Celebrations of marriage equality, court rulings continue across church

Episcopal Diocese of New York Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche holds up a sign while riding a float during New York's Pride Parade. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Diocese of New York Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche holds up a sign while riding a float during New York’s Pride Parade. His wife, Margaret, is at his left. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Steve Price’s white gardenia boutonniere and diamond pinkie ring were bittersweet tributes among a sea of joy at the June 27 “Celebration of Equality” at St. John’s Pro-Cathedral in Los Angeles.

From Los Angeles to New York, worshippers gathered across the church to celebrate in very public and very personal ways, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled California’s ban on gay marriage (Proposition 8) unconstitutional.

The court’s decisions extended many previously denied federal benefits to same-sex couples married in the U.S. states that allow such unions and paved the way for gay marriages to resume in California.

“I’ve been fighting this fight for 30 years,” said Price, a co-founder of the Holy Spirit emerging Episcopal community in Silver Lake, California.

While celebrating being able to “experience God’s love at this moment with one another,” Price said his gardenia was a tribute to “the ghosts of all those people who didn’t make it to the finish line.” The diamond was a family heirloom he made into a pinkie ring. It would have been a wedding ring, but his partner “died of AIDS; he’s not here for this.”

Others at the celebration wore gay pride t-shirts bearing the familiar slogan: “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.”

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool sparked exuberant cheers and sustained thunderous applause among about two hundred worshippers at the June 27 Los Angeles service with just her opening remark: “A lot has happened this past week.”

“It is interesting to note how much does seem to happen in late June,” added Glasspool, who in 2009 became the first openly gay, partnered female priest to be elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

For example, she said, June 28 was the 44th anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Riots, “that series of events which, for many people, marked the beginning of the gay rights movement in this country.”

And “June 24, was the 40th anniversary of the UpStairs Lounge arson attack in New Orleans, which killed 32 people and elicited remarkable little attention at the time and an even shameful lack of response from anyone in authority, including leaders of religious institutions,” added Glasspool.

She told the joyous gathering that she chose one of the evening’s lessons (Romans 8:35-39) “because it was the one piece of Scripture that kept me in the church when I was working through my own sexuality and thought maybe God hated me because I was a lesbian,” she said.

But she added that, if given the opportunity again she might have chosen the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) instead because it says “something about God’s overwhelming grace given to everyone who will receive it, and our human and many times destructive difficulty in celebrating the gifts that another receives, in celebrating our diversity.”

She challenged the gathering to move from “equality to solidarity,” learning to authentically rejoice in the gifts others receive. “How can we work together to further the reign of God?”

The United States was also celebrating Gay Pride Week and in many places, many celebrations of the week and the court rulings became one.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles, assisted by deacon Margaret McCauley and Archdeacon Joanne Leslie, celebrates Eucharist flanked by two LGBT couples at a "celebration of equality" service at the Pro-Cathedral of St. John on June 27. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles, assisted by deacon Margaret McCauley and Archdeacon Joanne Leslie, celebrates Eucharist flanked by two LGBT couples at a “celebration of equality” service at the Pro-Cathedral of St. John on June 27. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

In New York City, more than 100 people began the day worshiping at the annual disco Pride Mass at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. The service started with a rainbow-clad Earl Giaquinto singing “Over the Rainbow” and ended with dancing beneath a strobe light and colored spotlights.

With live music quietly playing behind her, the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon for missional vitality for the Diocese of Long Island, celebrated the Eucharist wearing the green chasuble of retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris, the first woman ordained bishop in the Anglican Communion.

The day’s second reading was an excerpt from the Supreme Court ruling overturning parts of DOMA.

“We have a lot to celebrate today,” the Rev. Winnie Varghese, St. Mark’s rector, said in her sermon. “When government acts on behalf of people, it feels like liberation.”

When Jesus set his face for Jerusalem, he headed toward the center of power, just as prophets like Elisha did to “proclaim what is right in the cities of the king,” she said. Varghese urged worshippers to celebrate but also to continue that prophetic role in pushing for rights for all people.

The Rev. Megan Sanders, interim rector at the Church of St. Andrew on Staten Island, distributes communion June 30 at a Eucharist offered by the NYC Metro Chapter of Integrity for Pride Parade marchers unable to attend church before the event along Fifth Avenue. Photo:Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Megan Sanders, interim rector at the Church of St. Andrew on Staten Island, distributes communion June 30 at a Eucharist offered by the NYC Metro Chapter of Integrity for Pride Parade marchers unable to attend church before the event along Fifth Avenue. Photo:Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

On Manhattan’s 38th Street, the Rev. Megan Sanders, interim rector at the Church of St. Andrew on Staten Island, celebrated a Eucharist planned by the NYC Metro Chapter of Integrity for marchers unable to attend church before the parade along Fifth Avenue. Sanders, who recently married Kristin Robyn, said she “cried in my car all the way to work” when she heard about the Supreme Court ruling. “I was so excited, but also unsure of what this means and how do we protect people who aren’t married.”

In the parade, Episcopalians from the dioceses of New York and Newark marched carrying church banners in front of a float. New York Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche and his wife Margaret waved from the float to crowds lining city streets, who were dancing to the float’s music and cheering. One male couple stood, dressed in white, beneath a sign saying “Just married today.” One of the grooms mouthed the words “thank you” as the float passed. At several spots, including the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, volunteers handed out water to marchers.

“I’m happy to be here,” Dietsche said, noting the diocese’s support for marriage equality and full inclusion of LGBT people within the church. “I think that people are feeling a new day in America, and we just hope to be part of it and celebrate.”

After the parade, Dietsche participated in and spoke briefly at a Pride Evensong at St. Luke in the Fields.

“We are witnessing as people of faith a monumental shift in the hearts and minds of people … at an astonishing speed,” he said.

The church’s parade float is “enormously important,” he added. “It says the Episcopal Church welcomes you, and that’s a message that is extremely important for the church to express in the LGBT community, because it didn’t always. Maybe we’re beginning to heal some of the damage that has been done in the past by the church.”

The Rev. Barbara Lundblad, Lutheran pastor and preaching professor at Union Theological Seminary, preached on Luke’s Gospel of the widow and the unjust judge.

“We have to keep pestering until every person in the country has the right to vote and has the right to marry and has the right to be treated well, including people who are single,” she said. “It is possible to celebrate and keep pestering. It may be the only faithful way to celebrate in this time in our history.”

Wearing a stole she made for officiating at her first gay wedding, the Rev. Susan Copley, rector of Christ Episcopal Church and San Marcos Mission in Tarrytown, New York, marches in the New York Pride Parade on June 30. Photo:Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

Wearing a stole she made for officiating at her first gay wedding, the Rev. Susan Copley, rector of Christ Episcopal Church and San Marcos Mission in Tarrytown, New York, marches in the New York Pride Parade on June 30. Photo:Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

A June 26 evening celebration at Washington National Cathedral “was a joyful night, full of laughter and tears as those who had suffered so much discrimination savored a cultural and legal turning point in our shared march toward justice,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean, in a June 30 sermon.

The cathedral bells had pealed at noon “as a sign of unity with the LGBT community,” according to a cathedral press release. Hundreds of people gathered at the cathedral to celebrate the Supreme Court decisions.

More than one hundred people attended a June 27 “nuts and bolts” forum at St. Margaret’s Church in Palm Desert, California, in the Diocese of San Diego, according to the Rev. Lane Hensley, rector.

Hensley, who said he is scheduled to officiate at a same-sex wedding in September, said the forum was intended to begin a conversation about the practicalities of living into the court’s decisions.

On June 30, Bishop Mark Holmerud of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus preached and presided, respectively, at an open-air Gay Pride Parade Eucharist just before San Francisco’s 43rd annual Pride Celebration.

On the day of the Supreme Court’s decisions, Andrus wrote on his blog that being at San Francisco City early that morning to await the announcement from Washington, D.C. “with the statue and spirit of martyred San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk looking down on us as current Board of Supervisors President David Chiu noted, was to be grateful for the work, witness, and sacrifice of all those present, all those in many other places, and those whose work provided the base upon which we now stand.”

Andrus thanked the clergy and lay people of the Diocese of California “who have been so faithful in their struggle to bring this moment to reality, over decades” and the Episcopal bishops of dioceses in the state of California and the Episcopal bishops of 22 dioceses who joined him in signing two amicus briefs filed in the cases.

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan and Sharon Sheridan are correspondents for the Episcopal News Service.

Comments

  1. Tom Blair says:

    I remember when The Episcopal Church offered childcare – no need anymore. There is no next generation – except of course for Islam.

    “DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.”

    Yes, I object – they are not “man and woman.”

    • Gee, we at St. Luke in the Fields have kids in childcare every Sunday. And many times they are the kids of same-sex couples.

    • Virginia Saawin says:

      Mr Blair, with all due respect, then you should also be objecting when opposite sex couples who cannot bear children marry. She may be in menopause, he may be infertile. They cannot create another generation naturally either.

    • Ty West says:

      Meh.
      We have a pretty full nursery at St. Augustine’s Episcopal in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.
      No one much cares if the parents are gay, straight, married, divorced, single or widowed.
      All are welcome.

  2. The Reverend Susan Russell says:

    And here at All Saints Church in Pasadena we’re in the middle of a building campaign because we need MORE space for our children, youth and families ministry — and just yesterday we welcomed 38 new members (and baptized one adult!) as we ended our Spring New Member class. We are proudly continuing to support Family Values that value ALL families and are part of a Protect Marriage Movement that protects all marriages. Thanks for this great celebratory look at how far we’ve come on the journey toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments … it is good to be an Episcopalian!

    • Julian Malakar says:

      Rev. Canon Susan Russell, you proclaimed to the world as I do that you are disciple of Lord Jesus Christ, Son of Almighty God, maker of whole universe and its contained living and dead. And you are our Shepard maintaining apostolic succession since Lord Jesus established Church thru solid rock faith of Peter, to take care of His sheep. We know Almighty God is holding all knowledge of truth and His creation is complete and has no mistake. He gave all His living creation a unique identity and unique role to play to glorify His name as long we breathe His breath and later our body goes to dust where it belong to and spirit goes to God from where it came .

      Question is “If” homosexual marriage was God’s plan since beginning of life 1) why did God feel necessity to create opposite sex out of men’s body part? 2) Why did God curse women with child delivering pain, before she can enjoy fruits of her pain delivering a child with happy natural family life and gay family without child delivery pain, but still enjoy family? Assuming homosexual marriage is God’s plan, and gays are naturally carefree. Why do some gay cry for baby? If they cry for baby why does lesbian not marry a man and gay-man marry a woman and make a natural family as God the Almighty plan for to create woman as partner? Childless couples are blessed by God, as it is no fault of them and they are blessed by God when they mitigate their childless pain by rearing orphan or abused child.

      No person is absolute or 100% gay or 100% bisexual. If it is not true then, people like Bishop Robinson could not be biological father of children or a lesbian could not be biological mother. God is righteous God He did not favor gay couple with a child without child delivering pain. It is true saying “No pain no gain”. May God bless you!

  3. Doug Desper says:

    I’m confused when the greater New York and Californian dioceses celebrate their causes that it’s equated by ENS to a movement “across the Church”. This is one reason that it will be a very good thing when the Church Center moves away from the one small island called Manhattan. How about giving more details about the celebrations so that the rest of the Church can get the whole, vivid, unforgettable point? Like really describing the Gay Disco Mass held every last Sunday in June by St. Mark’s in New York City. The Eucharist’s worship space is changed by the lesbian priest into a dance floor complete with a hovering disco ball while the celebrant and worship leaders employ secular music like “We Are Family” and “Love Train” to affirm the congregation. This kind of Eucharist is held in the same New York diocese where monsters, ghouls, and the undead parade in their cathedral at Halloween to an impressed assembly. Such cultural self-affirmation has nothing in common with the Scripture’s example of John the Baptist who called the disciples to become lesser so that “He (Jesus) can become greater”. Most of the Church is not becoming the cultural “new normal” by disgracing the Eucharist for self–appreciation. Perhaps it’s time to stop calling ourselves the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The United States has over 320 million people, of which the Episcopal Church’s attendees comprise a fragment. Many of the policies, values, and concerns of our leaders do not reflect the Christian expressions of this nation of which we are supposed to be a missionary society, but instead reflect a very small liberal revisionist concern of a few cosmopolitan pockets.

    • Joseph F Foster says:

      Remember that ENS’s job is to push the “official” line, i.e. the line touted by the Presiding Bishop and much of the hierarchy.

    • Elizabeth Snelson says:

      I too noted the bi-coastal nature of this report, which could well have included the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, where we celebrated not only the end of DOMA but also the passage of legislation authorizing same sex marriage. This is not New York. This is not California. This is no cosmopolitan pocket. This is America. I am sorry you are confused but do not understand how any thinking adult can be at this late date. Grow with us.

  4. What a joyous and wonderful day! Our 200+ person delegation representing two dozen congregations from both sides of the Hudson was greeted, as always, with enthusiasm by the crowds lining Fifth Avenue. Every year I encounter people who are grateful to learn that there really is a church that believes God loves them as they are.

    It was a blessing to begin the march by praising God for the progress our society has made toward equality for same-gender couples while also remembering and embracing those for whom the rulings of last week will bring difficulty. As Bishop Provenzano, stated in his remarks we cannot be “a church with no outcasts” any other way.

    I was heartened by the number of young people of all orientations who were willing to give up a summer Sunday and wait patiently in the heat for a chance to witness God’s love to the people of New York City on behalf of our church.

  5. George Elliot says:

    According to the Catechism of the Episcopal Church:
    Q. What is Holy Matrimony?
    A. Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, … (1979 BCP, 861)
    “In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

  6. David Yarbrough says:

    The Episcopal Church’s trip down the slippery slope is accelerating.

    TEC has lost the very concept of speaking the truth in love. We are all miserable sinners, and there is no health in us, whether those words were pulled from the Prayer Book or not. Homosexuality is a sin, one of many – but it is the one which the Church has decided is to be glorified rather than called out as disobedience to a holy God.

    TEC once again continues its course of attempting to remake God in our own image. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stay.

  7. We in Cincinnati were joyful, as members of the multicultural Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador carried banners in the Pride Parade for our parish (“Out since 1970″) and Integrity; joined by friends from many other Episcopal congregations. One dear couple carried a sign “22 years of UNwedded bliss: Ohio, let’s make it legal!”

    • Joseph F Foster says:

      And we others in Cincinnati were not joyful but fearful for the future of the Republic. And I will vote against making homosexual marriage legal in Ohio.

      • Bruce Bogin says:

        I think that the Republic which has survived the Civil War, two devastating World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and two totally unnecessary Bush Wars plus a 60 year insane costly war on drugs, an oil embargo, the devastation of 9/11 and several economic downturns, not to mention the Monica Lewinsky scandal, can easily survive gay marriage. Have no fear.

        • Doug Desper says:

          For my part I have no fear about the Republic because God has granted governments to rise and fall and not one has ever lasted intact. We’ll enjoy the blessings of a republic and liberty through a time that God allows. I am more concerned – fearful even – that too many decisions are being made on this and other issues based on human reason and a sense of perceived fairness to the total exclusion of Jesus’ plain reiteration about what marriage actually is. For those who wish to consult the Lord, please refer to Matthew 19 where Christ himself quotes Genesis 2. After reading those passages the Church has no permission whatsoever by Christ to change the design of marriage – unless human reason matters more – and it seems to. For that, I not only fear but tremble for the blasphemy.

  8. I love seeing religious organizations prove that acceptance, love, and embracing differences are not only compatible with religion, they’re the foundation of it! (Besides, as a card-carrying Jewish mother, of course I hope I have a gay son, so he’ll never replace me with another woman . . . )
    People who object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds should look at the states which have had marriage equality for a few years, and it’s clear that none of those dire predictions by opponents have come true. No one is marrying their pets, it’s still legal to play hockey in Canada, there hasn’t been mass public fornication in Vermont, and California has not suddenly decided to force all men to shave their legs. In fact, as this song makes clear, “Western Civilization Is Still Intact” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_Gz3yx2YGs

  9. Susan Pederson says:

    So what’s the problem?
    “Dear friends in Christ,
    we have gathered together today
    to witness N. N. and N. N. publically committing themselves to one another
    and, in the name of the Church, to bless their union:
    a relationship of mutual fidelity and steadfast love,
    forsaking all others,
    holding one another in tenderness and respect,
    in strength and bravery,
    as long as they live.
    Therefore, in the name of Christ, let us pray
    that they may be strengthened for the promises they make this day,
    and that we will have the generosity
    to support them in what they undertake
    and the wisdom to see God at work in their life together.”

  10. George Elliot says:

    I have known respectable gay people in and outside of the church. I do not think any of them would approve of a priest dancing the “jig” on the streets of New York in a stole they wore officiating at their first gay wedding. The teaching of the Episcopal Church is that in a Christian marriage “the woman and man enter into a life-long union.” (BCP, 861) I believe General Convention approved a provisional rite to bless same sex unions which included a conscious clause, not a rite to marry same sex couples. But what to the teachings of the church matter when one has an agenda to promote. “We in the Episcopal Church” don’t seem to think they matter much.

  11. George Elliot says:

    I have known respectable gay people in and outside of the church. I do not think any of them would approve of a priest dancing the “jig” on the streets of New York in a stole they wore officiating at their first gay wedding. I believe General Convention approved a provisional rite to bless same sex unions which included a conscious clause, not a rite to marry same sex couples. But what to the teachings of the church matter when one has an agenda to promote. “We in the Episcopal Church” don’t seem to think they matter much.

  12. Alda Morgan says:

    Reading these responses to the story about the celebrations of the Supreme Court’s decisions last week has made me very sad. I staunchly support those decisions and rejoice for several gay and lesbian friends now that they are able to marry…at least in some of these United States. On the other hand, I also share with more traditional brothers and sisters in TEC their distress at many of the directions the church is going, chief among them being the way all of us have dealt with the division that these responses demonstrate. This division started long before the issues of homosexuality in the church became the straw that broke the back of some of us. It includes very important matters– the way the liturgy is conducted, our understanding of sin, our response to what has happened to the institution of marriage, the mission of the Gospel, changes in our culture which cause anxiety and anger, and the impact of these changes on our understanding of our faith. These disagreements matter, are not trivial, but they require respectful listening and a curb on the rush to condemn. Simplistic as this may sound I do believe that unless we remember that we are children of the God we know in Jesus Christ and act on it, this church is doomed. The two parties that have split the church share a sense of self-righteousness about our understanding of the faith which has closed us off from listening to each other. I’m not saying that listening to each other will be easy, but it’s better than drawing away from each other while hurling disdain at the “enemy”. Let’s ask questions of each other instead of expressing condemnation and sarcasm.
    Finally, the Court did not declare Prop. 8 unconstitutional. It did not rule on the constitutionality of same sex marriage at all: that battle is still out there. It simply threw the case back to California, saying that the plaintiffs had no legal standing.

    • Bob Boyd says:

      Here in San Diego, CA, we have just come through our Pride Parade/Festival. Over 200,000 people came out for the celebration, including a contingent of 100+ Episcopalian priests and lay person from St. Paul’s Cathedral/SD. Prop 8 was declared unconstitution by the US district court and that ruling was left standing by SCOTUS. And so we all are celebrating in California.
      You say, “I also share with more traditional brothers and sisters in TEC their distress at many of the directions the church is going, chief among them being the way all of us have dealt with the division that these responses demonstrate.” And how do you and the traditionalists think we GLBT Episcopalians across the nation have felt all these years about the path of unequal treatment TEC has been following with respect to us? Surely you do not forget the hateful resolution the Lambath Conference passed against GLBT Episcopalians/Anglicans? Surely you remember how our belovid Bishop Robinson was treated by some in the House of Bishops, how the ABC banned him from coming to the conference? Where were the traditionalists trying to truly “listen to/with us.” Did they tarry even a minute to worry about us in their haste to take anti-GLBT actions within TEC? I ask you these questions in keeping with your message of July 4, Independence Day.

  13. Now that the celebrations have died down, help get the Voting Rights Act back up and running. Or the celebrations are like kissing you sister. Peace and love.

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