue and asking for statutory provision for them. Following the rulings of Garden State Equality vs Dow, and then United States vs Windsor, New Jersey enacted such legislation, and on 21 October 2013, marriage between persons of the same sex became legal in New Jersey. In the meantime, The Episcopal Church has been working on formal liturgy for use in Parishes.
In faithfulness to the vow I made in 2003, I have given notice to the Church Wardens and Vestry that I have been asked by a gay person raised in this parish and that person’s intended life-partner: “Father Frank, would you consider blessing our marriage?” And I now extend that notice to you as well.
I may agree or decline to officiate for any couple, gay or straight. I have not made up my mind, and as is true with any couple, I can’t do so until we’ve had the pre-marital meetings. Contemplating what would be a first for the Parish community and for me as a Priest, I am aware of the following:
1) About 11% of human beings are left-handed, and a similar %-age are homosexual. Left handedness for centuries had sinister connotations; we got over that. A similar shift in interpretation of homosexuality is occurring. +Paul Moore, Jr., the late XIII Bishop of New York, observed of the statistical parallel: “...and I think God cares as much about whether you’re gay or straight as He cares about whether you’re right handed or left handed.” Thank you, Bishop. That’s helpful.
2) Sexual activity does not define marriage, either by its presence/absence, or in the particular manifestations of it. If sexual activity defines marriage, debilitating injury of one partner or the onset of andropause/menopause would render millions of marriages null and void. Clearly, covenanted lifelong relationships do exist with great grace, towering dignity and inspiring affection where sexual activity is absent or present.
3) Biblically, issues of human sexuality are mentioned to be sure, among them homosexuality. The entire conversation in the Church about this issue focuses on how we interpret scripture. This is best illustrated when we cherry pick the scriptures to find those references that support our prevailing opinion and prejudice, and ignore others with an equal claim on us. A perfect example: loudly crowing a couple of references condemning homosexuality, while utterly ignoring dozens of references commanding a tithe. Integrity in scriptural interpretation requires more of us.
4) Theologically, marriage has as its hallmarks lifelong monogamous commitment, mutual affection, mutual sacrifice, and the discernible love of God. Said another way, when we assess what makes a marriage, do we see monogamous lifelong commitment? Do we see voluntary mutual affection and sacrifice? Do we see God’s Love manifested in this relationship? None of these indices assume gender. Any assumptions apply to all couples equally.
5) One of the surest theological indicators among liturgical Christians is liturgy. The liturgy is perhaps the most unifying sign we have among ourselves. We take liturgy seriously and we don’t offer these holy works casually or flippantly. We are a Church developing rites to make God’s blessings immediate and apparent to the World in covenanted relationships, gay or straight. That’s huge.
6) I am not asking your permission. Canonically, the decision must be mine alone, with the advice and consent of my Bishop. I am grateful to say that the Bishop has confidence in my judgment on this matter, and will support whatever decision I make. I pray to merit that confidence and bear the responsibility with joyful humility.
I have fulfilled my vow to the Wardens and Vestry made so long ago. I am writing to you because I respect you, I love you and I care deeply for all persons who affiliate here, making up this community of Faith. To the degree that you want to communicate with me as I contemplate this liturgy, I am glad to hear from you.
Love you. See you in Church.
The Rev’d Frank B. Crumbaugh III, Rector
The Episcopal Church of The Holy Innocents Marine Street, between Atlantic and Beach Avenues Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey 08008