He is not saying that we haven’t done the theology about LGBT relationships in the Episcopal Church. I believe he’s saying The Episcopal Church hasn’t issued a formal statement that explains why we believe it is a good and proper thing to ordain partnered gay men and lesbians to all orders of ministry and to bless the unions (or marriages) of gay men and lesbians.
I sense he thinks that is a failure on our part. And I agree with him in that.
I wrote about this a long time ago. The failure of our church to recognize and bless same-sex unions has been a stumbling block. It put us in the weird position of ordaining partnered people to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate without blessing their relationships. And that’s just weird. Backward, even.
I wish we had adopted a liturgy for same-sex blessings before we ordained Bishop Robinson. But that’s not the timetable we had. We were offered a chance to consecrate Bishop Robinson first, and we did. And I am glad we did. That’s how it is in our church: Sometimes the incarnate people in our church precede our theological positions. I am glad our church recognized Bishop Robinson’s fitness for ministry instead of awaiting a theological statement.
I believe Bishop Whalon has it right – that we need to articulate our theology so that we can “officially” explain ourselves to the wider Anglican Communion and beyond.
I also agree with the many people who say that there have been plenty of theological justifications. They include many resources that Susan Russell cites when she asks:
Some people are slamming Bishop Whalon, arguing there have been theological justifications. I agree there have been sound justifications. But I also agree with Bishop Whalon that none of those have been officially endorsed by our church, and I agree that is what is needed.
My first response is a clarifying question: Is one of the pieces of the theology we haven't done "To Set Our Hope on Christ" -- the theological and biblical apologetic we took to the ACC in Nottingham in 2005?
Or the Claiming the Blessing Theology Statement published in 2002?
Or Tobias Haller's "Reasonable and Holy"?
Or the theological resources published by the Chicago Consultation?
I believe our church needs to point to some of those theological treatises and say, “This speaks our mind. This is why we believe it is right to bless same-sex unions. And this is why we believe it is right to ordain people living in such unions.”
I believe we need to craft such a statement for our church and for the whole Anglican Communion. So I applaud Bishop Whalon for raising this question.