Episcopal bishop says yes — and no — to gay blessings

RNS photo courtesy Episcopal Diocese of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama voted in favor of his church's new ritual for blessing same-sex unions — but he won't allow priests in his diocese to perform it.

“For the time being, I will not give permission,” Sloan said.

Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama voted in favor of his church's new ritual for blessing for same-sex unions - but he won't allow priests in his diocese to perform it.

Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama voted in favor of his church's new ritual for blessing for same-sex unions – but he won't allow priests in his diocese to perform it.

The blessing of same-gender unions is still too divisive an issue for Alabama, he said.

“It’s not good at this time in this place,” Sloan said. “I’m trying to avoid any further division.”

Episcopalians overwhelmingly approved the new rite for same-sex couples July 10 at the denomination's General Convention. Bishops do not have to allow them, however, and about 10 active bishops have said they will not. The denomination has 110 dioceses in all. 

The Rev. Frank Limehouse, dean of the 3,400-member Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham’s largest Episcopal church, said his church will not “bless any sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.”

“The Bible is clear about this,” Limehouse wrote on his church's website. “If anyone who declares the Bible teaches otherwise, then I wouldn’t doubt his or her sincerity, but I would have to question their training in biblical interpretation.”

Advocates for same-sex blessings were puzzled that Sloan supported the rites, but won’t allow them in his diocese.

“All of us striving for full inclusion are disappointed that he’s not allowing Alabama to move forward with the national church,” said Brad LaMonte, former Southeast regional vice president of Integrity, which promotes gay rights in the Episcopal Church.

“He worked on the committee that developed the rite,” LaMonte said. “It’s bizarre that he’s not allowing it in Alabama.”

Sloan said he serves both the national church and a local diocese.

“When you are ordained a bishop, you are ordained for the whole church,” Sloan said. “I serve the church in Alabama. I am interested in what is good for the whole church, so I voted for the resolution.”

While Alabama is not ready to practice same-sex blessings, he wants further conversation and study of the issue, Sloan said.

“Theology is an ongoing revelation,” he said. “It’s influenced by context. There are parts of the country that are more conservative and traditional, and there are parts of the country that are more liberal. In Alabama, it would be divisive within the Episcopal Church. We are deeply conflicted about this. I’d like for us to work through and pray about it.”

He said that states where same-sex civil unions are legal may be more ready than Alabama to proceed with blessing such couples.

“What we’ve done is continue a conversation,” Sloan said. “It will continue to go for a long time.”

Sloan said same-sex blessings may eventually be allowed in Alabama.

“I don’t have a timetable in mind,” he said. “I foresee that that’s a possibility.”

(Greg Garrison writes for The Birmingham News in Birmingham, Ala.)

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  • Curious that after 2weeks this particular bishop keeps showing up in the news with headline “Bishop votes Yes but says No to use of provisional same sex blessing rite” (Oh you left the provisional part out-please include ALL facts that make the report accurate).
    I challenge you to use “This is an opportunity to open conversation with many of different perspectives.” How about it????

  • Perhaps these gentlemen need reminding what exactly “Biblical marriage” was defines as :

    ?Marriage consists of one man and one or more than one woman (Gen 4:19, 4:23, 26:34, 28:9, 29:26-30, 30:26, 31:17, 32:22, 36:2, 36:10, 37:2, Ex. 21:10, Judges 8:30, 1 Sam 1:2, 25:43, 27:3, 30:5, 30:18, 2 Sam 2:2, 3:2-5, 1 Chron 3:1-3, 4:5, 8:8, 14:3, 2 Chron 11:21, 13:21, 24:3).

    ?Nothing prevents a man from taking on concubines or sexual slaves in addition to the wife or wives he may already have (Gen 25:6, Judges 8:31, 2 Sam 5:13, 1 Kings 11:3, 1 Chron 3:9, 2 Chron 11:21, Dan 5:2-3).

    ?A man might choose any woman he wants for his wife (Gen 6:2, Deut 21:11), provided only that she is not already another man’s wife (Lev 18:14-16, Deut. 22:30) or a relative (Lev 18:11, 20:17, Lev 20:14, Lev 18:18). The concept of a woman giving her consent to being married is not in the Bible.

    ?If a woman cannot be proven to be a virgin at the time of marriage, she shall be stoned to death (Deut 22:13-21).

    ?A rapist must marry his victim (Ex. 22:16, Deut. 22:28-29), unless she was already a fiancé, in which case he should be put to death if he raped her in the country, but both of them killed if he raped her in town (Deut. 22:23-27).

    ?If a man dies childless, his brother must marry the widow (Gen 38:6-10, Deut 25:5-10, Mark 12:19, Luke 20:28).

    ?Women must marry the man of their father’s choosing (Gen. 24:4, Josh.15:16-17, Judges 1:12-13, 12:9, 21:1, 1 Sam 17:25, 18:19, 1 Kings 2:21, 1 Chron 2:35, Jer 29:6, Dan 11:17).

    ?Women are the property of their fathers until married and the property of their husbands thereafter (Ex. 20:17, 22:17, Deut. 22:24, Mat 22:25).

    ?The value of a woman might be approximately seven years’ work (Gen 29:14-30).

    ?Inter-faith marriages are prohibited (Gen 24:3, 28:1, 28:6, Num 25:1-9, Ezra 9:12, Neh 10:30, 2 Cor 6:14).

    ?Divorce is forbidden (Deut 22:19, Matt 5:32, 19:9, Mark 10:9-12, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:2, 1 Cor 7:10-11, 7:39).

    ?It is better to not get married at all—although marriage is not a sin (Matt 19:10, I Cor 7:1, 7:27-28, 7:32-34, 7:38

  • Here’s an email I sent to Frank Limehouse:

    Dear Pastor,

    You’ve managed, in just a few words, to dismiss those who favor gay marriage as ill-trained in Scripture and faithless.


    That’s mouthful pastor.

    I’m one of those with whom you disagree.

    I’m well-trained.

    I’ll not defend my faith; that belongs to Christ himself.

    But I will challenge you.

    You could have simply said, “As I read the Bible, here is where I stand.” Though perhaps the hardliners want more than that.

    I read the same Bible you do, and yet we come to different conclusions.

    That’s how God designed this whole thing.

    So that we can never retreat into some unassailable position, but have to bear responsibility for our decisions of faith, and especially our ethical decisions. To claim an authority above all question is the stuff of inquisitions and fanatics.

    I quote Bonhoeffer:

    The responsible man acts in the freedom of his own self, without the support of men, circumstances or principles, but with a due consideration for the given human and general conditions and for the relevant questions of principle. The proof of his freedom is the fact that nothing can answer for him, nothing can exonerate him, except his own deed and his own self. It is he himself who must observe, judge, weigh up, decide and act. It is man himself who must examine the motives, the prospects, the value and the purpose of his action. But neither the purity of the motivation, nor the opportune circumstances, nor the value, nor the significant purpose of an intended undertaking can become the governing law of his action, a law to which he can withdraw, to which he can appeal as an authority, and by which he can be exculpated and acquitted. For in that case he would indeed no longer be truly free. The action of the responsible man is performed in the obligation which alone gives freedom and which gives entire freedom, the obligation to God and to our neighbour as they confront us in Jesus Christ. At the same time it is performed wholly within the domain of relativity, wholly in the twilight which the historical situation spreads over good and evil; it is performed in the midst of the innumerable perspectives in which every given phenomenon appears. …. … responsible action is a free venture; it is not justified by any law; it is performed without any claim to a valid self-justification, and therefore also without any claim to an ultimate valid knowledge of good and evil. Good, as what is responsible, is performed in ignorance of good and in the surrender to God of the deed which has become necessary and which is nevertheless, or for that very reason, free; for it is God who sees the heart, who weighs up the deed, and who directs the course of history.

    Your congregation needs to be helped along the way to embrace the faith rather than hide in it, to accept the risk of decision-making rather than deferring the decision to some outward authority that absolves the believer of responsibility.


    Tom Eggebeen, Honorably Retired and Interim Pastor
    Calvary Presbyterian Church
    Hawthorne, CA