(Pictured, Presiding "Bishop" Katherine Jefforts-Schori of the Episcopal "Church")
The General Convention of the US Episcopal Church will be asked to authorize rites for the blessing of same-sex unions at their triennial meeting in July. On Jan 31 the Diocese of Newark synod endorsed a resolution asking the General Convention to amend the national Church’s canons governing Holy Matrimony, making them gender-neutral.Newark’s Resolution 2009-05 asks the national church to amend Canon 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony, substituting the words “two persons” where the words “a man and a woman” now appear, and to amend Canon 19: Of Regulations Respecting Holy Matrimony, to substitute the word “spouse” where the words “husband or wife” appear.
Delegates to the Newark synod also asked their diocesan clergy to henceforth record services solemnizing same-sex civil unions in the parish register “in a manner identical to the recording of marriages,” and stated the diocese’s intention of asking the national Church to amend its canons making this innovation church wide.
Originally set down as a resolution to be adopted without debate, but removed from the synod’s “consent calendar” after protest, the resolution to amend the Church’s marriage canons stated that it would not authorize any further public rites for same-sex blessings, but would modify existing rites “when the needs of the congregation so require.”
It was “important that The Episcopal Church modify its canons to reflect the gender neutrality now reflected in the law in those states where the law permits” gay marriage, the resolution said.
Recording gay marriages in parish registers was a matter of justice, the second resolution averred.
“Until same-sex couples are accorded full marriage rights it is incumbent upon the Church to recognize their unions in an identical manner as opposite-sex couples and to give civil unions the same dignity and respect bestowed on opposite-sex marriages. The Church does justice and exercises pastoral care by requiring clergy to record civil unions in the Parish Register” in states that have permitted gay marriage, the resolution said.
At their Feb 1-5 meeting in Alexandria, the Primates urged the Episcopal Church to maintain its moratorium on gay bishops and blessings as did the 2008 Lambeth Conference. While many US dioceses have called for an end to the moratorium enacted at the 2006 General Convention, it is unclear whether the church as a whole will repudiate Lambeth, the primates and Dr Rowan Williams’ call for “gracious restraint.”
George Conger writes for The Living Church and The Church of England Newspaper