Intervew: Bishop Marc Andrus speaks to Gay Marriage in the affirmative (San Francisco’s Bishop, Episcopal) by Peter Menkin
by Peter Menkin
This is the second interview with a prominent clergy member on the subject of Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessings. Here, The Rt. Reverend Marc Andrus (Episcopalian) who is Bishop of the Diocese of California (San Francisco Bay Area) speaks to the subject. In a telephone interview of half an hour, Bishop Marc spoke of his faith in God and God’s attitude towards Gay Marriage (“…God does not judge as human’s judge, humans judge by outward appearances, but god sees the human heart.”) and this writer notes that the great issue of his vision is reflected in his final statement, “a just and reconciled society.” The next interview will be with Senior Rabbi Stephen Pearce of Temple El-Emanuel in San Francisco, the second largest Reform Temple in the United States. This five part series is ongoing in the present. This is the interview with Bishop Marc; his answers are in italic.
Where are you on the Episcopal religious spectrum? Progressive, Liberal, Conservative? What does this mean to you?
I would be in the progressive wing of The Episcopal Church. The word progressive has a direct link to the word tradition. Properly understood, tradition is a force originating in the past and moving into the future. And at its best tradition sweeps the most positive values and understandings of a time and place forward and delivers them into a new moment of history.
Where is the Episcopal Diocese of California going with Same Sex Blessings and Gay marriage? Will the Diocese of California support a measure at the national General Convention on this matter? Has a statement been formulated on the subject? Will you comment and broadly state answers to questions regarding your Pastoral Letter on Gay Marriage?
At its recent General Convention, an every-three-year legislative gathering for the whole Episcopal Church, among the many pieces of legislation passed was two that pertain to inclusion of LGBT people. Together, these two resolutions affirm the access that all people have to the full life of the church.
If there is a key Bible vision that supports Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessing, please give a Biblical example and explain something of your vision on interpretation? Who else shares this sensibility and understanding we might know or recognize?
The story of the anointing of David by Samuel in which it editorially says that God does not judge as human’s judge, human’s judge by outward appearances, but god sees the human heart. When The Episcopal Church is looking at a human couple who seeks the blessing of the church on their relationship, we humbly attempt to see as God sees, which reveals certain characteristics – love, fidelity, forgiveness, mutuality, humility — all of which The Episcopal Church considers more important than external considerations.
What book do you recommend reader’s read that leads to an understanding of your stance and your statements supporting Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessing?
Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, by Vincent Harding
In which, Harding who was the major author of King’s famous sermon preached at Riverside Church, outlines how King’s developing vision that encompassed peace and global poverty was both repudiated by many while King was still alive and has continued to languish since his death. The trajectory of history is indeed toward justice, and justice for all.
Have you performed a Same Sex Blessing, and if so, will you tell us some of the words you used? Where did you do this?
Yes I have. It was a blessing, not a marriage. The Episcopal Church does not have a rite for same-sex marriage. Our Prayer Book does not have an actual rite. The couple was married at the court house when it was legally possible to do so. I performed the blessing using the rite already created. It was a big ceremony. I’ve given one other blessing of a same-sex union, in both cases they were married in the civil sector first. Both were done at Grace Cathedral. In one case it was on the Labyrinth. In the other it was in the Nave, the main central section of the Cathedral.
What brought you to write your Pastoral Letter regarding Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessing, and do you consider the letter either Political-Religious or Political. Certainly it has Political dimension. Was there something in the Bible that began you thinking to write the Letter to the people in your Diocese?
It was not politically-religious. It was religious. Here is why I say that. What I urged the Diocese of California to do was have all marriages, gay or straight, be performed by the civil authorities. This would be like in France, people go to the courthouse and the magistrate performs the civil part and they come to the Church to have the religious part. This for gay and straight. The reason I wrote the Pastoral letter was to express the idea that the Church should properly function as the Church, rather than as an agent of the State.
There are a number of Biblical sections. One is, you could say, a theme of not judging in the Bible, and understanding that God judges. And a more positive statement of that in the Bible is that God judges on essential characteristics rather than non-essential characteristics. Humans judge by outward appearances, while God sees the human heart.
The essential characteristics of a marriage include mutuality, faithfulness, forbearance, honesty, forgiveness and we understand those to be at the core of a marriage. Whereas other characteristics might be important in a person’s self-identity, but may not be central to definitions of marriage.
In you Pastoral Letter, you urge your clergy in their local Church to refrain from performing the Sacrament of Marriage with their congregants. That is marrying them in the Church and in Christ. Is this so, as I’ve explained it? If not, will you explain?
I’ve urged people to be married by the civil authorities and receive the blessing of the Church. Where is the Sacrament in the marriage service? The Eucharist is still there, the Bishop notes. What is left out if we leave out the part of the State? If a clergy person does a marriage, they are acting as an agent of the State. The only part of the act as we make it is the section at the beginning, if the couple is entering into the marriage of their own free will, and if anyone has an objection to the marriage. If you leave that out, it will be a strange conclusion to say that the Sacrament had been removed from the service.
If there are words you’d recommend for Performing a Same Sex Blessing, will you tell us them. We’ll excerpt all of them or a phrase or so. Where in the Bible is this supported, and if you see these as part of the Social Gospel, please tell us something of your sense of the Social Gospel that leads you to support this? Do you recommend certain Bible readings to Gay couples (man and man, woman and woman), and in their either civil union relationship, or in Gay Marriage, are there other readings or meditations on Biblical text you recommend?
The Social Gospel could be spoken of as our quest for justice and reconciliation in the Church and in the world. Within the Church the implications of Baptism, the radical implications of Baptism if they are followed, lead the Church to become a truer reflection of the Kingdom of God. Which is another way of saying a just and reconciled society.
In the controversial climate regarding Gay Marriage in California, USA, Bishop Marc Andrus’ Pastoral Letter reflects his viewpoint on the pro Gay Marriage California Supreme Court ruling and outlines the response to the Court ruling by Episcopalians in San Francisco’s Bay Area. The Letter, written in preparation for the Gay Marriage fight, as it were, was distributed before the State Proposition that passed and said no to Gay Marriage in California: Here is text of his Pastoral Letter, and though written prior to Lambeth reveals the Rt. Reverend’s stance and direction of The Diocese of California:
Pastoral Letter Regarding Same-sex Marriage
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I welcome the ruling of the California Supreme Court affirming the fundamental right of all people to marry. I am writing to you now to recommend a path to use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers, and our continued witness to God’s inclusive love.
Clergy and lay leaders in the diocese have been working for the rights of LGBT people and for their full inclusion in our Church for more than forty years. Today, we continue to walk a journey that includes:
Bringing the witness of our LGBT sisters and brothers to this summer’s Lambeth Conference,
Combating a ballot initiative this November that will attempt to take away the rights recently recognized by the California Supreme Court,
Providing leadership at next summer’s General Convention to bring our marriage practices and theology in line with our fundamental baptismal theology.
For far too long the onus has fallen on marginalized people to bear the burden of inequalities that exist within the Church, and the decision by our state’s Supreme Court has given us the opportunity to level the playing field.
To that end, the Diocese of California seeks to provide, by advocacy and example, a way forward for The Episcopal Church so that the marriage of same-sex couples will be a part of our official marriage rites, without distinction. Although The Episcopal Church does not have canonical rites for same-sex marriage, it is our goal that all couples