The Episcopal Church Authorizes New Blessing for Gay and Lesbian Couples

The Episcopal Church has authorized a new blessing for the union of gay or lesbian couples. The resolution allows provisional use of a liturgical rite for gay and lesbian couples on their wedding day. Titled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” the rite is crafted specifically for gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies.

Within the resolution, there is also a call for collaboration and conversation surrounding how to improve the rite in the future.  There is also a protection of bishops’ ecclesiastical authority within the resolution, protecting conscientious objections to blessing weddings of gay and lesbian couples (although these objections are highly unlikely within the Episcopal Church).

Since July 5th, The Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention has been meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana to discuss a long docket of resolutions to change Episcopal doctrine and policy.  The Episcopal Church has a strong track record on LGBT equality, having affirmed gay and lesbian congregants for many years. In 2003, they confirmed Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as the Bishop of New Hampshire. Bishop Robinson’s story can be seen in the film Love Free or Die.

Even within this General Convention, The Episcopal Church has taken more steps toward LGBT inclusion. The assembly passed a resolution adding gender identity to the nondiscrimination policies for clergy and laity. This means that the denomination officially allows transgender clergy. Additionally, the denomination is taking up anti-bullying legislation.

This week, several denominations have faced issues of LGBT inclusion. Last week, the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted 308-338 to not change the Church’s definition of marriage to be inclusive of gay and lesbian couples. The Reformed Church of America reinforced its position that being gay is a sin according to Scripture. 

Despite clear advances toward LGBT equality within denominations and religious groups in America, coverage of LGBT and religious stories continues to fall into a “religious versus gay” frame in the media. The Episcopal Church is following some smaller denominations that have a historical track record of welcoming LGBT people, yet receive little media attention. GLAAD’s recent study, ‘Missing Voices: A study of religious voices in mainstream media reports about LGBT equality,’ demonstrated that voices of major denominations like The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed Church in America are underrepresented in mainstream media. GLAAD continues to call on the media to lift up the stories of LGBT-affirming religious people and organizations, as well as carefully reporting on religious groups that are discerning how best to relate to the LGBT community.