While recognizing that liturgies blessing same-sex unions are celebrated in some parts of the Episcopal Church, General Convention decided that it is not ready to authorize creating common liturgies for such services.
In a vote by orders, with 58 lay deputations and 62 clergy deputations out of 108 voting “yes,” the House of Deputies Thursday concurred with bishops in adopting an amended resolution recognizing “that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”
It also commits the church to “continued prayer, study and discernment on the pastoral care for gay and lesbian persons.” As part of the process, a commission appointed by the presiding bishop will compile and develop resources “to facilitate as wide a conversation of discernment as possible.”
The resolution allowed the church to speak clearly, said the Rev. Frank Wade, chair of the deputies Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee.
“As an individual, I feel very good,” said Wade, deputy from the Diocese of Washington. His diocese permits blessings for same-gender unions, he said. “That’s part of our life. This affirms ... we are within the embrace of the church.”
Clergy Deputy Kendall Harmon of South Carolina, who served on the committee, agreed that the church spoke with clarity but said he disagreed with what it said.
“The cavalier treatment of the Scriptures at this Convention was astonishing,” he said. “A great deal of momentum has been added to local option” for creating rites for blessing same-sex unions, he said.
“I think it’s highly likely that a clear authorization of same-sex rites passes next time” – partly because many people opposing such a move will not participate next Convention, he said.
“We’ve been in two churches for a long time,” he said. “The lid is blown off. There’s a sense of relief in that.” The question now is how to move ahead in a time of unprecedented, “dramatic realignment,” he said.
While it won’t make a big difference in her diocese of Los Angeles, where blessings already occur, Convention’s action will provide “cover, if you will” for bishops who were seeking national authorization to respond to pastoral needs of gays and lesbians, said the Rev. Susan Russell, executive director of Claiming the Blessing.
“We came looking for a bigger step. I was hoping for authorization for common language for rites,” she said. “I think this is a compromise that takes us a step forward. ... I think it makes us stronger and better able to move forward with the good news of the gospel.”