Calling it the “right thing to do after 35 years of study and conversation,” the House of Bishops overwhelmingly approved the liturgical blessings of same-sex unions.
The Rt. Rev. Michael Vono, Rio Grande, said that he was also in favor of the resolution because “it is the right time to do it; it is the Jesus thing to do in our time, and we will, I believe, be in line with the courage of the communion of saints.”
But the Rt. Rev. S. Johnson Howard, Florida, said he would vote no. “To legislate this now simply for the sake of legislating rather than allowing pastoral response … strikes me as unnecessarily divisive.”
Debate flowed back and forth between supporters and opponents of A049.
The Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley, retired from Alabama, urged approval because “we, as bishops, need to embrace, as much as we can, the diversity of the whole Church. We have to embrace all of God’s people.”
Some bishops warned that approving liturgies for same-sex blessings would cause problems in the rest of the world. The Rt. Rev. William Skilton, retired as the assisting bishop in the Dominican Republic, recalled that in 2003 the world mission community said that consenting to the consecration of the now-Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, New Hampshire, would “cause great difficulty and disaster. I stood before the House with this information,” Skilton said. “I wasn’t wrong – it has affected the Church greatly. … [A049] is going to cause a great difficulty” again.
The Rt. Rev. Ed Little, Northern Indiana, agreed with Skilton. “This will put Episcopalians out of the Christian mainstream,” he said. “We, as a very tiny slice of the body of Christ, are wanting to take upon ourselves the alteration of a very basic Christian doctrine. This changes basic Christian doctrine of marriage. I urge ‘no’.”
The bishop suffragan of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison, reminded the bishops that “we are indeed members of a worldwide Anglican Communion. The actions that we might take today put our brothers and sisters in a tough position around the world that is literally life and death.”
“We are better able to handle the ambiguity than they are,” she added.
The Rt. Rev. Nathan Baxter, Central Pennsylvania, countered that “we’ve been called to courage, to not be afraid to be a minority.”
These liturgical rites mean that “we are giving of ourselves in love,” said the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, California. “Contrary to the idea that the Scriptures offer no warrant, I find that the further I go into the Bible, the more I find that we are doing the right things. … The Church has the responsibility to help all couples who wish to follow Jesus.”
In opposition, the Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray, Mississippi, said, “I know I see through a glass darkly, and I know that I will answer before my Lord for the fact that I might be wrong, and I would like us to acknowledge that we, as a Church, see through a glass darkly, and might be wrong. If we can seem to find a way to walk beyond this vote with a sense of humility that we think we are doing the right thing, that we’re not sure, that will be real helpful to me and to our own souls as well.”
After A049 passed 111-41 with three abstentions in a roll-call vote. The Most Rev. Katharine Jeffers Schori said, “We act in humility. All of us.”
–Reported by Eric Gregory; written by Lauren R. Stanley.