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Episcopal Church more expansive and inclusive, thanks to gay marriage votes (COMMENTARY)

Members sing at a church service during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jim Urquhart *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUSSELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on July 2, 2015.
Members sing at a church service during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jim Urquhart *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUSSELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on July 2, 2015.

Members sing at a church service during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City on Sunday (June 28, 2015). Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUSSELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on July 2, 2015.

SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) By an overwhelming majority in both of its legislative houses, the Episcopal Church made history Wednesday (July 1) by making marriage for same-sex couples available throughout the church.

The actions on marriage equality came after decades of progress toward fully including LGBT Episcopalians in the work and witness of the church.

Meeting in Salt Lake City for its 78th General Convention, the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops to approve a canonical change that eliminates a written definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and authorizes two new marriage rites for same-sex or opposite-sex couples.

Taken together, these actions make marriage — which the Supreme Court ruled last week is a “fundamental right” for all Americans — equally available for all Episcopalians.

Carefully and prayerfully crafted, the changes provide as wide a tent as possible for the historic diversity that characterizes the Episcopal Church — guaranteeing access to marriage liturgies to all couples while protecting the conscience of clergy and bishops who dissent theologically.

The genius of these actions by the Episcopal Church is that the conscience of a dissenting bishop is protected but not at the price of denying same-sex couples access to the sacramental rite of marriage.

It will be a “bridge too far” for some and not far enough for others. But it is exactly that kind of comprehensiveness that is in our DNA as Anglicans.

We are a people of God who emerged from the crucible of the Reformation holding the tension of being both catholic and Protestant in the 16th century.

The decisions this week on marriage equality are an exemplary illustration of the hard, faithful work of a church refusing to let the perfect be the enemy of the good as it strives to become a more expansive and inclusive church in the 21st century.

These actions are the result of a conversation launched when the 1976 General Convention said that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the church.”

The Episcopal Church has spent the last 40 years striving to make that resolution a reality.

Bishop Michael Curry, led marchers through the streets to protest against gun violence as part of the Episcopal Church convention in Salt Lake City, Utah June 28, 2015. Curry was elected as the first African-American presiding bishop during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is held every three years in different cities around the country. Photo courtesy of  REUTERS/Jim Urquhart  *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUSSELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on July 2, 2015.

Bishop Michael Curry led marchers through the streets to protest against gun violence as part of the Episcopal Church convention in Salt Lake City on June 28, 2015. Curry was elected as the first African-American presiding bishop during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is held every three years in different cities around the country. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUSSELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on July 2, 2015.

In 2015 our challenge to the church was framed in Jesus’ words from the Gospel according to Matthew (5:37) “Let your yes be yes.” And the response of this General Convention — in the overwhelming majority votes in both houses resulting in both canonical change and equal access to liturgical rites — was not just an affirmation but an acclamation that we are indeed ready to put the “inclusion wars” behind us and to move forward in the work and witness of proclaiming God’s inclusive love.

There is still work to do to reach the audacious goal of a church where there are no barriers to full inclusion for any member — but today we celebrate an important and incremental victory toward that goal.

It is a proud day to be an Episcopalian as we journey together into God’s future — a diverse people united in our commitment to the Jesus Movement that our Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry has called us to claim and to proclaim to a world hungry for love, justice and compassion.

Susan Russell is the senior associate for communications at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif. She served on the task force that studied the marriage changes in the Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy of All Saints Church

Susan Russell is the senior associate for communications at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif. She served on the task force that studied the marriage changes in the Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy of All Saints Church

(Susan Russell is the senior associate for communications at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif. She served on the task force that studied the marriage changes in the Episcopal Church.)

YS/MG END RUSSELL

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Susan Russell

16 Comments

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  • When you reach out and shake hands with the Devil, he expects your full cooperation. I hope the sober element of your congregations run as fast as they can to the nearest Catholic Church.

  • Way to show that agape Greg1!

    Nothing says, love thy neighbor more than declaring an entire sect as being evil.

  • It is one thing to establish civil law that is clearly at odds with the Natural Law, but when these types of things are done in our Lord’s Name, which are blatantly opposed to the Kingdom of God, then it needs to be called out. Ah! what it must be to grow up in such a confused world, where common sense is no longer common. The only way a world could turn from normal, to strangely abnormal, is by demonic influence. Larry, charity comes in many forms, and letting people know the Truth these days is an act of charity (agape).

  • Thankfully most people recognize that we live in the year 2015 – and not the Iron Age. The patriarchal authors of Leviticus had no knowledge of sexual orientation or homosexuality, a word which would not be coined until the 19th century. The Biblical authors were equally wrong about epilepsy, leprosy, left-handedness and skin color. TEC has (finally) decided to end their institutional discrimination against LGBT persons. Those who oppose this inclusion continue the centuries-long discrimination against “the other” based on an a very selective and out-of-context reading of the Bible, which states that anything not understood is evil.

  • Any who do will meet plenty of Roman Catholics running the other way simply because they want to use contraception.

  • Any who do will meet plenty of Roman Catholics running the other way simply because they want to use contraception. Furthermore, various branches of the church had quasi-marital blessings of same-sex relationships centuries ago. Aren’t those who wish to bring them back the REAL traditionalists?

  • Bruce, times might change, technologies can improve, knowledge will increase, but God never changes (Heb 13:8). We will all meet Him at death, and will be Judged (Heb 9:27), and will either be rewarded (1Cor 3:8), or receive a judgment of condemnation. (2Cor 5:10). And although I would agree with you that we have discovered many things in the medical field, and have improved in that way, there are still many maladies which come from the Evil One, We see this during exorcisms, where a person will be freed from a demon, only to be perfectly healthy afterward. The movie the Exorcist was actually based upon a true story, and since the time of the boy’s exorcism, his life has been quite normal.
    https://diabolicalconfusions.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/the-story-of-r-the-real-life-story-that-inspired-the-exorcist/

  • Mr. Harold,

    “For this reason . . .” said Jesus.

    That reason is marriage.

    The Episcopalians that voted to make Jesus a liar, moved from the narrow path to the wide road that leads to destruction. And many there are that find it.

    Christian truth does not hinge on fads and mob rule rewriting whatever pop culture imbibes.

    But sodomy does now doesn’t it?

    Hint, hint.

    Where/when has The Church seen people like you?

    “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was ONCE FOR ALL entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
    – Jude

    Gotta mirror Bruce? But first, get the logs out of your eyes so you can see what you…

  • @BB,

    “The Episcopalians that voted to make Jesus a liar….”

    Jesus (according to evidence, a fictional character) is described telling several whopping lies:

    “JESUS SAID, ‘Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival” But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went…in private” (John 7.8-10).‬

    Jesus said, “Heaven will pass away” – JESUS (Matthew 24:35)
    So all his claims about eternal life are lies. (John 3:16)

    Jesus lied: “My words will not pass away” – JESUS (Matthew 24:35) – but they certainly have! If Jesus existed, it is said he spoke the lost language of Aramaic. The surviving Greek translations from centuries later are contradictory and filled with forgeries, redactions and revisions.

    Jesus is (supposedly) God and Holy Spirit – so why did he/they/it decide to lie so much?

    The first Christian liar was clearly Jesus.

  • Its one thing to hurl barbs at unbelievers, but towards brethren of your own faith is quite another thing. You appear so confused as to think Christians must think as you do. How wonderful it must be to know you are the newest incarnation of Jesus himself, as you do.

    There is no charity, compassion or concern in your posts. You can stop being so dishonest about your malice and spite. Its impossible to take seriously. Does anyone buy that bullcrap? I doubt it.

  • Actually Larry, I am very concerned for the Episcopalians, as they are doing this in the Name of the Lord: Matthew 18:7

  • When was the Episcopal Church not “inclusive,” if by “inclusive,” you mean to the left of Karl Marx on politics? Probably when NRA stood for the National Recovery Administration and the president was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    That was about 80 years ago….

  • Who cares, one way or the other? Mainline Protestantism is basically NPR at prayer; Vermont has more diversity in its population than these churches.

  • Got news for you…. under Francis, they will be adopting the same. Your only hope is in the American Anglican churches..

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