CLAIMING the BLESSING was convened in 2002 as an intentional collaborative ministry of leading Episcopal justice organizations (including Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion and the Episcopal Women’s Caucus) in partnership with the Witness magazine and other individual leaders in the Episcopal Church focused on promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.
Our initial commitment was obtaining approval of a liturgical blessing of the faithful, monogamous relationship between two adults of any gender at General Convention 2003. We began with a national conference held in St. Louis in November 2002 bringing together activists and academics, clergy and laity, LGBT folks and straight allies — all for the purpose of creating a movement to secure the identified strategic goal of moving the Episcopal Church forward on the issue of same-sex blessings. More details on the 2002 Claiming the Blessing Conference are available on our Resources page.
Between November 2002 and July 2003 the CTB Theology Statement was distributed to every bishop and deputy to the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in preparation for legislation moving forward to authorize the blessing of same-sex relationships when they met in Minneapolis.
Then — on June 7, 2003 — founding CTB member Canon Gene Robinson was elected by the Diocese of New Hampshire to be their 9th bishop. our agenda expanded to include securing consents to his election at GC2003 in Minneapolis. The results were history making.
Claiming the Blessing members served as Deputies to Convention, members of the press corps, legislative trackers and exhibit hall volunteers. The work of the Episcopal Church in July 2003 received international press attention — and in the end we left Minneapolis having met both of our goals: a new bishop for New Hampshire and another step forward on same-sex blessings in a resolution “recognizing that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”
And we were there in New Hampshire on November 2, 2003 for the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the 9th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.
From 2003-2006 Claiming the Blessing worked to respond to the backlash from those who were determined to turn differences over LGBT inclusion into divisions that would split the church. Details on that work is available on our Resource page. In preparation for the 2006 General Convention Claiming the Blessing continued to “tell our stories” by commissioning VOICES OF WITNESS as a video gift to the Episcopal Church.
From the project summary: We believe that telling these stories, sharing these witnesses, is a gift we have to offer – and we believe that there has never been a more important time for us to commit ourselves to offering that gift in a way it can be the most widely received throughout the church and the communion.
At the 75th General Convention — held in Columbus, Ohio in 2006 — CTB worked with Integrity’s legislative team to orchestrate a legislative strategy rejecting a raft of resolutions that would have turned the clock back on equality in response to something called “The Windsor Report.” We were not able to fend off the now infamous “Resolution B033” – the resolution calling for a defacto moratorium on consents to the election as bishop of anyone “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” (Somewhat ironic, given that this was the convention that elected the first woman Presiding Bishop in the history of the Episcopal Church.)
In 2008, Claiming the Blessing was present at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury as part of the Inclusive Communion Witness; produced and distributed “Voices of Witness: Africa” giving voice to the too-often invisible LGBT faithful in Africa.
In 2009 we worked with allies at the General Convention in Anaheim to reverse B033 and to adopt Resolution C056 — which called for the collection and development of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships. The resolution resulted in the establishment of The Blessings Project — a team of liturgists, theologians and academics which included CTB founding members Michael Hopkins and Susan Russell.
In 2012 we celebrated when the General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopted Resolution A049 and we crossed “liturgies for the blessing of same-sex unions” off the list of achievable goals we set in 2002. And we applauded the work of 77th General Convenion in convening a “Task Force on the Study of Marriage” to report to the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City in 2015.
Claiming the Blessing is also proud to have partnered in producing the third in the Voices of Witness series “Out of the Box” — putting the T in LGBT by giving voice to transgender members of the Episcopal Church. Released ahead of the 2012 General Convention it offered the extraordinary gift of a teachable moment for the whole church and was influential in moving the Episcopal Church forward on issues of transgender inclusion.
Celebrating a decade of work and witness in 2012, CTB produced this photo slide show — “100+ pictures worth 1000+ words.”
In 2015, the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church met in Salt Lake City — where we saw extraordinary progress toward the goal of ending marriage discrimination with the adoption of resolutions that amended our canons on marriage and approved liturgies for equal use by same and opposite sex couples.
While there is inarguably still work to do to eradicate homophobia and discrimination against LGBTQ people in the church and in the world, 2015 was a watershed year — bringing civil marriage equality to the United States and sacramental marriage equality to the Episcopal Church.
Our work now turns to both securing and implementing those advances and making sure that your zip code does not define whether or not your marriage receives equal blessing by the church or equal protection by the Constitution. Having “claimed the blessing” legislatively we are now committed to the work of living it out incarnationally.