US Episcopal Church approves same-sex blessing service

File photo of gay rights campaigners at US Capitol Six US states and the District of Columbia have legalised gay marriage

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The Episcopal Church has become the largest US denomination to bless same-sex relationships.

The policy was overwhelmingly approved in a vote at the church's general convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Church officials stressed the new ceremony, which includes prayers and an exchange of vows and rings, was not a same-sex marriage.

The US Episcopal Church - part of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion - has nearly two million worshippers.

On Tuesday nearly 80% of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies voted to authorise a three-year trial run for a provisional same-sex service.

Same-sex counselling

A day earlier, the House of Bishops also resoundingly approved the new ceremony, which is called the "Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant".

Start Quote

It is being seen as a marriage rite even though I was told that is not intended”

End Quote Rev Sharon Lewis Episcopal priest

"I believe the Episcopal Church will continue to evolve on the issue of marriage equality and look forward to joining our brothers and sisters in being a headlight instead of taillight on marriage equality," said the Rev Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest.

But opponents argued during Tuesday's debate that the service amounted to an endorsement of same-sex marriage without theological justification.

"It is being seen as a marriage rite even though I was told that is not intended," said the Rev Sharon Lewis, from a Florida diocese.

Episcopal Church law and the Book of Common Prayer define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Under the new policy, each Episcopal bishop will decide whether to allow the ceremonies in his or her diocese. Same-sex couples must also complete counselling before undergoing the rite.

A "conscience clause" allows Episcopalians to oppose its use without facing a penalty.

Also on Monday, the full Episcopal convention approved new anti-discrimination language for transgendered people that paves the way for transgendered clergy.

Other mainline Protestant churches have removed barriers to gay ordination in recent years or allowed individual congregations to celebrate gay or lesbian unions.

Episcopalians caused uproar in 2003 by consecrating New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world.

But the move caused the Anglican Communion to begin fracturing, and it has continued to do so ever since.

Six US states and the District of Columbia have legalised gay marriage and three more states could do so this year.

Thirty US states have passed constitutional amendments limiting marriage to unions between a man and a woman.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    How can a church call itself a Christian church if it promotes something the Bible says is wrong?

    Isn't that an oxymoron or contradiction?

    It says it follows the Bible but it promotes what the Bible says its against

    The Bible says only marriage between a man+woman is sacred+blessed by God

    Just b/c a church says its Christian
    doesn't mean it actually is

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    If you ask most people I think you'll find most aren't fussed about a church wedding. (Some are even against wedding in pricniple). Most just want to be able to be married in the eyes of the state, and society. Nothing to do with religion. Others want the church to 'be able' to do it if they wish. Sadly, discrimination in the church dictates the need for these varying layers of ability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    I understand that marriage has not always been associated with religious ceremony - which is the arguement many same sex couples use to advocate their demands for marriage over civil partnerships. I don't understand why marriage is demanded in a church/religious context. Especially considering said instituions consider marriage to be the union of a man and a woman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I think it's an amazing form of bigotry, where someone can affect someone else's life, which doesn't in turn affected them back. I'm not against same-sex marriage because it doesn't affect my life in the slightest.

    People who believe that same-sex couples shouldn't get married, should sit down and ask themselves, how does same-sex marriage affect there lives.
    I think the answer is NOT AT ALL.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    It is necessary to define "marriage". Concepts in history have been different from those used today,both legally and socially. Same-sex unions are recorded in ancient societies before today, so this is not something new.
    There is a huge amount on this. It is not the same to define marriage how you think it 'ought to be' vis-a-vis what is actually might really be.


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