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On July 10, The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies gave final approval to a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions.
Resolution A049 authorizes the provisional use of a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships. Strictly speaking, it is not “marriage,” but rather “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.” However, it has many of the same elements as the traditional marriage service, including the exchange of vows and rings.
The Rev. Jack Zamboni, a deputy from the Diocese of New Jersey, praised the quality of the draft liturgy, saying that he wished he and his wife could have used it when they were married. He also told of how two lesbian parishioners of his were moved to tears when he told them that this General Convention would be considering a rite to bless their relationship. “They had never thought it would happen in their lifetime,” he said.
Deputy Ian Hallas from the Diocese of Chicago, who identified himself as a straight ally, spoke of his sister and her love for her partner. “The reason I return [to General Convention] is for my sister. I seek to assure that she not only has the same rites as myself but also the same privileges.”
But there were some who were adamantly opposed to the resolution. “For 2,000 years, the church has had clear teaching regarding marriage,” said the Very Rev. David Thurlow, deputy from the Diocese of South Carolina. He was a member of the committee that endorsed the resolution, but he dissented from its report.
“This resolution marks a clear and significant departure — theological, doctrinal and in worship — from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them,” he said. It introduces a “new theology of human sexuality,” he continued.
The final passage of the resolution was marred by procedural squabbling. A deputy moved to divide the resolution, and the President of the House of Deputies accepted his request. Her ruling was then challenged, and confusion reigned as the House tried to figure out how to proceed. Ultimately, the motion to divide was voted down, and the resolution was finally able to proceed to a final vote.
Because there was a request to vote ‘by orders,’ the clerical and lay deputations from each diocese had to vote separately. The final tally was:
The House of Bishops already passed the resolution, so it is now officially on the books. Same-sex blessings will be available from the first Sunday in Advent, though bishops will not be required to allow their clergy to use them.
Just before the vote on A049, the House of Deputies considered Resolution C095, which finally nudged the church down the road to structural reform. It calls for the creation of a task force of up to 24 people who will collect ideas from all levels of the church regarding possible changes to the church’s structure and system of government.
The General Convention received over 51 resolutions calling for structural reform, and it fell to the Committee on Structure to craft a single resolution that would be acceptable to as many people as possible. Their work produced C095, and in an astounding turn of events, it managed to pass the Deputies on a unanimous voice vote.
After its passage, the Rev. Gay Jennings, co-chair of the Committee on Structure and President-Elect of the House of Deputies, said that there was “a palpable desire to reimagine how we do business. I think as much as the discussion is about structure, perhaps even more the passion and the interest in this is about identity and vision: who we are as the church, who is God calling us to be in the 21st century.”
The measure now goes to the House of Bishops.