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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Episcopal Church Okays Same-sex Blessings

As I told you guys yesterday, the House of Bishops of the General Convention, meeting in Indianapolis, approved not marriage per se, but a provisional rite of "Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant" - long, awkward title - by 111 to 41, with 3 abstentions.

Today, the House of Deputies, which comprises 4 lay and 4 clergy delegates from every diocese in the country, approved the measure by a vote of 171 to 50. Among the clergy, the vote was 85 to 22 in favor, and among the laity, 86 to 19.

So bishops, clergy, and laity each approved the rite by 75% or more. Which just seems so strange to say. Your Head Trucker is still trying to get his mind around that. But then, Episcopalians are in general pretty cool people, better educated and more open-minded than some other groups I could name. And very, very few are anything like the ranting fundamentalists and evangelicals who have given Christianity such a bad name in recent years. In fact, you rarely get to hear an Episcopalian on the TV news when they are discussing religion and gays and other social topics - why that is, I don't know, but it's a pity.

Of course, there's an exception to every rule. Your Head Trucker is living in one of four dioceses that seceded from the Episcopal Church in 2008, preferring to align themselves with the hateful, homophobic, murderous archbishops of places like Uganda and Nigeria rather than dignify teh nasty gays among them with anything like respect and Christian love. So I haven't been to church in the last several years, and I consider myself an Episcopalian-on-hold these days. But still, it's good news for those who can and do attend, somewhere.

As my truckbuddy Frank said in a comment on yesterday's post, "Every step forward by individuals and institutions helps swell the tide of equality." Amen.

The rite will come into use on the first Sunday of Advent this year, December 2nd. However, each bishop gets to decide whether to allow the blessings in his diocese, and the measure passed with an opt-out clause forbidding anyone from being penalized for refusing to perform the rite.

Today's action makes the Episcopal Church, with 1.96 million members, the largest U. S. church, and the second mainstream Protestant denomination, to approve same-sex blessings. The United Church of Christ, with 1.08 million members, approved such blessings in 2005.

The Episcopal Church has been slowly moving towards this day for a long time: see here for a quick historical summary of developments in the Church's position on gender and sexuality issues since 1976.

And same-sex blessings are even coming to Texas, which is hard to believe, but true:

And here's an article about the other Texas church that will be offering same-sex blessings, St. Stephen's in Montrose, the gayborhood of Houston.

Update: Your Head Trucker has been searching for the text of the proposed rite, and finally it came to light. Here it is in the middle of a long PDF file about the subject; the rite itself begins on page 65.

It's pretty good. Your Head Trucker would improve an awkward phrase or word here and there; but on the whole, very decent and quite moving to read through. However, I would also infinitely prefer to be married - though the chances of that happening at this late age are slim to none - using the old, familiar words of the marriage office, as every other couple does, and has, down through the ages.

Background summary on the proposal and the work of the liturgical commission that presented it to the General Convention is here.

And for anyone interested in further reading on this topic, a very nice 16-page collection of essays and interviews on same-sex unions and Episcopal theology, "Claiming the Blessing," is here.

A well-written, very readable book, What Episcopalians Believe, is partly viewable on Google for anyone who wants a broad overview of the Church, its history, teachings, and ethos.

And the golden thread that binds all together, the beautiful and beloved Book of Common Prayer.


Anonymous said...

I am very glad you posted this, Russ - not just about the new blessing rite, which is important news to millions, but "What Episkies Believe" and the Prayer Book too. You make a good witness.

Someday maybe we can talk over in person why it is one seldom sees Episcopalians discussing issues on TV. But it's the old medium now, and we're starting to master the new ones. I think we need to be deliberate about that - which again is why I admire this post.

Do you ever get to any of the loyalist parishes in your diocese, or are they too far away? Only part of the diocese seceded and moved to Uganda, while the others stayed put with us, for just such developments as this.

Josh Thomas

Russ Manley said...

Thanks much for the appreciation, Josh. I like to put information out there, and hope someone who needs it will find it.

Your own site is a great work of witness, and I know there are a number of other Episcopal/Anglican sites to be found on the 'net, but I'm not sure how large the loom in the public consciousness.

I suppose the lack of Episcopal voices is akin to the lack of Democratic voices in politics - skimming through Google News and various blogs that I keep up with as shown on my sidebar, I rarely hear a nice, moderate, sensible voice from the liberal side - I suppose if you are not a firebrand radical or reactionary, you don't feel a need to shout your message on streetcorners or from rooftops. And thus, all the grease goes to the squeaking wheels, if you get my metaphor.

No, I've never been to any of the remaining congregations here, a two-hour round trip is a great discouragement. And then, since my husband died in 2005, and I was effectively shunned by a whole townful of people as I've blogged about several times here on the Blue Truck, I just don't have much desire to be part of a crowd anymore, even in church.

Sometimes it would be very nice if there were a convenient chapel close by where I could slip in and slip out for the Eucharist. Which I know is missing the greater point of going to church, being part of the Body of Christ with fellow believers - but I just can't help how I feel at this late date.

But on occasion, I find a few drops of water to quench my spiritual thirst at sites like yours, and for that I thank you.

Anonymous said...

Shunned by a whole town… all your truck buddies ought to convene there some weekend and just take over the joint, show 'em who's boss. Bullies turn tail and run when we stand up for each other. You've got some friends; how 'bout a barbycue one of these here times? We'll all chip in.


Russ Manley said...

Haha, sounds good Josh, appreciate ya buddy.

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