C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Episcopal Bishop OK's Same-Sex Marriages

From Episcopal Life:
Clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts may now solemnize same-gender marriages.

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw SSJE said in a Nov. 29 statement that he and bishops suffragan Roy Cederholm and Gayle Harris based their decision on the terms of the "generous pastoral response" allowed to the church by Resolution C056 passed by the church's General Convention last July.

The resolution said 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 this church." The state of Massachusetts, whose eastern counties comprise the diocese, allows same-gender marriage.

"Your bishops understand this to mean for us here in the Diocese of Massachusetts that the clergy of this diocese may, at their discretion, solemnize marriages for all eligible couples, beginning Advent I [November 29]," Shaw wrote, referring to the start of the new church year that day.

Solemnization under Massachusetts law, he added, includes hearing the declaration of consent, pronouncing the marriage and signing the marriage certificate.

The Massachusetts diocesan convention in November had expressed the hope that Shaw would permit clergy to sign marriage licenses and pronounce marriages "for any couple that is legally eligible for marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

"Christian marriage is a sacramental rite that has evolved in the church, along with confirmation, ordination, penance, and the anointing of the sick, and while it is not necessary for all, it must be open to all as a means of grace and sustenance to our Christian hope," he wrote.

Noting that the Book of Common Prayer's rite of "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage" may not be used for marriages of same-gender couples because it includes gender-specific language as do the church's canons (Canon I.1.18 and 19), the Massachusetts bishops asked clergy to use other liturgies. They recommended those included in "Pastoral Resources for Province I Episcopal Clergy Ministering to Same-Gender Couples."  [Presumably including such trial liturgies as those developed in 2004 by the Diocese of Vermont.]

Shaw said clergy must also follow all of the canonical requirements for marriage and re-marriage. The bishop said "any member of the clergy may decline to solemnize any marriage," as is currently the case for opposite-gender couples.
The Diocese of Massachusetts includes 190 churches and about 77,000 members; Boston is the see.
This is great news - if you live in Massachusetts.  I'm living in a seceded diocese here in Texas, effectively cut off from all the sacraments; all these gay-affirming developments seem very far away here, almost imaginary.  But I'm glad for my brothers and sisters in New England and elsewhere who are living the dream of equality.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails