Now that gay marriage is legal, churches have to take a long hard look at whether they’re open to holding same sex weddings in their houses of worship. And while no one’s going to force religious figures to perform these marriages against their will, the Episcopalians may be on the track to changing the way they look at gay weddings.
According to the Associated Press, church leaders will vote today on whether changing the laws around gay marriage is acceptable throughout the entire Episcopalian tradition. While the denomination is known for being progressive—they elected an openly gay bishop in 2003 and priests are allowed to perform same-sex civil ceremonies—the AP reports that laws of the church have not changed. If this vote is successful, it will change both the way Episcopalians define marriage as well as the language used when describing it.
From the AP:
The proposal would eliminate gender-specific language from church laws on marriage so religious weddings can also be performed for same-sex couples. Clergy could decline to perform the ceremonies. Right now, each bishop decides whether his or her priests may conduct gay marriages.
Good news for those people worried about religious figures being forced into the gay agenda. Priests could still refuse to perform the services, but they’d be sanctioned universally, meaning that if one priest didn’t want to perform the marriage, another might be open to it, even if they’re under the same bishop.
Bishop Gene Robinson, the church’s first openly gay bishop (now retired), says he’s excited about the possibility of change and that it’s inevitable if the church wants to keep younger members. And gay marriage is a much less divisive issue in the church than it was in 2003 when Robinson was appointed bishop. Then, he had to wear a bulletproof vest to his consecration
“Conservative churches are hemorrhaging young people because young people today have gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends. They know the things they are being told by their conservative churches are just simply wrong,” Robinson said. “In increasing numbers, they do not want to belong to a church that condemns their friends that they know to be wonderful people.”
This would be the second historic moment for the Episcopalians in as many weeks. On Saturday, the church elected its first African-American bishop, Michael Curry, in North Carolina. Curry, according to the AP, is also supportive of the church performing gay marriages.
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