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 78.

    #67. Shaunus in Poole

    The gay propagandist side.

    Anyone who says anything that is not complementary with their views is shouted down as a bigot or homophobe or both.

    I am neither, but their attitude has made me intolerant of the gay community's one-sided debate. I am also intolerant of the illogical picky-choosey-what-fits-today meanderings of many religions.

    Thank God I am an Atheist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    47. Totally agreed. I wouldn't.
    That said, ... many apply that argument also to not allowing non-religious state weddings/marriages in the UK. And I hope you do not include that in your view posted there. Church doesn't own marriage, so by us wanting state marriage in the UK is 'not' us wanting to get into bed with a homophobic institution at all. Just want to be clear on that common error.

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.


    "Nobody was made to be gay?"
    Ask yourselve this honestly. Could "you" choose to be gay? Unless you are, I doubt your honest answer would be yes.
    Trust me when I say I would LOVE to not be gay, I would love to be normal, and love a woman, and find that a turn on, and have a baby. It is NOT a choice!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    26. “Sad state of the church, conforming to the world just to please people…”

    No, Episcopal supporters of gay unions do have a plausible argument based on scripture. You should read what they say and then read again the passages you think proscribe same sex relationships. One might not be convinced, but one cannot say with certainty that they are wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    8.marcus polo - Even nature tells us it can't be marriage - there is no ability to produce children naturally. Forget the religious view.

    So people who are unable to have children, either because of cancer or other medical condition should be stopped from getting married?

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Being ridiculous while lost in the woods is optional.

    The Rainbow better suits their church than the cross that demeans it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Also interesting to point out that the religious pick and choose what they will preach from their special book. No mention of slavery, not cutting your hair, the stoning of people or not wearing clothes woven of two kinds of thread - all also demanded in the Bible. Convenient that one homophobic opinion mentioned is so strictly adhered to while all others are deemed too inconvenient. Homophobia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    For me, I couldn't careless what the church do or want. I don't wish to blindly follow storytales and restrict my life because of them.

    However, I do want to be able to marry like the many millions of others who equally have no regard or belief in any religion and don't get married in a church, but do still get married!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I'm sure Islam will fall right in line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    christianity must always opperate on solid moral grounds and never ethics of social convention.
    This is why churches are closing, numbers are declining and the dominance over the people through influence of government is collapsing - long may that continue.
    Christianity is on the decline because it preaches hypocrisy and refuses to modernize. Morality? You don't own that either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Who are the people here saying you will buy into my belief or else..... Which side is the bully here?
    You will have your faith my way and as I want. If you don't I will say you are homophobic or out of date. Quote this Quote that.
    I am not homophobic, I just don't like bullies. These chants of homophobia and racism are thrown like confetti these days. They are no valid argument on their own

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    The Book of Common Prayer does not specifically proscribe homosexual marriage.Those whom one may not marry, as laid down in "A Table of Kindred and Affinity," are blood relations or relatives of the opposite sex. Baseball's Reserve Clause was overturned because of its inspecific and presumptive language.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I thought "Marriage was/is a union between a man and a woman". And God created a man and woman.

    Welcome to the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Slavery was not God's will.

    Racism was not God's will.

    Oppression of women was not God's will.

    Homophobia is not God's will.

    God gave his creation the ability to think critically. I recommend using it. The Church has held lots of views that happened to be fashionable over the years, only to reverse their opinion later. This one will be no different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    It's interesting that people often neglect to mention that no single religion holds a trademark on marriage. No religion on the planet should be permitted to claim ownership. Marriage ceremonies have taken place for thousands upon thousands of years, Christianity cannot claim it when Pagan faiths in England were carrying out marriage ceremonies long before Christianity arrived.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    To many hang ups on both sides here. We are losing the ability to believe what we want to believe. If one group the church don't wish to have homosexual marriage why is that a problem. Henry the VIII just created a new church. Why foster your believes on someone who doesn't accept it. Try it in a mosque see what you get. Instead of berating the church think what religion would listen at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Have any of these churches ever read in the bible Romans 1: 26-27. I would really like to know what doctrine are they following.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    We live in a time where people tend to judge what is right by what there mind says or by the opinion of an eminent personality or institution.

    Episcopal Church decision is personal and those not affect what God has designed as right or wrong.Our mind can also be grossly deceived.

    Nobody was made to be gay. Unlike poles attract and like poles repel

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    It's bad news for me. it's totally out of God willingness. what is the use of this kind of marriage? also not expected from the church officials. God will punish them. you will see.


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