Epis­co­palians ap­prove gay mar­riage


Epis­co­palians voted over­whelm­ingly Wed­nes­day to al­low re­li­gious wed­dings for same-sex cou­ples, so­lid­i­fy­ing the church’s em­brace of gay rights that be­gan more than a decade ago with the pi­o­neer­ing elec­tion of the first openly gay bishop.

The vote came in Salt Lake City at the Epis­co­pal Gen­eral Con­ven­tion, just days af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court le­gal­ized gay mar­riage na­tion­wide. It passed in the House of Deputies, the vot­ing body of clergy and lay par­tic­i­pants at the meet­ing. The House of Bish­ops had ap­proved the res­o­lu­tion Tues­day by 129-26 with five ab­stain­ing.

The Very Rev. Brian Baker of Sacra­mento said the church rule change was the re­sult of a nearly four-decade long con­ver­sa­tion that has been dif­fi­cult and painful for many. Baker, chair of the com­mit­tee that crafted the changes, said church mem­bers have not al­ways been kind to one another but that the dy­namic has changed in re­cent decades.

“We have learned to not only care for, but care about one other,” Baker said. “That mu­tual care was present in the con­ver­sa­tions we had. Some peo­ple dis­agreed, some peo­ple dis­agreed deeply, but we prayed and we lis­tened and we came up with com­pro­mises that we be­lieve make room and leave no one be­hind.”

Baker said the House of Bish­ops prayed and de­bated the is­sue for five hours ear­lier this week be­fore pass­ing it on to the House of Deputies.

The Rev. Bon­nie Perry of Chicago, a les­bian mar­ried to a fel­low Epis­co­pal priest, hugged fel­low sup­port­ers on Wed­nes­day and said, “We’re all in­cluded now.”

“For the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple in our con­gre­ga­tions now know un­der the eyes of God and in ev­ery sin- gle state in this blessed coun­try, they are welcome to re­ceive all the sacra­ments,” she said.

Jose Luis Men­doza-Bara­hona of Honduras gave an im­pas­sioned speech, say­ing the new church law goes against the Bi­ble and would cre­ate a chasm in the church.

“The fight has not ended, it’s start­ing,” he said. “Those of us in the church who are loyal fol­low­ers of Christ are go­ing to re­main firm in not rec­og­niz­ing what hap­pened to­day.”

The vote elim­i­nates gen­der­spe­cific lan­guage from church laws on mar­riage so that same­sex cou­ples could have re­li­gious wed­dings. In­stead of “hus­band” and “wife,” for ex­am­ple, the new church law will re­fer to “the cou­ple.” Un­der the new rules, clergy can de­cline to per­form the cer­e­monies. The changes were ap­proved 173-27. The deputies also ap­proved a gen­der-neu­tral prayer ser­vice for mar­riage.

Many dio­ce­ses in the New York-based church of nearly 1.9 mil­lion mem­bers have al­lowed their priests to per­form civil same-sex wed­dings, us­ing a trial prayer ser­vice to bless the cou­ple. Still, the church hadn’t changed its own laws on mar­riage un­til Wed­nes­day.

The Epis­co­pal Church joins two other main­line Protes­tant groups that al­low gay mar­riage in all their con­gre­ga­tions: the United Church of Christ and the Pres­by­te­rian Church (U.S.A.). The 3.8-mil­lion-mem­ber Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church in Amer­ica lets its con­gre­ga­tions de­cide for them­selves, and many of them host gay wed­dings.

The United Methodist Church, by far the largest main­line Protes­tant church with 12.8 mil­lion mem­bers, bars gay mar­riage, although many of its clergy have been of­fi­ci­at­ing at same-sex wed­dings re­cently in protest.

The Epis­co­pal Church is the U.S. wing of the Angli­can Com­mu­nion, an 80 mil­lion-mem­ber global fel­low­ship of churches.


The Rev. Michael Briggs, left, and the Rev. Ken Mal­colm, right, hug af­ter Epis­co­palians over­whelm­ingly voted to al­low re­li­gious wed­dings for same­sex cou­ples Wed­nes­day, in Salt Lake City. The vote came at the Epis­co­pal Gen­eral Con­ven­tion, just days af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court le­gal­ized gay mar­riage na­tion­wide.

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