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Rev. Susan Russell Headshot

Episcopal Church Urges Congress to Dump DOMA. So What?

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Last week the Episcopal Church concluded its every-three-year General Convention -- a nine-day conglomeration of liturgy, legislation and shopping. We studied up on, prayed about, debated over and voted on a wide range of issues -- from a church-wide response to bullying to committing to work for a just peace in the Middle East to making our non-discrimination canons transgender inclusive to adopting prayers for the loss of beloved animals. And one of the resolutions we adopted was entitled "End Discrimination Against Same Sex Marriages" -- and it read in part:

Resolved, that the 77th General Convention urge members of the U.S. Congress to repeal federal laws that have a discriminatory effect on same-gender civilly married couples, and to pass legislation to allow the U.S. federal government to provide benefits to those couples.

As the proposer of this particular resolution(#D018 for the record) I was quite frankly both amazed and gratified that when it came to the House of Deputies for consideration, not a single speaker rose to the microphone to oppose it. Not a one. I was all ready for them. I had my under-two-minute-speech all written out and ready to go. Since they didn't get to hear it, you do:

One of the "marks of mission" for the Episcopal Church is "to transform unjust structures of society" -- and the resolution before us calling for an end to discrimination against same-sex marriages is clearly in alignment with that missional goal. Ending the inherent injustice of granting 1,138 federally protected rights to some married couples and denying them to others is clearly in alignment as with our commitment as Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves and with the core American values we affirm when we pledge to work for liberty and justice for all. I urge swift adoption of this resolution so we may send it to the House of Bishops for concurrence and leave this 77th General Convention with a strong, prophetic statement that we are a church that stands for a Protect Marriage movement that protects all marriages and for Family Values that value ALL families.

Overwhelming adopted by our House of Deputies, the resolution was likewise adopted with what one of our bishops called "a few grumbles" in the House of Bishops. Which leads me to the "So what?" question. Does it really matter what a bunch of Episcopalians have to say to Congress about marriage equality? And what do we say to those who question whether the church should be "messing in politics?" Here are a few quick answers:

Q. Does it really matter what the Episcopal Church says to Congress?

A. Yes. Yes, actually it does. It matters to our Episcopal Public Policy Network folks who take their "marching order" on advocating on public policy issues from the actions of General Convention. This resolution gives them what they need to offer an alternative to lobbyists on Capitol Hill purporting to speak for "Christian Values" as they work against equality for LGBT. It matters to those who will be speaking to their senators and congressional representatives in letters, calls and emails that they can say their faith tradition stands for equality for all. And it matters for fair-minded legislators who will be able to say they have had input from folks of faith on both sides of the marriage equality issue -- and at the end of the day make their decision based not on what some constituents think the Bible says about homosexuality but about what the Constitution says about equal protection.

Q. But what about the "messing in politics" part? Does this resolution really have anything to do with the mission of the church?

Yes. Yes, actually it does. One of the "marks of mission" of the Episcopal Church is -- as noted above -- "to transform unjust structures of society." (And just for the record, that "mark of mission" is not something some liberal Episcopalians went and thought up to justify their social justice agenda. It is one of the "Anglican Marks of Mission" adopted by the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is an active part.) In order to live out that mission -- to transform unjust structures of society -- we have to challenge them. And to challenge them we sometimes take principled positions that have political implications.

And this is one of those times. And I don't think I've ever been prouder to be an Episcopalian. Can I get an "Amen?"