Episcopal Church Approves Same Sex Blessing
The current of acceptance towards same-sex marriage and unions is finally washing over the pews of one of America's largest churches, as the Episcopal Church voted to allow a specific liturgical blessing for the union of same-sex couples. Now priests (with Bishops' approval) can bless unions regardless of the legality of same-sex marriage in their states. The liturgy is approved for a three-year trial period, during which I can predict with confidence that exactly zero heterosexual marriages will be destroyed as a direct result.
The adoption of an official rite, significant in a church in which liturgy is central, further solidifies the Episcopal Church’s shift to the left on sexual minorities. A day earlier, the church voted to approve a nondiscrimination policy that will allow transgendered people to be ordained to the priesthood.
The vote on gay blessings, which took place at the church’s triennial General Convention in Indianapolis, was 171 to 50. The vote was by the House of Deputies, which includes laypeople and clergy members. The church has a bicameral structure, and its House of Bishops overwhelmingly approved the new liturgy on Monday by a vote of 111 to 41, with 3 abstentions.
“This is significant because it’s saying, ‘This is around to stay — this is not a passing fad,’ ” said Mary A. Tolbert, founding director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley, Calif. “It’s making a statement about the continued presence of gay and lesbian people among the congregations of the Episcopal Church, and that their lives need to be marked by liturgy as well.”
CNN notes that in other religious institutions, the outlook hasn't been so positive, with many other denominations rejecting equality in close votes:
The United Methodist Church, at its General Conference meeting in Tampa, Florida, upheld the church's position on homosexuality, which excludes gay marriages and same-sex unions. The Methodist body also rejected a proposal saying the church is not of one mind on the issue of homosexuality.
This month in Pittsburgh, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA decided not to change the church's definition of marriage as being "between a man and a woman." Delegates approved a two-year study of the issue.
The only major U.S. denomination to endorse same-sex marriage across the board is the United Church of Christ, which did so in 2005.
In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allowed member churches to recognize same-sex relationships, but stopped short of creating a churchwide policy or crafting a specific blessing service.