Further south, the Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida, has authorized his clergy to provide pastoral blessings—but not to preside over same-sex weddings—within about a month.
Bishop Frade announced his decision to a clergy conference that met on Sept. 9 and 10. Bishop Frade told The Living Church that he has asked the Very Rev. Douglas William McCaleb, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, to lead a team that will gather liturgies and write guidelines for blessings of same-sex couples. The blessings will be provided only to couples who have a marriage certificate from any U.S. state that permits same-sex marriage, or from countries such as Canada or Spain that have authorized same-sex couples to marry, the bishop said.
SE Florida is a very liberal diocese in a very liberal region. It’s unsurprising that the diocese that covers the area “where the animals are tame and the people run wild” would do this. Even with that, I find it hard to take that such things will happen in the church I grew up in, but such is life. I’m just glad I took my leave long before this became an issue.
But let’s unpack this from another perspective: any and all of these blessings are contingent upon the civil legality of the arrangement (from another jurisdiction: Florida lacks either same sex civil unions or civil marriage.) That’s underscored when he throws in the following:
Bishop Frade said he had asked a drafting committee of fellow bishops during General Convention whether such blessings might also be extended to civil unions. In his diocese, for instance, many elderly heterosexual couples are married in all but the legal sense because of dire tax consequences. The bishops at General Convention did not make provisions for such couples, he said, and he will respect those limits.
Now he’s entering some interesting waters, and I don’t mean the reefs off of the Florida Keys either.
One of the main reason why I think civil marriage should be abolished is because the state itself has undermined it in so many ways. One of those ways concerns the loss of government benefits to those who actually enter into civil marriage rather than just living together. (“Dire tax consequences” are only part of the problem, and it’s not just with the elderly either.) What kind of incentive is this for people to enter into civil marriage? And why should the church support this kind of lunacy? It’s one place where liberal and conservative churches are united: they won’t even attempt to define marriage in any other terms than civil marriage.
With conservative churches, it’s more of a “we’ve always done it this way” kind of thing. Personally I think it’s stupid to fight for civil marriage on this basis. With liberal churches, it’s a political issue. Liberal churches want to support the campaign for same sex civil marriage; they’re prepared to stiff a sizeable (esp. in South Florida, but everywhere) universe of heterosexual couples from the God-given institution of marriage because, if they actually blessed such unions, they would undercut the whole concept of “civil marriage” = “marriage” and thus dilute the campaign for same-sex civil marriage.
I have said for a long time that a central problem with same sex civil marriage is that it forces the perpetuation of civil marriage. And that stinks.