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Church-State Divide Looms for Episcopalians on Gay Marriage

posted by akornfeld

Episcopal bishops from the six states that have legalized same-sex marriage are requesting permission to adapt their church’s venerable prayer book for use at same-sex weddings.
The proposal presents a new challenge to the Episcopal Church as it seeks to balance respect for gay rights with fellow Anglicans’
widespread condemnation of homosexuality.
The request from bishops in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont will be debated at the Episcopal Church’s upcoming (July 8-17) General Convention in Anaheim, Calif.
Even though the Episcopal Church has taken a liberal stand on gay issues, including installing an openly gay bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, its rules and liturgy continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
The bishops’ proposed resolution asks for permission to offer a “generous and flexible response” to same-sex couples seeking to be wed in the six states that have legalized same-sex civil marriage.
“Right now the state’s definition of marriage and the church’s definition of marriage are in conflict,” said Bishop Stephen Lane of Maine, where gay marriage became legal in May. “We’re asking for some flexibility to adapt the prayer book so a blessing could be made for a same-sex couple.”
The Book of Common Prayer, versions of which Anglicans have used since the mid-1500s, contains three rites of marriage, said Lane, all of which address the betrothed as male and female. Revising those rites would require the assent of two consecutive General Conventions, meaning they could not be used until at least 2012. The Episcopal Church has not revised its Book of Common Prayer since 1979, according to church researchers.
But after a spring that saw five states legalize gay marriage in quick succession, the prayer book is out of step with civil law and the values of most Episcopalians, several bishops said. Gay and lesbian Episcopalians are asking why their church does not recognize their now-legal weddings.
New Hampshire’s openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, said “bishops who live in dioceses where (gay) marriage is or will soon become legal face a real pastoral difficulty. Members of our churches want to avail themselves of this.” Robinson himself wed his longtime partner last June.
Bishop Alan Scarfe of Iowa said dozens of gay and lesbian couples have approached his diocese since the state’s Supreme Court legalized marriage in April. “I changed from being one who thought that civil unions were the way to go, then I heard the equal marriage argument,” he said.
But some Episcopalians say changing the marriage rites would violate the will of the larger Anglican Communion, a worldwide fellowship of churches of which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch. A majority of Anglicans worldwide denounce homosexuality as a sin and have asked Episcopalians not to authorize rites for blessing same-sex unions.
“If we move forward, even in this limited way, we will in effect have said `no’ to the Anglican Communion,” said Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana. “I think it will be tragic. It will make it very difficult for us to continue as full members of the communion and we will continue to lose parishes and people.”
Four dioceses and dozens of parishes have seceded from the Episcopal Church since Robinson was elected in 2003. In June, they launched the rival Anglican Church in North America, which seeks recognition as an official member of the Anglican Communion.
“If we move in the wrong direction at General Convention it would probably accelerate the number of people and parishes that would move into the new structure,” Little said.
Others said the bishops are trying to skirt the rules by asking for a change to the Book of Common Prayer without going through the normal amendment process.
Not so, said Bishop Tom Ely of Vermont. He said he has asked his priests not to use the Book of Common Prayer in blessing same-sex unions, which have been legal in Vermont since 2000. State lawmakers legalized gay marriage in April.
“If we wanted to do an end run around the process,” he said, “we would just do it without having any conversations or sharing our situation.”
Dioceses in other states across the country have proposed dozens of resolutions related to gay rights scheduled to be debated at the General Convention. Some seek to remove a de facto ban passed at the 2006 General Convention on any more gay bishops; others ask for churchwide rites for same-sex blessings.
“Let’s acknowledge the truth,” Robinson said. “Blessings of same-sex unions are going on in every diocese of the Episcopal Church. We know that for a fact. Sometimes with the blessing and knowledge of the bishop, and sometimes without his knowledge. What we’re suggesting is that we be honest with ourselves and the (Anglican) Communion about it.”
By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • nnmns

    Honesty is usually good.

  • cknuck

    There is nothing honest about homosexual marriage it is in fact a contradiction in husband and wife. TEC can change all they want to about what is scared but they are no longer a church that follows Christ. Christ not only never married homosexuals but He was very clear in His descriptions of marriage and His boundaries in sexuality.

  • cknuck

    sorry should have spelled sacred

  • nnmns

    If we are to believe the Bible, Christ never once used the word “homosexual” or any equivalent. For a representative of an all-knowing being telling posterity how to live he sure was sloppy, especially if we are to also believe he gave a hoot about homosexuality.

  • dannyuk2

    cknuck where do you get your assumption that two people who want to commit to each other is dishonest? The only dishonest side of the gay marriage debates is the anti side. they have not come up with one single argument that is based on fact outside the religious arena, and as the gay marriage fight is a civil one, religious belief has no place dictating it.

  • Henrietta22

    Cknuck, love is honest if it’s love. To put people asunder is called a wrong doing or as you say sin. Did anyone say science when Christ walked this earth? Did they? People who were epiliptic were thought to have devils inside them. Some Fundamentalists are still trying to beat them out of people in the U.S. and probably elsewhere. Time to get real.

  • Pat

    cknuck, you should be sorry…but not about your spelling.

  • Henrietta22

    Well I’m sorry about my spelling, horrors, epileptic not epiliptic.

  • Your Name

    Pat I have no need to be sorry and you won’t be able to make me I know the Word and I have no need to compromise because of misinformation. Homosexuality is not a honored lifestyle in the bible anywhere and all references indicate it is sinful. It is not productive at all and the people who really should be sorry are those who preach the false gospel trying to seduce folk into believing that it is acceptable to God when His word is very clear on the subject. The government may accept it as it is accepting these days of much but God doesn’t.

  • cknuck

    forgot my name getting used to my new laptop

  • cknuck

    H22 read more

  • jestrfyl

    This is what comes from a top-down hierarchical system. The clergy are waiting for others to make these important spiritual and pastoral decisions for them. They are well educated, well prepared, and most likely well respected. It is time for them to write their own liturgy and let the hierarchy catch up to them. They know their congregations, they know the members coming to them to be married or covenanted, they know their won style. It is indeed time to do their own work and not wait for the clanking machinery of church bureaucracy to make what will surely be less-than-satisfying recommendations. This is what comes from putting more faith in an institution than they have in their own God given abilities to care, to serve, and to lead. Either that, or they want someone to hide behind if they are forced to defend their own convictions.
    They are asking for a stallion and are sure to get a platypus, if ya know what I mean. (And I am personally a big fan of playpae)

  • Pat

    Oh ck, you silly silly person. The king james and NIV versions may be ‘very clear’ about homosexuality but the original hebrew and greek writings aren’t so much. Get off your soap box or high horse or whatever you’re high on and do just a little research. You don’t have to swallow everything the preacher tells you whole. You may just want to think a little for yourself and explore what Christianity actually is. Just because followers are called sheep doesn’t mean you have to act like one. Otherwise who knows, they just may be leading you to the slaughter house.

  • Bob

    Jestrfyl,
    “They know their congregations…”
    And if we were talking about a Congregationalist church that would be the end of it, since the Congregationalists believe each congregation has a right to govern itself, independent from other churches.
    But we’re talking about Episcopalians, and each church is “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”
    Individual parishes don’t have the right to simply do as they please.

  • jestrfyl

    Bob,
    Your point is well made, and I am a lifelong Congregationalist/UCC. But I have known many Episcopal colleagues who are able – perhaps even more able than their denominational leaders – to compose excellent liturgical materials. I think they may do well to lead their denomination by writing and sharing and learning from each other. The denominational administrators will either catch up or fall back – but I would not expect them to take the lead on something like this – it is too emotional and divisive.

  • cknuck

    Pat you need to stop promoting that lie about the original writings it is wrong, God is very clear about homosexuality. I feel sorry for people like you looking for loopholes almost like a shady lawyer. In both Old Testament and New Testament it is very clear what God tells us concerning marriage and sexuality and it is very clear concerning homosexuality and God’s distain for the activity.

  • Your Name

    cknuck you need to stop promoting that lie about the translations, it is wrong. God is very ambiguous about homosexuality. I feel sorry for people like you looking for loopholes to justify your prejudice and bigotry biblically. In both the old testament and new testament it is very ambiguous what God tells us concerning marriage and sexuality and it is very ambiguous concerning homosexuality and God’s lack of a stance on the activity. See I can be judgmental and opinionated without a shred of proof too. I guess I’m a real Christian now…no wait, I think I have to try and force my opinion on you through prejudiced legislation and make you bow to my (not God’s) will first. Then I’ll be a real Christian. How about we agree to disagree. I’ll continue to be thoughtful, peaceful, helpful, tolerant of others as God intended and absolutely correct and you can disagree. :)

  • Henrietta22

    Ck, Why should I read more? You should read more, preferably what the American Medical Societies have to say about the GLBT.

  • Henrietta22

    I agree with you jestrfyl, but does the Anglican codes of law say they can’t make their own liturgy and use it without permission?

  • Mordred08

    I’m still of the opinion that the Episcopalians should cut ties with the Anglicans and move on. And while the American Anglicans have a right to their religious beliefs, I find it more than a little disturbing they’re siding with countries like Nigeria, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. Why isn’t the Anglican church discussing that? Please give me an answer. I’d love to hear how not speaking out against government sanctioned murder is acceptable to Jesus, but two people who love each other forming a lifetime relationship is just plain immoral, darn it.

  • Scott R.

    CK, you have no clue what the Jewish bible says because (1) you know no Hebrew and (2) you’re not Jewish and your reading it with Xian prejudice.
    If you don”t like homosexuality, then don’t have sex with men. Besides that, stop meddling in the lives of others as you surely would not like anyone meddling in yours.

  • cknuck

    YN quote: “God is very ambiguous about homosexuality”
    That is a lie because God is not ambiguous about anything, the God I know is very clear.
    H22 the AMS is very political and not very clear on homosexuality at all, there is no identifiable homosexual gene, hormone, or DNA indicators outside of physical evidence of the activity there is no physical trace elements of homosexual that are naturally produced. It is not medically understood outside of opinions and conjecture forced upon the public because of political agendas.
    Scot the only thing you have said right is yes I am not a Jew; but so what? Oh I’m not Jewish so I could not possibly read; Scot try thinking before you talk.

  • rmcq

    Your Name and Scott R. Could you please give a straight translation of Leviticus 18:22 to show the ambiguity.
    ckunck: truth and honesty is based on perspective, not facts. If for some reason they don’t believe homosexuality is a sin then they can still consider them still good earthly christians. It will be up to God to decide guilt or innocence.
    As for the Episcopal Church, they should stick to their procedures and not rush this. Weather it be church or state no law goes from idea to action overnight and they will lose more congregations if they rush rather than stick to the procedures.

  • Mordred08

    cknuck: “God is not ambiguous about anything, the God I know is very clear.”
    Sorry, liberal Christians. But I have to agree with cknuck that when it comes to homosexuality, the bible is crystal clear.
    Leviticus 20:13 “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
    Rom.1:26-27 “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”
    Clearly, god turned people into homosexuals, and then demanded they be killed for acting on the attractions HE gave them…
    That, among other things, is why I’m agnostic. An eternity in any kind of hell would be worth not listening to that crap one day a week.

  • cknuck

    Mordred when you learn how to read then you will stop thinking that God had anything to do with turning anyone into homosexuals, it’s not in the text. He simply turned away from them.

  • Mordred08

    cknuck: “Mordred when you learn how to read then you will stop thinking that God had anything to do with turning anyone into homosexuals, it’s not in the text. He simply turned away from them.”
    I suppose that’s supposed to put him in a more…positive light?
    But while I’ve got your attention, what are your thoughts on Leviticus 20:13? Is it the infallible word of god or not? Do the countries where same-sex intercourse is punishable by death have it right, or should we ignore the verse because deep down you guys know it’s wrong?

  • nnmns

    cknuck: “God is not ambiguous about anything, the God I know is very clear.”
    Yes, undoubtably true. Your god’s demands are your biases. Since it exists in your brain it shares those biases. Fortunately it exists nowhere else so its hateful effects are limited.

  • nnmns

    A British Anglican bishop has said homosexuals need to “change and repent”.
    The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali says

    “We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed.”

    The bishop added that it is not just homosexuals who need to repent, but all who have strayed from the Bible’s teaching.

    But it would seem, based on his emphasis, homosexuals need to change and repent more than, say, thieves, rapists and murderers. Happily he will be retiring before long.

  • cknuck

    rmcq you are correct and I appreciate you honesty. God will decide who is right and who is wrong and for most of us I suspect it will be surprising. I am vocal here only because much of the misinformation that is promoted is not supported by facts. So I argue the facts, which is a right that I enjoy and cannot be silence if I am within the law in my actions.

  • Henrietta22

    Most of what is horrible and sickening in the Bible was said by human men, not by God, and recopied over and over with more inhibiting stories by people who believed that demons were crawling out of people who had seizures from diseases not even thought about back then. Go to a UCC Church and be reeducated. Homosexuality traits are noticable in little children so nobody is putting a hex on them, they are born the way ther are.

  • Pat

    There is so much to be said. But it truly is futile. Some people are just lost. (yes CK I know you think it’s me. no need to throw a dagger) CK you really should take a lesson from your own book there and realize that you’re just as ‘lost’ as I am. You got angry with me for the words I used to describe your opinions but just a few posts ago you rather sarcastically told Mordred to ‘learn to read’. You’re every bit as ugly as I am. I’m sure you blame my kind for your ugliness as much as I blame your kind for mine. But you’re Christian, supposedly. You’re supposed to be the better person. I have yet to see a ‘Christian’ be the better person. I’m done here. There is nothing to be gained from this, only time to be lost. I will no longer lose it on the likes of CK. At the end of the day and end of my life at the very least I can look back and say that I was happy, helpful, accepting, and forgiven. I can go to bed with the knowledge that my gay friends are good people and I treated them as such. I hold no ill will toward them or their love and I think I’ll be just fine with God. I know they didn’t choose this life. With people like CK in the world, who would? They are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hope they someday get it in spite of Christians like you CK. So you win the comment section. YAY!! Thank you everyone else for standing up to the ugliness that the fundamentalist right is trying to shove down our throats and into our laws. Keep up the good fight, I know I will…just outside of the blogoshpere.

  • pagansister

    Having gotten into this post a little late…and reading the usual discussion of what REALLY is the TRUE word of GOD in some folk’s minds, and the other, refreshing liberals, who realize the bible is flawed, I have only to add (and I think jestrfyl mentioned this) that the churches involved in the states that have legalized homosexual marriages, should just write an appropriate prayer/blessing and let the higher ups adjust. Simple, IMO.

  • cknuck

    H22 quote, “Homosexuality traits are noticable in little children so nobody is putting a hex on them, they are born the way ther are”
    Science has not been able to prove this it is wishful thinking of the homosexual community kids are kids some people think kids are born with many traits I cannot mention or I will get deleted but none of this information is provable. It has been proven that kids can be influenced by things people take for granted and hardly notice that kids have observed. So an intentional pattern would all the more influence who a kid grows up to be.

  • nnmns

    cknuck: “Science has not been able to prove this it is wishful thinking of the homosexual community kids are kids some people think kids are born with many traits I cannot mention or I will get deleted but none of this information is provable. It has been proven that kids can be influenced by things people take for granted and hardly notice that kids have observed. So an intentional pattern would all the more influence who a kid grows up to be.”
    I’m not familiar with what’s known about genetics of homosexuality and you don’t seem to be either, and likely there’s a good deal more to learn. But wishful thinking runs both ways. You Bible thumpers are gored on this issue when there’s proof it’s genetic (and thus, by your thinking, “God’s doing”) so you claim it doesn’t exist.
    And sure kids can be influenced but look around and you see that influence is pretty limited. How many people set out to raise their kids far differently than they turned out. Ok, an easier question: How many people got just the young adults they intended to raise?
    I don’t see many hands. The wise parent does his or her best and accepts the result. Not many designer adults around.
    Now about homosexual behavior in animals. It happens often and we might surely agree there’s no intention on the part of, say, an African elephant couple to raise a homosexual elephant.

  • cknuck

    nnmns with how many other behaviors would you like people to base their behavior? I am familiar with genetics enough to know that there is no genetic indicator for homosexuality, no gene, no DNA, no hormone. So to say children are born that way is guesswork at best.

  • nnmns

    “So to say children are born that way is guesswork at best.”
    Possibly. But to say they are not would also be guesswork. How much anguish do you want to put people through based on your particular interpretation of a baseless religion and some guesswork. The answer seems to be “A lot.”

  • pagansister

    Children are born the way they are….and at conception, who knows just what chemical make up is installed, cknuck? So to say that children aren’t born homosexual isn’t accurate either.

  • cknuck

    pagan If there were a “chemical make up” then is should have a name or be identified, but…
    So nnmns you haven’t indicated what other animal behaviors should we mimic should we sniff each other’s butts as a greeting.

  • Mordred08

    I’ve seen this argument time and again.
    Conservative: Homosexuality is unnatural. That’s why you don’t see it in nature.
    Liberal: You see it all the time in nature. There’s so many species of animals you see it in.
    Conservative: Oh, so you think we should just do everything that animals do, right? Huh? Huh? Right? Huh? Homosexuality is unnatural.

  • nnmns

    cknuck I’ve tried twice and they’ve both been “held” indefinitely.
    You can sniff all the butts you can get away with. Interesting you’d come up with that as an example. I’d try it first among friends if I were you (shudder).
    As for mimicking animals, how about not killing others of our kind, which I believe many animals normally or always practice. How about not putting needless junk into the environment? How about staying out of the business of our fellow critters not of our family? We could learn a lot from our fellow animals.

  • cknuck

    Not into it nnmns but thanks for the invite anyway.

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