By Aaron Earls
Same-sex couples in the Episcopal Church will now be allowed to marry in their home parish, regardless of the convictions of their local bishop.
The General Convention overwhelmingly approved what was considered a compromise resolution on Friday as their triennial meeting wrapped up in Austin, Texas.
According to the newly passed rules, same-sex couples can request gender-neutral marriage rites at the church in which they worship, even if the local bishop opposes same-sex marriage.
For bishops who hold “a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” they do not have to participate, but should invite another bishop to provide “pastoral care” for LGBT parishioners seeking to get married.
Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island, New York, told Religion News Service the resolution, which he helped craft, was designed to provide greater inclusion for LGBT couples without alienating traditionalists.
“This was really a pastoral solution,” he said, “one that was mindful of trying to hold on to everybody.”
The gender-neutral liturgies were approved for trial use in 2015, but were not added permanently to the Book of Common Prayers as part of the compromise this year. If included, same-sex marriage would effectively become part of the official theology of the Episcopal Church.
Instead, it continues under trial use until the next comprehensive revision of the prayer book.
After the approval of the trial liturgies in 2015, 93 of 101 bishops authorized same-sex weddings.
Eight dioceses—Albany, New York; Central Florida; Dallas; Florida; North Dakota; Springfield, Illinois; Tennessee; and the Virgin Islands—did not authorize the new liturgies and do not allow same-sex marriages.
The ruling by the General Convention overrides those local positions.
According to RNS, Bishop John Howard of Florida and Bishop William Love of Albany warned that the compromise will still lead to a split with the denomination.
Prior to the meeting, several Latin American dioceses voiced their disapproval of expanding the use of same-sex marriage rites.
Bishop John Bauerschmidt of Tennessee, who banned same-sex marriage in his diocese in 2015, told The Tennessean he would be writing to his diocese about the ruling this week.
“We will be working out what it means for our diocese with clergy and congregations in the coming days,” he said.
According to The Tennessean, the resolution will go into effect on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent.
- What Does Your Denomination Believe About Same-Sex Marriage?
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.