Yesterday, during the Episcopal General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City, both clergy members and lay participants voted to allow same-sex marriages within the Church. While many Episcopalians embraced openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson more than a decade ago, this was a dramatic leap forward:
The vote eliminates gender-specific language from church laws on marriage so that same-sex 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 measures take effect the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29.
The Episcopal Church joins two other mainline Protestant groups that allowed 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.
While gay weddings will soon be allowed in the Church, priests can choose whether or not to officiate them, leaving open the door for plenty of bigotry from within.
It’s a welcome move, to be sure, but it says something about the Church’s moral authority when it’s trailing this far behind on the issue. When you lag behind the Supreme Court, the Democratic Party (with a handful of Republicans), and the majority of the American public, there’s hardly much cause for celebration.
Episcopalians are like the stragglers who cross the finish line of a marathon at the eight-hour mark. They did it and they certainly deserve credit for that — it’s a huge personal accomplishment! — but the strangers in the crowd stopped paying attention a long time ago. Sure, it’s not like evangelicals and Catholics even bothered to enter the race, but at this point, you’re mostly getting pity claps from family members. Everyone else went to go celebrate without you.
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