Those of you who are familiar with the 1960’s folk music scene will no doubt get the reference in the title of this article to an Arlo Guthrie song about a motorcycle. In the first version of the song he didn’t explain why he didn’t want a pickle. In the second version it turns out that the pickle is a microphone.
So, I don’t want a pickle either but last Monday I got one. I was interviewed by CBC News regarding a decision made at the Diocesan Synod last month. I was surprised that a resolution that did nothing more than asks the bishop for a guideline (regarding the blessings of same same-sex civil marriages) was newsworthy.
To date our Synod has not made a legislative decision about the blessing of same-sex civil marriages. The Church’s Canon on Marriage has not been changed, so there still cannot be any weddings of same-sex couples in the churches of our diocese. Our Church affirms that there are gay and lesbian individuals and couples within our congregations. They participate as valued members of our congregations and also in leadership roles.
The current agreed standard among the bishops calls for a “generous pastoral response.” A parish can provide for a blessing of a civilly married gay or lesbian couple. It is to be done with the bishop’s knowledge and permission. It is possible to celebrate “a Eucharist with the couple, including appropriate intercessory prayers, but not including a nuptial blessing.” (House of Bishops, April 20, 2007)
This is a difficult issue for us because we are not in agreement with one another. People on all sides of this issue are feeling worn-down and hurt. Before we do anything I think it is wise to see the guidelines. Then the Parish Council can decide how to proceed with our discernment. Our challenge will be to listen respectfully to one another. My hope is that we can have a process of discernment without pickles, without the media waiting to pounce on fractions and divisions. We know, however, that the world is watching to see what we do.