Blessing rite authorized for provisional use from First Advent

Liturgy still ‘work in progress,’ convention calls for continued comment

Deputies line up to testify about authorizing a rite of same-gender blessing for provisional use July 10 while the Very Rev. David Thurlow, deputy from South Carolina, gives a minority report from convention’s Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music. The committee’s majority recommended adoption of the rite’s enabling resolution. ENS photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg

[Episcopal News Service — Indianapolis] Same-gender couples soon can have their lifelong relationships blessed using a rite approved by General Convention July 10.

In a vote by orders, the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops to pass Resolution A049, which authorizes provisional use of the rite “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” starting Dec. 2 (the first Sunday of Advent). Clergy will need the permission of their bishop under the terms of the resolution.

The motion in the House of Deputies carried by 78 percent in the clergy order, with the clergy in 85 deputations voting yes, 22 no and four divided; and 76 percent in the lay order, with laity in 86 deputations voting yes, 19 no and five divided. The bishops had approved the resolution on July 9 with a roll call vote of 111 to 41 with three abstentions.

The resolution also calls on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music “to conduct a review process over the next triennium, making clear that this is a work in progress,” the Rev. Ruth Meyers, deputy of the Diocese of Chicago, said in introducing the legislation to the deputies. She chaired the convention Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music Committee’s subcommittee on blessings and the SCLM.

The resolution directs the SCLM to include “diverse theological perspectives in the further development of the theological resource” and to invite responses from throughout the church as well as from the Anglican Communion and the church’s ecumenical partners.

The resolution states that, under existing canons, clergy can decline to preside at a blessing liturgy and says that no one “should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities” for objecting to or supporting the 77th General Convention’s action on blessings.

The Rev. Ruth Meyers, Chicago deputy, and Diocese of Vermont Bishop Thomas Ely congratulate each other July 10 after the House of Deputies supported Resolution A049 to authorize a rite of same-gender blessing for provisional use. Meyers and Ely were chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, which proposed the rite to convention. ENS photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg

The liturgy “is a service of blessing for same-sex couples who are in lifelong, faithful monogamous, committed relationships,” Meyers said in a press briefing after the deputies adjourned. “With that service comes a whole package of resources.”

The resources include a theological essay, guidance on canon law, materials to prepare couples for a blessing service and teaching materials inviting all in the church “into some conversation and theological reflection, whether or not they expect their congregations will at any time be prepared to host such services of blessing,” she said.

The package currently can be found beginning on page 184 in the Blue Book. (The convention made some slight revisions to the version of the rite included in the report.)

Before the house debated the resolution, the Very Rev. David Thurlow, a member of the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music Committee and a deputy of the Diocese of South Carolina, gave the deputies a minority report.

“For 2,000 years, the church has had clear teaching regarding marriage,” he said. Noting the committee’s concern about ecumenical relations in other areas, such as maintaining use of the Revised Common Lectionary, Thurlow said, “we haven’t taken heed of the universal voice of the church universal or the Anglican Communion.”

“This resolution marks a clear and significant departure — theological, doctrinal and in worship — from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them,” he said. It introduces a “new theology of human sexuality.”

During the debate, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson alternately called on proponents and opponents of the resolution.

“The signs outside our church say all are welcome,” said Deputy Pete Ross of the Diocese of Michigan, who urged passage. “Do we need an asterisk?”

The Rev. Charles Holt, Central Florida, commented on the unanimous house vote on a major structure resolution earlier in the session. “That actually very much moved me in a very powerful way. It was the first time I felt united with this group. But then, just a few minutes later, we’re going to receive … something that deeply divides us on very, very core values.”

“Passing this resolution,” said the Ven. David Collum, deputy of the Diocese of Albany, “is just the majority wielding power against those with minority views saying, ‘We don’t care.'”

Newark Deputy Caroline Christie explains her support of Resolution A049 to authorize a rite of same-gender blessing for provisional use July 10 during the house’s debate. ENS photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg

The Rev. Jack Zamboni, New Jersey, recalled playing the part of the “groom” in a test run of the liturgy at a Province 2 synod. “My reaction after having participated in that liturgy was that I wished [my wife] and I had had this liturgy when we were married six years ago. It’s a wonderful piece of liturgical work.”

He described how a lesbian couple in his parish, together 30 years, cried when he told them convention would consider authorizing a rite that would bless their relationship. “They had never thought it would happen in their lifetime.”

Some of the house’s young deputies recounted personal stories as they urged passage.

Newark Deputy Caroline Christie, 18, recalled wondering as a child why her two aunts couldn’t marry. “There was no difference in their relationship except that they were both women. As I grew, I began to realize it was an issue of discrimination. … Same-sex couples should be able to be blessed by the church.”

Deputy Ian Hallas, 22, of Chicago, likewise spoke about family: his sister and her civil union.

“The love that she shares with her partner is unconditional and speaks to the ideal relationships all of us should strive to have,” he said.

“I often get asked by churchgoers and non-churchgoers why I am a part of this body,” he said. “The reason I return is for my sister. I seek to assure that she not only has the same rites as myself but also the same privileges.”

Before the vote, the house engaged in a complex and lengthy parliamentary discussion following a request to divide the resolution. Ultimately, the resolution was not divided, and deputies voted to approve the whole resolution. Deputies also voted down a request to refer the resolution to the SCLM.

– Sharon Sheridan is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.

Comments

  1. Karen T. Morgan says:

    Thanks Be To God! Amen.

  2. Richard Rhoads says:

    Well, 43 1/2 yrs ago I was at Stonewall in Greenwich Village before the raid. So, I’m older than “gay liberation,” as it was once called. Even though single, i am nurtured and renewed by this decision, because it supports my relationship to the church as I continue my life journey.

  3. Edgar Wallace says:

    I am so grateful for this marvelous church. God is truly at work among his people.

  4. Jerry Thompson says:

    Alleluia!

  5. Eric Rodriguez says:

    I love God and how the Lord continues to surprise me…. Thank you Jesus:)

  6. Lawrence Elliott says:

    This is one of the many reasons I love the Episcopal Church. How could we have come to such a place without the love and guidance of God and the Holy Spirit? This act of love ought not lead to a house divided.

    Lawrence
    St. Paul’s Memorial Episcopal Church
    Charlottesville, Virginia

  7. Todd Parker says:

    Well done, good and faithful servants.

  8. Frank Bergen says:

    South Carolina’s Very Reverend David Thurlow stated: “This resolution marks a clear and significant departure — theological, doctrinal and in worship — from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them,” he said. It introduces a “new theology of human sexuality.” And isn’t it about time for a new theology of human sexuality? Hasn’t the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Christ outgrown the uninspired and uninspiring theology of human sexuality that so many of us grew up with and have been affected, perhaps even infected by, unless and until the shackles have been smashed by the grace of God? We Anglicans, and perhaps Episcopalians foremost among members of the Communion, do our theology in ways that are sometimes messy, we may reverse the logical order in tackling issues, but we seem often to get to the heart of the matter. We have taken on the blessing of same sex unions without first rewriting our theology of human sexuality, but we’ve accepted a new understanding of sexuality in saying that God’s grace and the church’s blessing are available to couples in lifelong, faithful monogamous, committed relationships. And all the people say Amen! Good Anglican, good Catholic but not always good Roman John Henry Newman would point to today’s ratification of growing consensus in church and society as an excellent example of the sensus fidelium alive and well in Christ’s church.

    • Kevin Kinnaird says:

      When are you guys going to get it? It’s not about sex….it’s about love…get your mind out of the gutter.

    • Ian McCutcheon says:

      This comment is meant as merely food for thought.

      You stated that David Thurlow said this is a departure from traditional doctrine and theology and was in fact a “new theology”. If Jesus established the church, and from Deuteronomy to Revelation, scripture warns against adding or subtracting from its teachings, is the introduction of “new theology” also an introduction of a new church and a break from Christ’s one holy and catholic church. Couldn’t this be seen as church-wide apostacy?

  9. Jeannie Lyons Gunn says:

    So sad to see my church headed this way, but it is a sign of the time in a changing world. From what I see from the Bible, this lifestyle is an abomination unto God. Perhaps we should look at Rome and their lifestyles. Eventually Rome fell. Surely we should be aware where we are in life…..what would Jesus say? This may cause a falling away from our great historic church.

    • Timothy J. Mannion says:

      Jesus would say: “Love one another as I have loved you.” He would not throw stones about as you apparently think he might. I’d like to know what Bible you have a copy of that puts such words in Jesus’ mouth. He is, was, and always will be “all about the love,” in all it’s many forms.

    • Michael N Isham says:

      It is ironic that Ms. Lyons Gunn used the example of the downfall of the ancient Roman state when chastising the actions of our church. Me thinks Ms. Lyon Gunn is confusing Rev. Pat Robertson’s diatribes on the anticipated downfall of the United States with the pan-national struggles of the Christian Church. For the record, we are not members of a nation-state on this matter but, for better or worse, fellow members of the Body of Christ. And while some erstwhile members of that body have for many centuries been willing to burn dissenters at the stake in the name of Christ, one can hope that all of our current debates are expressed through loving hearts!

  10. Jeannie Lyons Gunn says:

    So sad…..how can a church condone of a lifestyle that is an abomination in the eyes of God? The lifestyle is negatively talked about in the Bible more than once. By condoning such lifestyle is furthering it. Why is the church not taking a stand against it? Feel this will lead to membership loss in a once great church.

    A cradle Episcopalian who loves her church!

    • Timothy J. Mannion says:

      Au contraire, it will hopefully lead to more open-minded, loving and respectful congregations in our church.

    • Michael N Isham says:

      Whilst matriculated at Bob Jones University in the late 1960s, I heard sincere Christians preach with equal conviction to Ms. Lyons Gunn’s opinion that mixed marriages and racial integration were also, to quote Ms. Lyons Gunn, “an abomination in the eye’s of God”. And they had the scriptures at hand to prove it! And I believe that the university has since repented of those claims! As fallible human beings supposedly in awe of our Creator, shouldn’t we be mighty careful of “seeing” through the eyes of the Almighty?

    • James Vickers says:

      Then perhaps Ms. Gunn should abide by Paulo’s admonition of women keeping silence in the church….

  11. John Sandeman says:

    Frank Bergen,
    I am unsure that you can say this is an example of a sensus fidelium. The conservative voice in TEC has been reduced over the years. In s similar manner, other churches have grown more conservative, losing their progressive members. How can you say there is a sensus fidelium if a church has narrowed?

    • Frank Bergen says:

      John, I’m not sure. I think perhaps we need to consider a community gathered together in a common effort to live as followers of Jesus. From time to time fairly fundamental issues arise that are disputed among them. In some instances the community agrees that their divergent viewpoints are not reason for them to part company, to dissolve the relationship. They agree to disagree within a shared life together. In others, the issue comes to seem too important to be left unresolved. That determination of need for a resolution can make it infeasible, even perhaps impossible, for the community to continue undivided. Perhaps the sensus fidelium is at play on both sides. Or perhaps, and we do shy away from saying it, one side is more in tune with the Holy Spirit than the other. Only for myself, for I can speak for no other, I read the Spirit in the lives of my sisters and brothers more clearly than in the Book. And I’m convinced that the direction our little part of the body of Christ is moving is Spirit-led, and the sensus fidelium within our faith community is that we’re all God’s children, meant to accept one another just as God made each of us in unconditional love. And if I’ve misused the term sensus fidelium, I still stick by that last sentence.

  12. Br. Mark D'Alessio, SSF says:

    Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Amen!

  13. This action by Convention renews my faith in our Church. I had been holding my breath. All the positive comments above are spot on. Theological understandings have evolved across the centuries in other areas, and so it must be in sexuality and love. I was widowed after 28 years of happy and faithful love. We wanted to marry. In our hearts, we were. But we wanted to share it with friends, family, church,and say our vows to each other. Thank God that will now be possible for others. Maybe even for me.

  14. Tad Richard says:

    I notice that the title of the liturgy does not mention same-gender couples. Can this liturgy be used for a marriage ceremony of opposite-gender couples? Can it be used to bless “lifelong covenants” of opposite-gender couples? I’m not trolling here — I’m asking an honest question as a naive layperson.

    • Marilyn Lorenzen says:

      Thank you for the question! There are many who would take advantage of this option. I am not trolling either.

  15. Bob Darling says:

    Alleluia and amen. I just wish my partner of 37 years had lived long enough to see this happen. I’ve been an Episcopalian for almost 50 years, and I never thought I would see this.

  16. Ken Richards says:

    When a church comes together and decides on love and generosity rather than a clinging to the past and the pursuit of a perceived “safe path”, how could one be but proud? When our priests and bishops, in their wisdom, take the road less travelled in order to make real the inclusiveness of the church, when others would rather exclude, a sense of hope swells up within me. And when our fellow congregants have difficulty embracing this new path, I understand their difficulty in facing change. For thousands of years, our homosexual brothers and sisters have faced hatred and the condemnation of the church and society. Their lives have been torn apart. Today, we courageously turn our back on that. Thank God for the Episcopal Church.

  17. Gregg Conroy says:

    So, now that a “a service of blessing for same-sex couples who are in lifelong, faithful monogamous, committed relationships” has been approved, where is the service for opposite-sex couples who are in lifelong, faithful monogamous, committed relationship but who are not married and don’t want to be, for whatever reason? How about that senior couple who live together but do not marry because of the financial impact on SS payments, pension plan survivor benefits, etc., etc., etc.? What about my heterosexual couple friends who have been together for over sixteen years, have a child but aren’t married? What if they want their union blessed but still don’t want to marry? Now we’re “discriminating” against them.

    What would Jesus say? Maybe “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” Loving all people DOES NOT mean loving what they DO. When rearing our children and they DID something we disapproved of we always tried to make the point that we loved THEM but were punishing them for their BEHAVIOR.

  18. Father Mike Waverly-Shank says:

    How can so many clergy who all took vows hat they believe the Bible to be the Word of God, vote for same gender blessings? There is so much in the Bible that defines traditional marriage and speaks against the gay life style!

    And – Was the Catechism changed? And the reference to traditional marriage in the Articles of Religion can’t be changed.

    • Michael N Isham says:

      With all due respect, you “gay life style” and “gay agenda” types crack me up. Fr. Waverly-Shank, would that I could allow you in as a casual observer of my daily life as a committed partner in a gay relationship: our “gay lifestyle” would bore the hell out of you! For the record, I do believe that the field is ripe for the evangelism of countess thousands of heart-broken gays and lesbians who have taken on unhealthy habits that include alcoholism, drug abuse, serial sexual partners, and suicide, not because they have been accepted by the church, BUT BECAUSE THEY WERE REJECTED! Might I also add that the “gay lifestyle” seems to apply to millions of straight people in our nation also? Dear Fr. Waverly-Shank, if you would care to leave the security of your office, I would be most honored to accompany you to the streets and bars of Philadelphia on a mission trip to win the souls of those lost without the Good News. I believe that this approach was sanctioned by our Lord Jesus, was it not? Any interest? I await your reply!

    • Joann Prinzivalli says:

      The theology of marriage as it relates to same-sex couples can be based on the marriage found in 1 Sam 18:3 between David and King Saul’s son Jonathan, in which the two made a covenant and knot themselves together as “one soul.” (Later in the chapter, when David also marries King Saul’s daughter Michal, David becomes Saul’s son in law a second time (and go to the Septuagint and not the Vulgate for that, please, or perhaps to Darby or ASV, as opposed to Douay or KJV). There are other references in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel 1, particularly the meeting in the field.

      John Boswell uncovered early Church (pre-14th Century) blessings of same-sex unions, the formula for which was derived from the 1 Sam 18:3 marriage, in his work, Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe.

      From a secular POV, marriage should be marriage, and on a gender-neutral basis, fully equal for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. But if one is approaching the idea of marriage equality from a scripture-and-tradition viewpoint, one can find and recognize a separate sacramental blessing for same-sex unions based on the couple becoming “one soul” in much the same way that opposite-sex unions are blessing the couple becoming “one flesh.” The scriptural and tradition references are there — all one has to do is stop ignoring and suppressing them.

      • John Kirk says:

        A) Boswell’s scholarship is questioned by both historians and theologians.

        B). Even IF Boswell’s premises and deductions are true and accurate, it alters nothing in terms of Truth. You don’t have to dig very deep at all in Christian history to find such things as Arianism, Donatism, Jansenism, etc., but theses things have been rejected by the Church Catholic as being error. Even if Boswell “recovered” evidence of such rites, well, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church has always and will always declare their inherent falseness.

        • Joann Prinzivalli says:

          John Kirk,

          Thank you for pointing out that there may be some who have raised issues with Boswell’s scholarship, and that there have been numerous variants in theological understandings.

          When it comes to the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic” Church and its interpretation of Truth, I have read and been critical of a speech made by then Archbishop (now Cardinal) Dolan as he was about to take over the Catholic New York Archdiocese, in which he referred to “The Unchanging Church.” Truth within that milieu, over the past two millennia, has been malleable. Examples include the RCC’s teachings on abortion and slavery. Those who claim the Whole Truth find themselves bereft if there is even a single Error – it’s a dangerous position to take. However, I am mindful of the RCC tenet regarding the “binding and loosing” power as passing from Peter to his successors. It is not entirely inconceivable that in a few hundred years, even the RCC might change. I am actually surprised that the RCC has continued to expand the availability of annulments rather than re-interpreting the doctrine on divorce – from a contextual POV, it is entirely possible that Jesus’ disapproval was aimed at the practice by which a husband could unilaterally declare a divorce (“let no man set aside” could well be interpreted as a reference to the husband, and not all men – I doubt that Jesus intended to put the power of divorce in the hands of women, whether the wives in question or a judicial panel composed of women, though *that* would be an interesting outcome). My point is that Truth may well be misunderstood, or that the understanding of Truth may evolve – this is not “moral relativism” by any means – it’s not arbitrary.

    • McClure Brower says:

      Traditional marriage in the bible also has polygamy, concubines, forced marriage between rapists and their victims, prisoner of war wives (similar to Achilles’ Briseis in the Iliad), and forced stoning of brides found to not be virgins. Not to mention that it was perfectly acceptable to beat your wife or sell you daughter into slavery. But I guess you’d prefer to skip those and instead condemn two people in long-term, loving, monogamous relationships that just so happen to be of the same sex.

      On another note I’m very proud of the Episcopal Church for standing up for what is right while the rest of the christian community is so full of hate. Things like this are the only reasons I am still affiliated with any church.

  19. Lauren Smith, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, Tallahassee FL says:

    I am currently taking the classes to be confirmed and my husband will be baptized in the Episcopal Church in October. My husband and I have been on a long search to find our church home. We feel the glow of the Spirit in this church. Jesus Christ was all about unconditional love, loving your neighbor as yourself, and embracing with open arms the “outsiders” of our society. I feel the love of Christ within the Episcopal Church and feel that the convention’s decision was one of compassion, love, and inclusion. Alleluia!

  20. I wish TEC would be honest and conduct some sort of joint merger with the unitarian universalist faith and the United Way. What need exists for the Christian gospel when there is no bad news, when no sin exists, and everyone stands right before a holy God?

    • Michael N Isham says:

      Oh, that’s an easy one to answer for Mr. RB Clay: although you may not agree with the stands taken by the Episcopal Church in applying our beliefs, we nonetheless believe first and foremost in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the head of the church catholic. The Unitarian Universalists (note the capitalization of respect) do not believe this! But alas, Mr. Clay, I thought that the word “gospel” meant GOOD NEWS?

    • Joann Prinzivalli says:

      RB Clay:

      There is a huge difference between U/U and ECUSA, and between both and the United Way.

      ECUSA represents a form of mainline Protestantism, even if the division between the Anglican Communion and the RCC occurred over a particular marriage, and the dominion of the papacy, rather than the more radical “reforms” of Luther, Calvin, et al.

      U/U did involve a merger between two somewhat different sects that grew out of the spiritual revival of the 19th Century among Congregationalists, who had already had a rather stripped-down kind of Christianity. One kind of Unitarian thinking can be illustrated by Thomas Jefferson, who famously clipped out the miracles and Resurrection from his set of Gospels, and came up with a kind of “Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” book that kept the Good News and lost all the added barnacles. (Of course, these days, U/U doesn’t have a theology, but rather involves a covenant among people with many disparate faith backgrounds and formulae).

      While I can conceive of folks from ECUSA finding common cause with U/Us (and the United Way, for that matter) on all sorts of social justice issues, a suggested merger wouldn’t really work. I’d find it more interesting to find U/U exploring a convergence with Universal Sufism . . .

      Perhaps as we become more civilized, we will be able to evolve the various mythos in which we find our spiritual homes to keep up with the progress of civilization. One can see the evolution of God in the OT from the pre-monotheistic Elohim, through the angry tribal god of the Hebrew tribes to the majestic and inspirational God found in Isaiah. Our conception of the Unknowable is reflective of our own selves – it’s more likely that we create our Image of God in our own image, and the reflection we see tells more about our inner selves than we might are to admit.

  21. In having conversations with other Christians (especially those who disagree with ‘practicing homosexuality’, as they label it), they often quote Romans 1:18-27.

    What would be an appropriate response to that Scripture passage? I would like to be better informed the next time the topic comes up.

    Thanks

    • ‘What would be an appropriate response to that Scripture passage? I would like to be better informed the next time the topic comes up.’

      Er…Episcopalians don’t let the Scripture stand in the way of what they are determined to do.
      Oh, the other one is ‘Paul wasn’t talking about faithful monogamous same-sex because that would put us in enmity with God.

      Er…Homosexuality, as it is understood today never existed in biblical times. Although, in the same breath, we can trawl out David and Johnathan to prove it did exist (without clear evidence).

      Look, just say that any attempt to challenge homosexuality on biblical grounds is homophobic. You might even get an injunction. Anything to silence the condemnation of the apostolic record.

    • Joann Prinzivalli says:

      In Romans 1, Paul was referencing the practices of the religious competition in the Rome of the 1st century A.D. – At the time, there were mystery religions, and religions that involved “Bacchic” rituals – drinking wine to excess and participation in sacramental orgiastic behavior.

      To Paul, with his background as a Pharisee, this was certainly scandalous, and the fact that men and women in their “religious” drunken revelry/worship were acting against the natures they were given by God, was something Paul saw as evidence that God was punishing them.

      The key to the scriptural exegesis here is that these people were acting against their natures – It would be as sinful for a gay person to engage in opposite-sex sex, as it would be for a straight person to engage in same-sex sex (of course, then there are those bisexual folks, whom we would expect from a Christian moral POV to keep themselves within a monogamy, of one or the other type).

      It’s not that difficult to understand – Nature is not monolithic, we are not each identical paper dolls in our God-given natures – and to place such a man-made limitation on God was surely not Paul’s intention.

  22. Nanci Warner says:

    While I rejoice upon hearing this news, I am also saddened by the knowledge that this will not happen in my diocese. Sort of a moot point for some of us.

  23. In having conversations with other Christians (especially those who disagree with ‘practicing homosexuality’, as they label it), they often quote Romans 1:18-27.

    What would be an appropriate response to that Scripture passage? I would like to be better informed the next time the topic comes up.

    Thanks

    • Jesse Murray says:

      “What would be an appropriate response to that Scripture passage?”

      I thought that the theological essay preceding the blessing rite (available in the blue book, linked in the article above) did a masterful job of concisely summing up arguments for interpreting Romans and a couple of other particularly challenging Biblical passages in a more positive and less literal light; there’s also footnotes to several theological works that explore the issues in detail. It still probably won’t work in argument (it hasn’t with any of my more conservative family members, and the reaction of David Shepherd to your question mocks, albeit in a fashion that shows a great deal of misunderstanding of the arguments involved, some of these interpretations), but I’ve always found confidence in knowing that there’s a lot of very well considered theology on our side.

  24. i truly understand the difficulty many have with this move and with the acceptance of LGBT folk. I fought it for 40 years. It became slow-motion suicide of the soul.

    I would guess that many would not understand when I say that coming out has been (and continues to be) the deepest, most profound Spiritual experience of my life. I never expected that. What I feared may have been the end to my life in the Church has become a new beginning.

    I would suggest that the Bible IS very clear about sexual exploitation, and abuse. It would seem that many heterosexual folk assume that the lives of homosexual folk revolve around sexual activity. Is that the center and anchor the end-all and be-all for heterosexuality?

    This is not a “lifestyle.” Martha Stewart does “lifestyles.” This is our lives, and our life.

    It is not just about lust, but about love.

    The more faithful, committed LGBT Christians you get to know, the more you will see that God shines through. Please take a look.

  25. Matthew Phillips says:

    To correct the historical record, Rome did not fall when it was a pagan empire tolerant of certain homosexual conduct. It fell after Christianity became the preferred religion. Its fall had more to do with getting over-extended and poor government. And, of course, the Eastern part of the empire survived to the fifteenth century.

    As for the Bible, the application of its teaching in the specific should not do violence to over-arching principles, and these principles should be applied with the fullness of knowledge and experience the Church has available to it in the twenty first century.

  26. Phillip O. Hamilton says:

    Education is key here. Dennis and I have been together for over 26 years. I hope and pray our love for each other, our families, loving our neighbors as ourselves and supporting those who are less fortunate will serve in a small way as a textbook for those seeking answers as to ” why in the world would two men love each other in “that” way?” I can only say when I heard the July 10th news, “Welcome, Happy Morning age to age will say.” Thank you God for all that’s been and thank you for all that will be. Thank you, too, Easter people.

  27. Please watch this video if you would like to broaden your understanding of homosexuality and what the Bible says. This young man is very well spoken and educated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezQjNJUSraY

  28. Alexandra Heeter says:

    It is true that people can find passages in the bible that loosely condemn homosexuality. And yes, in those same chapters it faces all kinds of sexual acts that are not to be done including incest and bestiality. However, the bible also condemns divorce very strongly, encourages slavery and sacrifices, encourages polygamy, condemns mixed fabric clothing and shell-fish, and encourages the stoning of adulterers among other things. I’m completely for following the bible and personally am in the process of discerning priesthood. I am however against pick-and-choose bible reading. We need to realize that many of the stories were context related and had to do with specific situations. If you are going to read one verse, read the whole chapter, or better yet read the whole book. They weren’t originally divided into verses or chapters. There are things in the bible which do not apply to the current context of the world, and there are other things that do apply to the current context of the world today.
    If we are talking about the sanctity of marriage, we should be talking about the fact that more then half of marriages in the United States end in Divorce. We should not be arguing as to whether or not two people should be able to be bound together by a blessing from the Church just because they happen to be of the same gender.

  29. Wes Sedlacek says:

    It may be worthy to note that in addition to the “lengthy parliamentary discussion” before the vote, the House of Deputies also spent intentional time in prayer.

  30. Susan Forsburg says:

    My wife and I were civilly married in 2008 and our marriage was blessed in 2011. This was not only a blessing upon us as a couple but an act by the community that took our marriage and turned it into a blessing to THEM, making us part of the whole. It is a joyful thing that other couples will experience this welcome, find themselves included fully, and in that inclusion they will in turn strengthen the community. Well done, Episcopal Church.

  31. John D. Andrews says:

    “Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual. Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).” The whole article is here: http://anthropologist.livejournal.com/1314574.html

  32. Joseph A. Sanches says:

    Thank God for the prophetic vision and Christian witness of the Episcopal Church.

  33. Joseph A. Sanches says:

    I thank God for the prophetic vision and Christian witness given by my sisters and brother in the Episcopal Church.

  34. Linda McClellan says:

    I was born into the Episcopal church and during my life I attended a protestant church until I met my husband at the age of 55. I came back to the apostolic church. Our priest was not allowed to perform our marriage ceremony because we had both been married more than three times, we had to have a Lutheran pastor marry us in our Episcopal church. We were allowed to have a blessing by our priest, not performed in front of the church either, after we were married for two years. My husband is now 72 and I am 61 and we have been married 6 years.

    The Bible, all of it, is God-breathed. So no matter who is the writer of whatever part of the Bible it all is from God! For me this is a sad day, I read all the comments and most of the people that are happy about it are the ones that are benefiting from it. This is tearing the Episcopal church apart by changing and twisting God’s word around to make it fit the needs of a broken world. And now even trying to learn how to argue with someone who KNOWS their Bible, sad. Two passages that come to my mind are 1Cor. 6:9 and Romans 1:26. And please read the whole chapter, it won’t change the meaning of the words at all. Thank you God for always opening another door, there are still Bible based churches. I will pray for the Episcopal church.

  35. Tiribulus (Greg) says:

    I support Dean Stewart’s position 50%. The clear teaching of of the 5th chapter of Paul’s 1st letter to the church at Corinth is that flagrant, publicly known unrepentant sin is to be met with excommunication for the love and good of the offender and the protection of the church. I more fully addressed this in a debate with somebody else about the actually biblical view of judging here: http://gregnmary.gotdns.com/judge.html The next question then becomes, IS openly embraced homosexuality included in this simply impossible to misunderstand principle? For anybody interested I promise you I will establish that it is the quintessential contemporary application. Truly friends. It is a simple matter of how seriously you take that bible.

  36. I support Dean Stewart’s position 50%. The clear teaching of of the 5th chapter of Paul’s 1st letter to the church at Corinth is that flagrant, publicly known unrepentant sin is to be met with excommunication for the love and good of the offender and the protection of the church. I more fully addressed this in a debate with somebody else about the actually biblical view of judging here: http://gregnmary.gotdns.com/judge.html The next question then becomes, IS openly embraced homosexuality included in this simply impossible to misunderstand principle? For anybody interested I promise you I will establish that it is the quintessential contemporary application. Truly friends. It is a simple matter of how seriously you take that bible.

  37. Kevin Kinnaird says:

    I cannot, for the life of me, understand this comment. I have been in a committed, loving relationship for over five years. I don’t understand why the Church blessing LOVE can put the Church on any other track but a fast ride to Christ. BTW, what exactly did Jesus Christ say about any sort of homosexuality, much less that of a same sex committed relationship? Please get back to me if you can tell me something he said. I offer my prayers to you my brother Gary, that one day you may see Christ in ALL that form the body of Christ on Sunday mornings.

  38. Jon Spangler says:

    Gary,

    Is it not also wrong to treat people as outcasts simply because of who they are or how they were born?

    Linda and I did not have to fight the church 24 years ago in order to be married in a different-sex ceremony: why should the church not welcome same-sex couples whose love and commitment to each other is just as strong and Godly as ours is?

  39. Matt 10:6-9

  40. Dean Stewart says:

    In The Episcopal Church’s Articles of Religion, Article VI includes the entirety of the canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, not just those portions of the same which are the words of Christ Jesus. At the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral 1886, 1888 the House of Bishops adopted a declaration which included accounting that “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the revealed Word of God.” Hence, one cannot stand on the concept that just because Christ Jesus didn’t specifically say anything about an issue there isn’t Divinely inspired guidance on the topic. The scriptures have adequate reference that men are not to have sex with men and women are not to have sex with women.

    The church’s new idea that we can bless “unions” of homosexual couples is in direct conflict with this scriptural doctrine. It tantamountly sanctifies sinful sexual relations–unless someone would like to postulate that the blessed couple won’t engage in homosexual physical relations. This is not a loving gesture toward the couple; rather it is one that tells them that their sinful acts are okay in the sight of the church. If the sin is acceptable to the church, then why does the sinner need to confess and strive not to commit the sin again?

    The church accepts homosexuals in all of its rites and ceremonies where their salvation is at stake. The church welcomes them in baptism and at the rail for communion. We love the sinner (with the clear recognition that homosexuals aren’t the only sinners in our midst, we all fall short) but hate the sin. The church can accept unmarried couples of all types in its congregations and minister to them as best it is able, but the church oughtn’t create new blessings or rites that are in conflict with the scriptures just to make the couples feel welcome. Especially when it can (will?) create the idea that a sin is no longer a sin just because we humans have decided it shouldn’t be one any longer.

    It isn’t our church, it is God’s church.

  41. Kevin Kinnaird says:

    So we get some of the sacraments, but not all of them. Got it.

  42. Glenwood Robinson says:

    I support Dean Stewart’s position 100%.

  43. Tom Trisko says:

    I’m a former gay Catholic turned Episcopalian. Although I have had 16 years of Catholic eduation with four college semesters each of philosophy and theology, I’m still not good at quoting scripture like Protestants; but somewhere there is a passage where Christ says to the apostles “Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” He apparently knew that cultures, times and human knowledge would change over the centuries and that His church needed to be adaptable in its particular interpretations about how to apply His teachings and basic commandments of “Love God and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”. In addition, He was very definite that the Holy Spirit would be with us to inspire and guide us in these matters. What would be the point of His statement to the apostles and of sending the Holy Spirit if everything had been set in stone as of His Ascension? The Holy Spirit at Pentecost comes after the Ascension not before in order to motivate and inspire the apostles to screw up their courage and get to work at the messy business of teaching and applying Christianity to all the peoples and cultures of their time. Can we do any less in the 21st Century? The ECUSA is trying to discern if the Holy Spirit is using it to lead Christianity to a new knowledge of God’s intended role today for the GLBT people He has created. The blessing/marriage debate is the vehicle for this discernment study. ECUSA may be the mustard seed in comparison to all Christianity in this story.

  44. M D Johnson says:

    I agree with Dean Stewart, very well said. It seems to me the church has the greater sin because by blessing same sex unions it tells them That God is okay with it…Why is it that we expect God to change his view and to meet us where we are? Aren’t we suppose to be obedient to his will and be pleasing to him? After all the creator has greater wisdom and knowledge than we have.
    We are indeed to love the sinner and hate the sin, to welcome everyone that crosses the threshold of our church but we shouldn’t alter the “truth” just because it is more socially acceptable, we have a right as Christians to not be policitally correct.

  45. Kevin Kinnaird says:

    According to Mr. Stewart, we might need to look at all those laws….Let’s just take Leviticus and see how our lives change. I f , by your comment and quote from Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral 1886, 1888 the House of Bishops adopted a declaration which included accounting that “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the revealed Word of God.” I still stand by the fact that Christ said NOTHING about any kind of committed relationships between same sex couples and if Mr. Stewart really wants to adhere to this declaration, then let’s do them all. We can’t really “pick and choose”…let’s just do them all. I think there are around 700 laws or something close to that in the Old Testament.. Hey, I’m just a gay guy that loves my partner…I don’t see how that is hurting anyone. In fact, I have brought several of my friends to Church that have had great experiences and have developed a relationship with the Church. You say I am a “sinner” because of who I love? I am just not getting this. Mr Stewart, I will pray for you .

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