Approval for same-sex 'blessing' dismays some Episcopalian clergy

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Official Youth Presence member David Karpf of Connecticut gives testimony during debate on A049, same-gender blessings. Credit: CTepiscopal via flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

At least twelve Episcopalian leaders disagree with their denomination's approval of same-sex “blessing” ceremonies, which were authorized along with a policy approving transgender clergy.

“Our commitment to the biblical witness includes its teaching on sexuality,” the group of Episcopal bishops wrote in a minority report, dissenting from the denomination's vote in favor of the homosexual rites at its July 5–12 General Convention in Indianapolis.

In their “Indianapolis Statement,” the twelve Episcopalian leaders said they believe “that the Scriptures clearly teach that God’s vision for sexual intimacy is that it be exercised only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman.”

“The liturgy entitled 'The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant' is for all practical purposes same-sex marriage,” the group in their critique, which was read aloud before the denomination's House of Deputies by Dallas cleric Reverend Neal Michell on July 12.

“It includes all of the essential elements found in a marriage rite: vows, an exchange of rings, a pronouncement, and a blessing.”

The ceremony, they said, “subverts the teaching of the Book of Common Prayer, places the Episcopal Church outside the mainstream of Christian faith and practice, and creates further distance between this Church and the Anglican Communion along with other Christian churches.”

On July 9, the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops voted 111-41 in favor of the homosexual “covenant” service. The following day, over 75 percent of Episcopal clergy and laity in the House of Deputies voted to approve the rite.

The liturgy is described as “provisional,” and can only be performed by Episcopalian clergy with the approval of their bishop. It will be used on a trial basis for three years beginning Dec. 2.

It will not take effect outside the U.S. branch of the broader Anglican Communion, which remains embroiled in a worldwide controversy over issues of gender and sexuality.

However, the move may impact ecumenical talks between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church, which have previously run into difficulty over these issues.

In a separate vote finalized July 9, the Episcopal Church's General Convention also approved new statutory language barring discrimination against would-be ministers on the basis of “gender identity and expression.”

Rev. Carla Robinson, a transgender individual who is vicar of All Saints Church in Seattle, testified favorably about being told “that my gender identity and expression didn't disqualify me from the discernment process.”

Despite some opposing voices, a majority of the Episcopal General Convention sided with Rev. Robinson's advice to “do the same for my trans sisters and brothers” in the denomination.

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