Episcopal bishops meeting in Anaheim,
California approved Wednesday a resolution that looks at developing
an official blessing for gay unions and gives bishops in states where
gay marriage is legal the discretion to offer a blessing, the AP
The resolution recognizes the growing
number of states that allow gay unions – either marriage, civil
unions or domestic partnerships – and grants bishops in those
states the discretion to offer a blessing.
While the measure does not fully back
the blessing of gay unions, it authorizes the church to begin
drafting an official prayer for the denomination's Book of Prayer,
which would be considered in 2012. The vote to “collect and
develop theological resources and liturgies” for blessing gay
couples was approved by an overwhelming majority (104 to 30) of the
Bishops. The measure now goes to the church's other legislative
body, the House of Deputies, which is made up of clergy and lay
people. The House is generally considered more liberal and the
measure is expected to be approved.
“If a same-sex couple comes to me and
they want a marriage rite, they would go through the same premarital
counseling, and have to show the same quality of relationship that I
would want to see in any couple,” the Rev. Raisin Horn, the priest
of Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City told the New York Times.
“I will not have to say to them, all the right things are in place
except for your sexuality.”
On Tuesday, the church voted in favor
of lifting their three-year moratorium on the consecration of gay
bishops. A decision certain to increase the mounting pressure from
other Anglican Communion churches – of which the Episcopal Church
is the American branch – to strike out on their own over the issue.
The Episcopal Church first opened the
row with its decision to consecrate the first openly gay bishop, Rev.
Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003. Robinson, 61, lives in
Weare, New Hampshire with his husband.
Last month, over the loud objections of
conservatives the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian denomination,
approved the appointment of an openly gay minister, Rev. Scott
Rennie. The church then backtracked a bit and placed a two-year
moratorium on the ordination of gay clergy.
Other religious denominations bless gay
unions, including the Unitarian Universalist Association and the
United Church of Christ. But the Episcopal Church will be the
largest with over 77 million members worldwide, behind only the Roman
Catholic Church and the Orthodox Christian Church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan
Williams, who as leader of the Church of England is the symbolic head
of the Anglican Communion, said he was disappointed by the vote.
Williams has struggled to impede dioceses from defecting over the
issue of gay clergy.
Several mostly African churches have
broken off over the issue already. A few U.S. dioceses have joined
in the defection but their protests have grown louder over recent