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 198.

    re 196 et al
    What is amazing about the bible is that it cannot be resolved down into a set of moral rules. In fact the bible describes Jesus as the completion and end of rule-based living, replaced by "living in the spirit" (ie have the same sort of relationship with the Holy Spirit today as Jesus' discples had with Jesus then). OK the secular state needs rules, but Christianity doesn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    26. Kiki

    Sad state of the church, conforming to the world just to please people. What a pity!"

    This is exactly what they did when they started denouncing slavery, despite the Bible being in total favour of it (Deuteronomy 20:10, Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:2-6 and many more).

    But I assume you don't want to go back to these biblical traditions, right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    100. LucyJ
    The Bible says only marriage between a man+woman is sacred+blessed by God"

    The Bible also says:

    1 man & his brother's widow (Genesis 38:6)
    1 rapist & his victim (who has no choice) (Deutronomy 22:28)
    1 man & his concubines (10 different characters)
    1 soldier and his POW (Deutronomy 21:11)

    Not sure if you've actually read the Bible, but it's far from "clear" on the issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Here's the problem, marriage inherently occurs under the auspices of a Supernatural being. In Christianinity it’s the Lord GOD. The point is if marriage is taking place under the auspices of God, why would one flout with moral attributes of GOD; that is what He is for or against. This is where I get lost in the whole argument.

  • Comment number 194.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 193.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Mark x: personally I wouldn't go near a church (except for the artworks) or even worse get married into it, if my life depended on it. But if some [misguided] people do, that right should not be denied. As for the so-called Christians on here, Jesus is surely turning in his grave at hearing your hateful, bitter comments. Irrelevance is really making you nastier than ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    @ 67.Shaunus in Poole

    Well done...The most common sense post here which will do doubt be voted down......I neither like nor dislike the church or homosexuality....however, on this subject if the church is criticised there is applause but if homosexuality is criticised there is you Shaunus, I don't like bullies with agendas...

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    The argument that being gay is unnatural doesnt make sense. First of all, it appears in the natural world and is therefore natural. Also: cars, airplanes, open heart surgery, prosthetic limbs, pace makers, pogo sticks, DVD players all dont appear in the natural world. Does that mean people who opposes homosexuality are opposing these as well for being unnatural?

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Leviticus says homosecuality is an abomination. It also says eating shellfish is an abomination. How many hypocritical HYS preachers enjoy a prawn sandwich?

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    At last, a Church that believes in a loving God. If only the CofE could catch up, their average age of atendees might get lower than retirement age, women bishops might help too

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    What I fail to understand is why gay couples are so determined to get married, many heterosexuals commit to each other without being married
    I am against predigest but religious intuitions are against same-sex relationships. If your black would you join the BNP out of choice? or How about same-sex Islamic marriages?
    So my question is why if your gay would you want to get married?

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    If you choose an ancient book that doesn't make sense to guide your ethics then your ethics will not make sense, less so in todays world. If you pick and choose your ethics from the bible, then you are not following the teachings of the bible. Was God really involved in the creation of the Bible? Personally I think he would have done a better job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    "Heterosexuals do all sorts of things that are never going to lead to reproduction unless something goes seriously wrong."

    Like going down the pub, or forgetting the wife's birthday.

  • Comment number 184.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Again religious folks cherry pick. The Bible clearly talks abour sale and ownership of slaves. The Bible also mentions punishments including stoning against foes including a poorly behaving wife. Hating other people will make you more "Christian". You know how White Christian churches treated African Americans like dirt, then fought integration, interacial marriage etc. When will it end?

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Seems like church officials have little counselling to do now a days! People not getting married now a days as it's not worth the time, it's just a paper recognition, stay away from lawyers and courts and church as you really going to get into debt and you come out of any relation as a looser anyways, best if you love someone and you know it's right tell the person, but keep it between yourselves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    I presume the Church and most Christians are against incest? Yet the bible says that God created Adam and Eve, they then had children and so the human race was created.. Who were Adam and Eve's children sleeping with in order to have children? Each other that's who.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    The bible has a section on how to treat your slaves correctly,
    I don't really think we should be judging our morals by that comparison.
    And this is not even marriage, it's a civil ceremony, that a parish church doesn't have to hold if it objects on moral grounds.
    and yet still there those who complain about this.
    Religious freedom would be nice, but can we start with religious tolerance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    BillHaverchuck 169. Because some ducks or goose were found mating with same-sex ducks and goose, are you saying it is okay for humans?
    If animals are your model for moral compass, more power to you.


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