Restrictions on same-sex marriage removed – Episcopal church

Restrictions on same-sex marriage have been removed and couples can marry in their home churches, United States Episcopal church bishops have decided.

Until Friday’s decision, 93 US dioceses allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry in the church. Eight did not.

The decision by the Episcopal church’s governing body overrides those local decisions.

Same-sex couples may request the church’s approved gender-neutral marriage rites and will be able to marry in their home parish even if their local bishop has moral objections to gay marriage.

If the local bishop opposes same-sex weddings, the parish priest can still conduct the ceremony. If they wish, they can ask for pastoral support from a bishop in another diocese.

Clergy may also decline to bless or solemnise any marriage.

Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, who helped craft the resolution, said the arrangement provides greater inclusion for LGBT couples without alienating traditionalists.

“This [writing gender-neutral marriage rites] was really a pastoral solution …one that was mindful of trying to hold on to everybody,” he said.

A previous resolution would have effectively made same-sex marriage part of the official theology of the church by inserting the new liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer.

Provenzano said this would have been “a step too fast,” for bishops who are biblically at odds with same-sex marriage and have threatened to leave the denomination over the issue.

Not all the bishops are at ease with the solution, however.

One says he is concerned LGBT Episcopalians would feel like second-class citizens without official adoption of the new marriage liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer.

Others said it was likely only a matter of time before the liturgies were added officially.

Opponents raised concerns about undermining bishops’ authority and about possible schism within the church.

Bishop John Bauerschmidt, who banned same-sex weddings from the Tennessee diocese in 2015, said there is still “much to work out.”

He said the resolution allows access to the liturgies for same sex marriage while preserving the rights and responsibilities of the parish clergy for the use of their buildings for any liturgy.

“It also preserves the ministry of bishops as chief pastors and teachers in our dioceses.”

“We will be working out what it means for our diocese with clergy and congregations in the coming days,” he said.

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