Thursday, October 25, 2007

| Episcopal diocese OKs blessings for gay couples

The Bay Area Reporter Online Episcopal diocese OKs blessings for gay couples

by Seth Hemmelgarn
Elected representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of California voted overwhelmingly in favor of two resolutions last weekend that support LGBT people in the church.
The first resolution concerned blessings for same-sex couples. Until now, there hasn't been a specific service for same-sex couples who wanted their unions blessed by the church. Now, there are three.
The vote Saturday, October 20 established set rites for same-sex couples and puts them on an equal footing with heterosexual couples, said Tom Jackson, president of Oasis, the LGBT ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California.
"Now we have services we can use," Jackson said. "We don't have to make one up each time."
The diocese consists of San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin counties, and part of Santa Clara County. The diocese, which has 27,000 members, has offfered blessings for same-sex unions for 30 years.
The diocese's commission on marriage and blessing developed the three rites, which are accompanied by biblical texts. The rites were adapted from The Book of Common Prayer's "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage;" "Marriage Liturgy, Second Form," from A New Zealand Prayer Book ; and "A Rite for the Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Covenants" from the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.
The diocese's bishop, the Right Reverend Marc Handley Andrus, who is straight, has been a strong supporter of same-sex couples. The commission on marriage and blessing was formed under his direction.
Both resolutions were passed with voice votes and had strong support from straight allies, Jackson said. No counts were taken. The votes were part of an annual convention held at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral .
Episcopal churches across the Bay Area can immediately start using the rites, Jackson said.
The diocese also passed a resolution by the Reverend John Kirkley calling for more support of LGBT members of the church. The resolution was a response to recent events in the Episcopal Church nationally.
In 2003, openly gay Gene Robinson was elected as the Bishop of New Hampshire. That helped lead to a call from some Anglican Church leaders for the Episcopal Church to stop authorizing same-sex unions and stop allowing lesbians and gays to take high positions in the church. The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion.
The House of Bishops, a meeting of 150 bishops from around the country, responded in September with a controversial decision lang=EN that largely gave the Anglicans what they wanted.
Kirkley's resolution read, in part, "[the] Diocesan Convention deplores the lack of access to adequate pastoral and ritual care for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in large parts of the Episcopal Church and the refusal of the majority of our bishops to make provision for it, and calls upon the House of Bishops to publish guidelines for such care."
Jackson said he hopes to organize people around the two "milestones" in preparation for the church's general convention in Anaheim in 2009.
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