Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray your ministry is engaging and fruitful. I write to share with you my thoughts regarding General Convention especially as it speaks to the new canon regarding the marriage of same gender parishioners.
I have arrived at my understanding through prayer, study, and conversations with many of you and most importantly through what I believe the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am forever grateful to those who have walked with me as I discerned a way forward for the Diocese of Louisiana. For some, my understanding will be met with joy and new beginnings, while others might see this with sorrow and maybe even anger. Wherever you stand in this mysterious labyrinth know that I hold you in love.
This summer in Salt Lake City, General Convention passed resolution A036 Ament Canon 1.18 Marriage. While it is no secret to where I have stood on this issue I was quite surprised when I found myself struggling with how to proceed. My first response was to see this in the same vain as the Blessing passed in 2012. That rite was new to the church and thus a different approach was taken as to how a blessing would be liturgically presented. With guidance I believe the Diocese of Louisiana was faithful in carrying out this gift. What has become clear to me is that marriage between to loving individuals is not new to the church. We hold marriage to be a faithful, committed, life long, monogamous relationship between men and woman.
This is not new to us and thus calls us to broaden our understanding and live into a more inclusive relationship with God and one another. What I am saying is, our understanding of marriage has been expanded to include all of God’s children. I encourage you to go to the website https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/13068.pdf for more information.
The action of General Convention has given us several trial liturgies to be use during the next three years. I am giving permission to use these trial liturgies. They are:
- The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant
- The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage
- The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage (2)
- The Blessing of a Civil Marriage
- An Order for Marriage
- The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony
The Policy for the Diocese of Louisiana
- Beginning Advent One, 2015 all Presbyters have permission to officiate either a blessing of a Civil marriage or the marriage between a same-sex couple. The act of marriage is not to be taken lightly whether between a same-sex couple or between a heterosexual couple. All due diligence should be adhered to in preparation for their new beginning.
- The liturgy of marriage is a sacrament and therefore will not be decided by a vestry or any other body in the local parish. That being said, I strongly encourage all rectors and priest-in-charge to have a conversation regarding their impending action.
- If for any reason a priest for conscious reasons is unwilling to officiate a same-sex wedding that priest will call my office so I can provide pastoral over site of that couple. No priest will ever as long as I am the Bishop of Louisiana be forced to officiate any wedding.
- For all associate priests, they shall gain the approval of the rector before proceeding to officiate a wedding and they shall use the rite the rector chooses.
- All the rubrics in the prayer book shall be followed as stated.
- For all remarriages a Godly Judgment shall be obtained from the Bishop.
The Rt. Rev’d Morris K. Thomspson, Jr.
Bishop of Louisiana