Episcopalians, gathering this week in Indianapolis for their triennial General Convention, are expected to overwhelmingly approve trial use of a new liturgy for blessing same-sex unions…
In 2009, the Episcopal Church lifted a temporary ban on blessing gay unions and said bishops may provide “generous pastoral response” to gay couples, especially in states that allow civil unions or gay marriages.
Many Episcopal bishops now permit the blessing of same-sex relationships, and some in states where gay marriage is legal — including Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Diocese of Massachusetts, which runs roughly east of Interstate 495 — let priests officiate at the marriage of same-sex couples.
But because the Episcopal Church canons and the Book of Common Prayer describe marriage as between a man and woman, some bishops have not embraced same-sex blessings or weddings. Bishop Gordon Paul Scruton of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, does not allow priests to do either.
Scruton, who is retiring Dec. 1, and Bishop-elect Douglas John Fisher said through a spokeswoman Thursday that they planned to issue a joint statement following the General Convention vote. They did not indicate what it might say, and they declined a request for an interview beforehand.
At the last diocesan convention in October 2011, Scruton said the diocese would move toward allowing the blessing of same-sex unions if the General Convention adopted the new liturgy this summer, said Steve Symes, diocesan coordinator of Integrity USA, a group within the church working for the full inclusion of gay people.
Even if it does not happen before Scruton retires, change seems likely to occur under Fisher. During a meet-and-greet where candidates for bishop met voting delegates, Fisher indicated he would look to the people of the diocese for guidance on the issue, Symes said. At last October’s diocesan convention, delegates voted overwhelmingly for a resolution to begin blessing gay unions, Symes said.
“I almost think it’s a slam-dunk — I think it will happen,” he said.
In a phone interview from Indianapolis, Shaw said the proposed new liturgy may not be used often in the eastern portion of the state, where priests have been allowed to craft their own services in conducting gay marriages for several years.
The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, which wrote the new rite, has “done a good job,” Shaw said. “It’s just for Eastern Massachusetts, it’s about five years too late”…
Shaw said that at a recent meeting of bishops he was surprised to learn that even in dioceses in traditionally conservative parts of the country, such as Houston, preparations are being made to offer the new liturgy in some parishes…