Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Washington National Cathedral conducts Gay Marriage: Dean Gary Hall says it's okay

The Episcopal Church and its clergy are not infallible.
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of they Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of they Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom. And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good work as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
--The Book of Common Prayer, p339
The Episcopal Church joins the ranks of United Church of Christ, Unitarian-Universalists in building an even greater mission favorable to homosexual behavior and acts, especially in its now explicit support of homosexual marriage under its majestic-in-structure Washington National Cathedral. An unspoken but clearly missionary work of the Cathedral and the Episcopal Church, homosexual marriage will be practiced in its liturgical form as a blessing by the Cathedral. Dean Gary Hall made the decision for the practice, and its leaders gave the okay to it under liturgical form specially adapted by the Dean from the interim form adopted for a limited number of years by the National Episcopal Church. That Church wide liturgical form is part of the addendum to this article. There was no response to inquiries of The Washington National Cathedral and a copy of its version could not be secured at this time.

The Cathedral is active in social movements and has a history of such secular and even political activity in the American scene. It says, through current Dean Gary Hill, the Cathedral will continue this history by supporting missionary activity pressing for homosexual practices in active sexual matters, with the argument for the moral requirement of inclusion of all kinds of people by the Church—hence the support for and practice of holding homosexual marriages. The Cathedral is reaching out to the gay and lesbian community. Weddings are not being offered willy-nilly, by the way. Nor are they encouraging people become homosexual, as some believe offering marriages will do because of example. The work of marrying homosexuals is primarily for parishioners. This is part of the Cathedral interpretation of social Gospel. The Rt. Reverend Marianne Budde ( ) of the Diocese wherein the Cathedral resides gave the original okay to individual Churches to hold such blessings. No one that this Religion Writer spoke with found the practice of these unusual weddings as part of the Christian tradition either corrupt or aberrant, but themselves a normal and necessary kind of mainstreaming of homosexual civil rights and human behavior.

This influential National Cathedral, influential not only because of the important national events held in it, like this year’s Presidential celebration for inauguration, is a beautiful and historic place for Americans in general. It calls itself a place of worship for all people, and in a distinct way of statement indicates it is a house of worship for all people, almost as if it was not a denominational place of worship. But of course it is Episcopalian, or Anglican as part of the larger 77 million worldwide Communion.

In its own words, “Welcoming people of all Faiths,” the Cathedral states: The Cathedral is a spiritual resource for our nation: a great and beautiful edifice in the city of Washington, an indispensable ministry for people of all faiths and perspectives, and a sacred place for our country in times of celebration, crisis, and sorrow. Generous friends, members, and donors around the world support our mission.

There is so much to offer from The Cathedral and its website is . It is a wonderful place that finds itself under its new Dean Gary Hall whose decision it was to begin offering homosexual marriage. The Very Rev. Gary R. Hall assumed his duties as the tenth dean of Washington National Cathedral on October 1, 2012. Hall has been an ordained minister for more than 35 years and most recently served as rector of Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The Dean’s email: .

Regarding the matter of the institution of homosexual marriage, Dean Gary Hall was asked three questions, but as of this writing no response received yet:

These are the actual questions posed directly to Dean Hall by email. I hope he has inclination and time to respond, and he will do so as he sees fit, of course.

(1) Dean Hall speaks of the goodness of Religion and its reasons to be in his sermon of Janaury 6, quoting Karen Armstrong in a remarkable statement explaining prior to the quote about Christianity not being a religion but a way. He notes in the lengthy quotation from her that religion is about comforting people. In case I did not get that right, and I may use the quotation in full, will he speak more to his point made in the Epiphany sermon--of how Christianity is a way and how homosexual marriage helps all of us in the good on the way, Christian or not, so making good religion. I do not mind a longer answer, if needed. I encourage a long answer. I want to know what is on his mind in the faith and religion sense, in teaching Christianity, and strengthening the denomination and the Cathedral.
(2) How did the Cathedral come to this conclusion of decision on the matter. By this I mean was it a decision by the Bishop, a body of responsible people in the Cathedral, and in this more narrow question on who and what groups at the Cathedral were responsible for the decision to hold homosexual marriage, will you give me names to print—the leadership decision makers themselves. I get the idea that the matter is a full Episcopal Church matter thirty years in the making. I get the idea that he says the whole Church says this is a good thing. May we narrow this issue to the Cathedral in its immediate and news meaning for the event it has engaged in practicing.
(3) I would like the Dean to choose his favorite sections from the liturgy for the marriage of homosexuals, as it will be used in the Cathedral proper. Long is good, short if it suits him—but of course.

In that sermon, Dean Gary Hall says in part:
Dean Gary Hall
The Magi’s pilgrimage reminds us how important journeys are in the life of faith. In the earliest days of the Jesus movement, the group simply called itself hodos, the Way. (See Acts 9.2) In Greek, hodos means “way” in the sense of a travelled way, a road. But like all words, hodos soon took on metaphorical connotations. Just as today we talk of the “spiritual path or journey,” so then “The Way” meant a faith process, a course of conduct, a manner of thinking or feeling or acting or deciding. In the very earliest days Christians got it right: they thought of themselves not as a religious system but as a group of people on a shared journey, a path with ethical and spiritual and behavioral implications.

So here we have the confluence of a couple of ideas. One of them is represented in the Fra Angelico/Fra Lippo Lippi painting: the whole human community—from oriental potentates to leprous beggars and everybody in between—joins in praise of the one born in the stable. The second involves our talk of ways and roads and paths and journeys. The whole world is drawn to this human manifestation of what God is up to. And they respond not with a doctrine but with a pilgrimage. Taken together, they lead me to say—and this may sound strange at first—that Christianity is not a religion. It is a Way; it is a mode of being toward the world, toward others, toward God.
“Christianity is not a religion?” says the preacher. If Christianity (and Islam and Buddhism and Judaism) are not religions, what are they?

Well, what do we mean by the word, “religion”? I think what we mean these days by “religion” is a set of propositions about the universe to which its adherents assent. That’s the way we use the term, but it is a very recent notion. In a Fresh Air interview a few years ago, Terry Gross asked the writer Karen Armstrong, “what do you think religion is for?” Here is how Armstrong answered:
Religion is about helping us to deal with the sorrow that we see in life, helping us to find meaning in life, and helping us to live in relation to … transcendence. … Religious people are ambitious. They want to feel enhanced. They want to feel at peace within themselves. They want to live generous lives. They want to live beyond selfishness, beyond ego.

For Karen Armstrong, who lived a good part of her life in a monastic community, the life of faith is about living in a new way—a way that involves not only self-awareness but making common cause with others. Here’s how she concludes:

All the world religions say that the way to find what we call God or Brahman, Nirvana, or Tao is to get beyond the prism of egotism, of selfishness which holds us in a little deadlock and limits our vision. That if we can get beyond that, especially in the practice of compassion, when we dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, we live much more richly and intensely. [Fresh Air 9/21/09]

At the time of this writing The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde did not reply to the questions posed of her:

(1) How was the matter of starting the sacrament of marriage for homosexual couples a matter of religious and faith requirement for the good of the Episcopal Church, and in your Diocese? What brought you to make this decision at this time, and not some other.
(2) In terms of the validity of this kind of expression of marriage, do you find it in line with the Bible and its Christian place in our understanding of moral relationship with our God and man? Will you cite Biblical reference so readers may see your immediate religious Biblical authority for the act of saying let us in our Cathedral, so well respected in the Episcopal Church and Christian Community make a statement to influence others in their acceptance and even admiration of homosexuality and homosexual marriage: To begin the act of homosexual marriage in the Cathedral.
Bishop Budde

(3) Did you consider the repercussions and other ramifications on the rest of the Anglican Communion, and what is seen as the divisive nature of this kind of decision for the Church in these difficult times of conflict. Why did you choose to make the decision favorable to this controversial and for many questionable use of the marriage vows in Christ. Comment if you will how either two men or two women are or even can be accepted in Christ as married? Though this sounds like a slanted kind of question, many who do not agree with you or even find your decision offensive want an answer of faith kind based on more than your personal opinion. Or can a Bishop make a decree of this kind without explanation of religious and faith conviction based on personal decision?

In an effort to get two quotes from people who have opposing views on the news of homosexual marriage practiced at Washington National Cathedral I contacted the website Virtue, and also the pro gay group Integrity for a quote. It was the Cathedral Dean Gary Hall who gave the okay to homosexual marriage at the Cathedral, by the way. David Virtue supplied this quote, and by the way his website gets 4 million visits annually, he saysThe action of Dean Gary Hall supported by Washington Bishop Mariann Budde to allow the blessing of same sex marriages in the National Cathedral continues the Episcopal Church’s gadarene slide towards the sexual abyss. There is no biblical or theological basis for such blessings let alone homosexual behavior. By allowing these faux marriage Rites the Episcopal Church will further isolate itself from the Global Anglican Communion and orthodox Christianity. The Episcopal Church is on suicide watch. It has replaced the transcendent Good News of the gospel for a mess of ecumenical pottage that offers no saving grace. It is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

The work of decision making was 35 years in the making, The Cathedral claims in a press statement: In light of the legality of civil marriage for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde (whose Episcopal Diocese of Washington includes D.C. and four counties in Maryland), decided in December 2012 to allow this expansion of the sacrament. Hall, as dean of the National Cathedral, ultimately led the Cathedral’s decision and adaptation of the same-sex rite.

“In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served,” Hall noted. “I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November’s election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage,” he added.

The organization IntegrityUSA commented for this writer on the homosexual marriage event starting at The Cathedral. They described themselves this way: Integrity is a nonprofit organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Episcopalians and our straight friends. Since our founding by Dr. Louie Crew in rural Georgia in 1974, Integrity has been the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Episcopal Church and our equal access to its rites. However, advocacy is only one facet of our ministry. At the national level and in local chapters and diocesan networks throughout the country, the primary activities are:
  • worship
  • fellowship
  • education
  • communication
  • outreach, and
  • service to the church
Through Integrity's evangelism, thousands of LGBT people, estranged from the Episcopal Church and other denominations, have returned to parish life.
Although the Episcopal Church has made tremendous strides toward inclusiveness, it still has a long way to go.

The email response from Integrity by National Vice-President Jon M. Richardson ( ) had this to say:

IntegrityUSA joins with LGBT people of faith and our friends all around the
world in celebrating the news that the Washington National Cathedral will
soon implement its policy of marriage equality for all faithful people. The
National Cathedral stands as an important symbol in the life of our nation,
and now LGBT people hold a share of that heritage in a stronger way than we
did before. We are deeply grateful for the leadership of its Dean, the Very
Rev. Gary Hall, and their Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, in
taking this historic step toward full equality for LGBT people. The National
Cathedral calls itself a "house of prayer for all people" - and we are
excited to celebrate with them as this becomes even more true than it was

I might add that The Episcopal Church has been working towards full equality
for LGBTQ people for over 35 years and Integrity is delighted that this year
churches around the country will start blessing same-gender unions with the
backing of General Convention which is the decision-making body of The
Episcopal Church.
The Reverend Caroline Hall
The Reverend Caroline Hall, whose Episcopal Parish is located in California, USA commented on questions sent by email. In a phone call following the email, providing additonal answers from the emails, she noted these responses. Her answers clarified some of the issues readers may want clarified as made at The Cathedral:
  1. Peter Menkin: I am curious to know if you think the significance of the practice by
    Washington National Cathedral is a kind of crowning act of the Episcopal
I don’t think so. They are not saying they will marry any same gender marriage that comes along. Even though they are at the center of political capital, they are not saying they will marry anybody. So we can’t expect to see high profile same sex couples walking down the aisle at National Cathedral. This is about members who are members of the worshiping committee there or close to it. They (members of the congregation) may ask to have their relationships blessed there.
  1. Peter Menkin: Further, as is my take, Washington National Cathedral acts in the secular
    realm, and will this acceptance and practice of homosexual marriage be
    vaguely like a national statement of support for homosexual marriage? The
    Cathedral calls itself a place of worship for all people and hosts important
    people of State, too.
I don’t think it is a national statement. It’s certainly symbolically important for the LGBT community, but it is not making a statement (this is a Parish matter)…It is a decision of the worship community as congregation of the Cathedral…Just as it is a decision at other Diocese in the other part of the country. There are 100 Diocese in the Episcopal Church. Each Bishop can make that decision…if they do, the congregations within their Diocese can make the decision to do that (hold same sex marriage).
  1. 3. Peter Menkin: Is the liturgy used marriage or blessing? I have blessing. Does that make a
The Episcopal Church has approved a right of blessing for Same Sex marriage, in those states where civil marriage is legal between same sex couples, then the local Bishop may allow his or her clergy to act as agents of the State so then the rite combined with a Civil Marriage. That’s what they’re doing at the Cathedral.
This summary email by Reverend Caroline Hall does clarify again some of the issues involved in The Cathedral decision for many, speaking as President IntegrityUSA again, she says also:
My take on this is that the National Cathedral is acting as many other parishes around the country who are deciding whether or not they will offer same-sex blessings, now that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church has agreed a provisional rite of blessing. Not every bishop will allow the rite to be used and no parish has to use it.
The National Cathedral is in a place where same-gender marriage is legal and the bishop has said that clergy may solemnize such marriages. The rite agreed by General Convention is a rite of blessing. It has to be adapted to make it also a legal marriage. The liturgy the Cathedral will be using is a blessing adapted to be valid as a civil marriage.
The liturgy itself is not a marriage service.
yes this is significant - there are still many people who recoil in horror at the thought of same-sex marriage but who can accept a blessing of a same-sex relationship.
I don't think you can assume that the decision of the Dean and people of the National Cathedral is making a statement beyond that already made by the Episcopal church in creating and approving the rite of blessing.
In an effort to get comment from the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, this email was sent to Press Officer Neva Rae Fox:
Dear Neva: Will the Presiding Bishop entertain two questions vis a vis Washington National Cathedral action of instituting homosexual marriage?
Two questions:
1. Was this action of allowing, even sponsoring homosexual marriage in Washington National Cathedral a leadership feather for the Cathedral cap and that of Dean Gary Hall?
2. Is this the kind of statement and practice that is part of the larger mission of the National Church?
Many thanks for entertaining my request for a response or statement.
The Press Officer Neva Rae Fox responded (Officer, Public Affairs/Communications/The Episcopal Church):
“It is called same sex blessings, not homosexual marriage.
“The Episcopal Church, at General Convention 2012 in July, approved the provisional use of rites for same sex blessings with the approval of the diocesan bishop. Bishop Budde of the Diocese of Washington approved the use of the rites. The Dean’s announcement followed.
“Neva Rae Fox”
This is the link to Church Publishing liturgy for blessing same-sex marriage:
For reader’s information, The Washington National Cathedral offers these resources:
Answers to common questions may be found in our Marriage Equality FAQ »
For more information about marriage ceremonies at Washington National Cathedral, please email

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