The Episcopal Church—the U.S. branch of the old Church of England—yesterday approved a liturgy for its clergy to use during same-sex unions. Episcopalians are the largest U.S. denomination to do so.
Delegates to its triennial convention voted 171-50 to approve the liturgy, titled “the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.” Episcopal bishops had voted overwhelmingly on Monday in favor of the text.
The resolution does not mention the word “marriage” and it does not alter the church’s standard liturgy for a marriage between a man and a woman, but offers an alternative liturgy for blessing same-sex couples.
The measure also gives bishops of the church discretion in the use of the liturgy and says no one should be punished for choosing not to use it.
Reverend Bonnie Perry of Chicago, who supports marriage between same-sex couples, said she was pleased by the decision. “For me it is a window on the Promised Land. It’s not the Promised Land,” she said. “The most important part of a marriage is the blessing.”
But Steven Horst of Connecticut spoke in opposition, saying the resolution was the wrong way to proceed. Some Episcopalians will say the church endorsed gay marriage even though the word marriage is not mentioned, he said.
Even if most liberal Protestant clergy don’t support gay marriage, Episcopalian clergy have long been more supportive of gay rights than their mainline brethren. And not without creating two versions of American Anglicanism—the result of a painful church schism.