The Episcopal Church approved church-wide blessings of same-sex unions, stopping short of approving rites for same-sex marriage but approving liturgy for official rites for same-sex couples. Bishops can begin using "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant" on December 2, when same-sex couples can exchange vows and rings. Each bishop will decide whether to allow the rite within each local diocese, and a conscience clause bars penalties for bishops who oppose the rite.
Tuesday's debate lasted for about 90 minutes. Proponents offered stories of gay friends who would benefit from the rites, while opponents suggested the denomination was contradicting its own doctrine.
Some predicted that General Convention would not be able to legally authorize the trial rite because it would require a supermajority vote in the House of Bishops. Denominational leaders changed the wording in the resolution from "trial rite" to "provisional" rite, where a simple majority vote was needed.
Leaders in the denomination avoided attempts to change the definition of marriage as it would take significant efforts to change the Book of Common Prayer, which describes marriage as between a man and a woman.
"The debate over marriage is over technicalities, when we can call a spade a spade. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it's a duck," said Charles Holt, an evangelical rector at St. Peter's Episcopal Church and School in Lake Mary, Florida. Holt spoke against the proposal in Tuesday's debate.
Holt described evangelicals who oppose same-sex rites but want to remain in the denomination like a similar kind of marriage.
"We want to have the spirit of Martin Luther, who wanted to reform the church from within," he told CT, noting that Luther ...