Thursday, July 22, 2010

GTU's Episcopal School Gets $400,000 Grant to Craft Same-Sex Blessing Ceremonies

The National Catholic Reporter has posted a July 20th report by Kevin Eckstrom of Religion News Service that a gay rights foundation has donated over $400,000 to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) to craft ceremonies that can be officially adopted by the Episcopal Church USA for blessing same-sex relationships, unions and marriages.

CDSP is one of the member schools of Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union, from which I earned my Ph.D. through the Franciscan School of Theology.

The grant will supplement the relatively meager $25,000 that had been allocated to the project by the church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. The NCR posting says "A major part of the grant will go to funding a conference next March where two representatives from each of the church's 110 dioceses will be able to offer suggestions and share work that's already been done."

Other excerpts from the article follow:

A Michigan-based gay rights foundation has given more than $400,000 to a California seminary to help craft formal liturgies for the Episcopal Church to bless gay and lesbian relationships.

The Episcopal Church still officially considers marriage between a man and a woman, reflected in the marriage rite of its Book of Common Prayer. Many dioceses, however, unofficially allow priests to bless same-sex relationships and even marriages.

Because the church puts a high value on scripted liturgies, many same-sex couples want their own marriage/blessing rite since many bishops are reluctant to use the traditional husband-wife marriage liturgy for same-sex unions.

The church's 2009 General Convention gave the green light to collecting “theological and liturgical resources” that would form the basis of an official same-sex rite that could be added to the list of approved ceremonies.

Many observers expect the church, when it gathers again in 2012, to approve rites for same-sex unions, or at least give official approval to start the process, which can take several years.

The $404,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific will help facilitate the process; the church's official Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has only $25,000 designated for the project.

“Developing liturgical resources for blessing same-sex unions is a once-in-a-lifetime generation change, and we want to do it well,” said the Rev. Ruth Myers, a professor of liturgy at the seminary in Berkeley, Calif.

Though ultimate decisions and recommendations will be left to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the seminary hopes the grant will help keep the process going, with the necessary funds to match.

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