Episcopal bishops move on blessings

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The Episcopal bishops voted overwhelmingly late Wednesday to allow bishops in states where gay marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal to provide a “generous pastoral response” to gay couples, but stopped short of authorizing liturgical rites for same-sex blessings.

The unofficial tally was 104 bishop in favor of the resolution, 30 against, and 2 abstentions. The resolution now goes to the House of Deputies, where it must be approved before it becomes church law.

Bishops from the six states where gay marriage has been legalized had asked for the flexibility to adapt the church’s wedding rites for use with same-gender couples. The vaguely worded resolution may do just that, while allowing conservative bishops leeway not to conduct same-sex ceremonies. The resolution also treads a fine line on authorizing rites for blessing same-sex unions. Other Anglicans worldwide, a majority of whom view homosexuality as sinful and unbiblical, had asked the Episcopal Church repeatedly not to take that step.

The key passage is: “that bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of the church.”

The resolution also “acknowledges the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorirzing or forbidding marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources and liturgies for the blessing of same gender resolutions.”

It also authorizes the church committee on liturgy to “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources” for rites for same-sex blessings and report to the next General Convention in 2012.

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