The Washington National Cathedral, one of the nation’s most prominent churches, will be among the first Episcopal congregations to allow marriage ceremonies for LGBT members, the church has announced.
The decision marks the Episcopal Church’s hopes of embracing inclusivity “that reflects the diversity of God’s world,” according to cathedral dean Reverend Gary Hall. “I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do,” he told the Associated Press.
The announcement carries with it significant symbolism — the 106-year-old cathedral has long been a spiritual center for the nation, hosting presidential inaugural services and funerals for Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last sermon there in 1968, and the cathedral draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
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“Today marks another milestone in the Episcopal Church’s embrace of all God’s children, including LGBT people,” said Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Religion and Faith Program. “Today, the Church sent a simple but powerful message to LGBT Episcopalians – you are loved just the way you are, and for that we embrace you.”
The announcement follows the recent legalizing of same-sex marriage in the adjoining state of Maryland; same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia has been legal since March 2010.
The change is allowed under a “local option” granted at the denomination’s 77th General Convention in Indianapolis in July 2012, which approved a measure to allow the blessing of same-sex unions
Each priest in the diocese has the discretion on whether to perform same-sex unions.
To wed at the National Cathedral, one member of the couple must be baptized into the Church, and both must commit to a Christian marriage of “lifelong faithfulness, love, forbearance and mutual comfort.”