The Episcopal Church approved a measure allowing priests to perform gay marriages, even if their local bishop objects, at their triennial convention Friday.
The House of Bishops and House of Deputies, the bicameral body which governs the national denomination, approved the resolution in Austin, Texas after the convention spent days debating it and another resolution proposing to add same-sex marriage liturgy to the Book of Common Prayer.
The approved “pastoral resolution” does not add liturgy to the Book of Common Prayer.
It does, however, allow for same-sex couples to request to be married in the church they attend and for priests to perform that marriage “with pastoral support” from another bishop if their local bishop objects.
Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island, N.Y., who had a hand in creating the resolution, claimed that it was part of an effort to prevent a split within the church between traditionalists and progressives and to further inclusion of LGBT individuals.
“This was really a pastoral solution, one that was mindful of trying to hold on to everybody,” Provenzano said, according to Religion News Service.
Still, several bishops warned that the resolution could further exacerbate a growing divide in the church and cause a schism, alluding to dramatic division that occurred in 2003 with the consecration of openly gay bishops.
“I’m concerned that when this passes, the floodgates are going to open once again, the bloodshed is going to open once again, the insidious lawsuits are going to continue once again,” said Bishop William Love of the Diocese of Albany.
Bishop John Howard of Florida claimed that his diocese still suffered from the division caused in 2003, specifically with regard to the consecration of the openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire.
Traditionalist lay people left the Episcopal Church over his consecration.
Several bishops from predominantly Latin American dioceses urged the convention at its outset to reject any further affirmation of same-sex marriage, as doing otherwise would force Episcopalian faithful “to accept social and cultural practices that have no Biblical basis in Christian worship.”
Provenzano and his supporters, however, lauded the resolution’s approval, though some lamented that they did not include new liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer.
Some bishops said that with the resolution’s passage, it was only a matter of time before the Book of Common Prayer was changed to officially affirm gay marriage.
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