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Episcopalians Give Tentative OK to Blessing Gay Unions, Trans Ministers

Episcopalians Give Tentative OK to Blessing Gay Unions, Trans Ministers

by Karen Ocamb on July 9, 2012

Openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson is the subject of the documentary "Love Free or Die" at Outfest on July 14

Eight years after the US Episcopal Church approved the election of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire and Bishop Jon Bruno, head of the LA Episcopal Diocese, performed a blessing of Rev. Malcolm Boyd and author Mark Thompson– moves that caused a deep split with conservatives in the worldwide Anglican Communion – Episcopalians meeting in Indianapolis for their triennial General Convention approved a resolution on Monday allowing provisional blessing of lesbian and gay unions.

Resolution Ao49 now goes to the House of Bishops for further action, according to Episcopal News Service. “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” – subtitled “Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships” – would begin the first Sunday of Advent, with permission from the congregation and clergy. The resolution also contains a provision “that conscientious objectors or supporters of the liturgy not be penalized,” ENS reports.

“The resolution asks the General Convention to authorize the liturgy for provisional use and calls for a review process before the next General Convention in 2015. This is clearly a work in process, and there is a place in that process for all Episcopalians, whether or not they agree with the action we are taking today,” Deputy Ruth Meyers of Chicago and Vermont Bishop Thomas Ely, chairs of the subcommittee on blessings, said in a press release.

ENS reports:

The resolution calls for SCLM to study further “how the blessing of lifelong, committed same-sex relationships relates to Christian theology and Scripture, and to reflect on the matter with our sisters and brothers throughout the Anglican Communion and with our ecumenical partners,” they said.
The committee amended the resolution to specify that Canon I.18.4 would apply, giving clergy the discretion “to decline to [preside at any rite of blessing defined herein].”

It also specifies that “no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support for the 77th General Convention’s action with regard to the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships.”

The Very Rev. David Thurlow, deputy of the Diocese of South Carolina, proposed the “conscience clause,” which he modeled after language used in the Port St. Lucie clause. That clause was named after the Florida city in which the House of Bishops enacted a “mind of the house” statement in 1977 establishing that “no bishop, priest, or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner” for opposing or supporting the 1976 General Convention decision to ordain women.

Diocese of Springfield Bishop Daniel Martins said that those in the “increasingly isolated theological minority would be greatly comforted” by the added clause.

The Rev. Kevin Matthews of the Diocese of North Carolina expressed concern that using the Port St. Lucie language “will be inflammatory in the other direction.”

The Rev. Ruth Kirk, deputy of the Diocese of Delaware, said she supported the amendment “in the spirit of generosity.” “I think it adds a level of comfort to those who feel persecuted in the church,” she said. (Emphasis mine).

On Saturday, the House of Bishops approved a proposal to allow trans men and women to become ministers.

Reuters reported:

The House of Bishops voted at the church’s General Convention to include “gender identity and expression” in its “non-discrimination canons,” meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry…..

The resolutions on gender would allow transgender individuals access to enter the Episcopal lay or ordained ministries, and extend the overall non-discrimination policy to church members.

The resolutions must now be approved by the church’s House of Deputies.

The church already bars discrimination, for those who wish to join the ministry, on the basis of race, color, ethnic and national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities and age.

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