‘Not considered a marriage ceremony’
The convention’s House of Bishops approved the provisional policy 111-41 with three abstentions Monday, clearing it for consideration by the House of Deputies, which approved it Tuesday evening. The policy was approved in the House of Deputies, following more than an hour of debate, by 78% of the voting lay members and by 76% of clergy.
The service is not considered a marriage ceremony, media affairs representative Nancy Davidge said: “We have authorized a blessing, and a blessing is different than a marriage,” she said. “A blessing is a theological response to a monogamous, committed relationship.”
‘Three-year trial run’
Marriage requires the additional involvement of civil authorities, and many states do not allow gays to marry. The Episcopal policy calls for a three-year trial run of the blessing service, which is called “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.” It will be accompanied by a review process leading up to the church’s next annual convention in Salt Lake City. It’s then that church leaders would decide whether to make the policy permanent, church media affairs representative Neva Rae Fox said.
The policy, which has been in development since 2009, allows local bishops to decide whether to allow the service. It also includes a provision stating that clergy members who object to same-sex unions cannot be coerced to perform the blessing, or be disciplined for refusing.
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