Hallelujah! The same church that elected the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson nine years ago, has, on July 10th, voted in support of a new church ceremony which will be used for the blessing of same-sex unions. This same-sex blessing is called “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” and is intended for monogamous couples.
Under a decision at the church’s national 77th General Convention in Indianapolis, this provisional rite allows each Episcopal bishop to decide whether his local priests can bestow the same-sex blessings. Couples will not have to live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal to receive the blessing. However, this is not the same as the Sacrament of Marriage, which requires the additional involvement of civil authorities, although it contains a special prayer and exchange of rings and vows.
Membership Down in Episcopal Church Since Robinson’s Election
Most Anglican churches have embraced gay members, but this Church has been divided about gay clergy and same-sex marriage since the rift caused by Robinson’s election. The Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism, has about 1.9 million members, down from 2.3 million in 2003. Most of the differences within the Church have been geographical, with the majority of the Anglican churches in Africa and West Indies holding fast to the notion that homosexuality is a sin documented in the bible.
How Does This Measure Differ From Marriage?
The Episcopal Church as a whole does not endorse same-sex marriage. In order to have their union blessed in the Episcopal Church, committed same-sex couples will have to complete counselling. The proposed blessing will be introduced in early December and be evaluated over the next three years when the next General Convention, the governing body of the Episcopal Church, meets.
Transgenders Included As Clergy and Members
The visionary Episcopalians, after the Convention, have now included anti-discrimination language for transgender members of the church who will be allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable and the Human Rights Campaign applauded the church for its efforts. (http://LGBT National "Episcopal Church approves new rites for same-sex unions, transgender-inclusive policies").
Hopefully, other denominations will follow this righteous path and welcome all, regardless of their sexual orientation, to the altar to bestow God’s Grace on them.