INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Episcopal Church has approved a measure to allow the blessing of same-sex unions, as well as two proposals adding gender identity and expression to the Church’s nondiscrimination canons for ordained ministry, and a resolution supporting legislation for equal immigration rights for same-sex couples.
The votes took place at the denomination’s77th General Convention in Indianapolis this week.
Over 70 percent of Bishops and members of the House of Deputies voted in favor of the measure that will allow Bishops to bless same-sex couples as long as they are in a monogamous relationship, according to Rev. Ruth Meyers, deputy of the Diocese of Chicago.
“[The liturgy] is a service of blessing for same-sex couples who are in lifelong, faithful, monogamous, committed relationships,” she said in a statement.
However, the Canons of the Church will still use the definition of “marriage” as between a man and a woman, and the newly passed resolution will not be imposed on members — if a clergy decides they do not support the measure, they will not face punishment for refusing to perform the liturgy.
Those opposed to the measure will likely exercise their right to refusal, Rev. David Thurlow, deputy of the Diocese of South Carolina, led the small group and he left a statement on behalf of the opposition.
“For 2,00 years, the church has had clear teaching regarding marriage,” he said. “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.”
Supporters had a strong response to those in opposition. Pete Ross, deputy of the Diocese of Michigan, said, “The signs outside our church say all are welcome, do we need an asterisk?”
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable and the Human Rights Campaign applauded the church for its efforts, and both groups acknowledged the resolution as just a stepping-stone towards full equality.
“The Episcopal Church is one of a growing number of denominations to see a new day in the intersection of faith and sexual orientation and gender identity. This is not only good for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people but it is good for the soul of the church,” said Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, deputy director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program.