Gay Weddings and The Episcopal Church
While weddings performed by an officiant or celebrant at a beautiful scenic venue are ideal for some of us, others long for that more traditional church wedding, something that may have eluded many same-sex couples until now.
The Episcopal Church has been on the road to fully endorsing same-sex unions for some time with their progressive and inclusive policies. With an estimated 2.3 million members, the church has long been open and welcoming to the LGBT community. It began extending those open arms to it’s clergy nearly 25 years ago, when it ordained the first openly gay priest. The church passed a resolution in 1994 affirming that LGBT people could not be refused ordination in the Episcopal church. In 2003, the church ordained the first openly gay bishop in the United States. In 2009, the church passed a resolution in support of transgender civil rights.
No one shall be denied access to the selection process for ordination in this church because of race, color, ethnic origin, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by these canons
Amid the backlash that took place after the ordination of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives with his husband in New Hampshire, a commission of the Anglican Communion asked the church to backtrack much of it’s support of the LGBT community. What happened was just the opposite. Within a few short years, there were more openly gay bishop appointments and the issue of blessing and supporting same-sex unions came to the forefront.
The Episcopal Church had, in fact, been supporting and ministering to same sex couples since 2000. The church has even prohibited discrimination against gays since 1976. As early as 2003, it was recognized that some of the churches were already blessing same sex unions, leaving it up to the individual dioceses. At their 2009 General Convention, the House of Bishops officially voted to approve a measure allowing Episcopal bishops to bless same sex marriages. For whatever reason, this wasn’t finalized until the summer of 2012 at their national convention. However, this now makes the Episcopal Church the largest denomination in the U.S. to officially sanction same-sex relationships.
The signs outside our church says all are welcome. Do we need an asterisk?
Gay Weddings Other Churches
Just in the past year, the Presbyterian and Methodist churches rejected resolutions that would have granted formal church recognition of same sex relationships. The only major U.S. denomination to endorse same-sex marriage across the board is the United Church of Christ, which did so in 2005. In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allowed member churches to recognize same-sex relationships, but stopped short of creating a churchwide policy or crafting a specific blessing service.
The Episcopal Church’s approved Rite of Blessing for Same-Sex Couples was finalized and approved at it’s 2012 convention and can be read here. One of the sticking points is that it is still up to the discretion of each individual dioceses on how these are to be administered, if at all. So, if you have visions of gay weddings in a traditional church setting, there is more hope than ever before – just be sure to check in with your particular dioceses for their policies on this.