McConnell says about what we were led to expect regarding same-sex blessings, namely, that he expects to have a dialogue seeking consensus—what he calls a local sensus fidelium—before proceeding or, presumably, not. I was a bit surprised to see that “the ordination of those in same-sex partnerships” is also included in the Pittsburgh moratorium. (I believe that we have partnered homosexuals already in the ordination process in Pittsburgh.)
The liturgies that have been proposed do, in fact, articulate such a set of conclusions. They expound a theology of blessing and implement it through sacramental rites. Since the substance of this theology, and the mode of its expression, are among the questions that belong to our inquiry, for your bishop to license the use of these rites before we have had a chance to open together the questions they conclude, would be to turn a deliberative process into mere talk about things that had already been decided. The question of whether these, or other similar rites, may or may not have a place in our common life needs to be considered as part of our discussion, not made moot before we have even begun.He says he expects to begin a diocesan dialogue by January 2013 and have preliminary conclusions by Pentecost. From one point of view, this seems reasonable, at least insofar as as the process seeks to head off the kind of destructive conflict that Pittsburgh saw all too much of prior to October 2008.
And yet, the tenor of this proposal seems different from the conversation about human sexuality that Bishop Ken Price proposed for the diocese but never initiated. What the bishop-elect proposes seems too much like the diocese’s having a referendum on whether it is going to defer to the judgement of the General Convention or not. I would have preferred an approach more like that of Texas Bishop C. Andrew Doyle. I believe, in other words, that Dorsey McConnell has made his first major mistake with regard to the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Of course, McConnell is not oblivious to the perils of what he is doing. He says
One other note: I have heard from a few who appear to believe that my approach to this matter is somehow insincere or evasive, that this is all a mere stalking-horse, that I will eventually seek to marginalize those with whom I disagree and return the diocese to something like the Bad Old Days. I completely understand this apprehension. How can you really know me yet? Given all that has happened in this diocese, the fact that you are willing to trust me at all is a testimony to God’s grace and your open-heartedness, and to the healing you have begun under Bishops Johnson and Price.I share the concern about “the Bad Old Days,” though I am not among those the bishop-elect has heard from, though I suppose he has now.
You can read Dorsey McConnell’s letter in its entirety on the diocesan Web site.