Episcopal bishops OK creation of prayer for gay couples

Move may widen a rift within Anglican church

By Michelle Rindels
Associated Press / July 16, 2009
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ANAHEIM, Calif. - Episcopal bishops authorized the church yesterday to start drafting an official prayer for same-sex couples, another step toward acceptance of gay relationships that will deepen the rift between the denomination and its fellow Anglicans overseas.

The bishops voted, 104 to 30, at the Episcopal General Convention to “collect and develop theological resources and liturgies’’ for blessing same-gender relationships, which would be considered at the next national meeting in 2012.

The resolution notes the growing number of states that allow gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships, and gave bishops in those regions discretion to provide a “generous pastoral response.’’

Many Episcopal dioceses already allow clergy to bless same-sex couples, but there is no official liturgy for the ceremonies in the denomination’s Book of Prayer. The measure still needs the approval of the lay people and priest delegates at the assembly, which ends tomorrow.

“We certainly feel a deep need to be able to proclaim the love of God in the midst of a changing reality,’’ said Suffragan Bishop James Curry of the Diocese of Connecticut, one of six states legalizing same-gender marriage.

A day earlier, the convention had declared gays and lesbians eligible for “any ordained ministry,’’ even though Anglican leaders had sought a clear moratorium on consecrating another gay bishop. The vote lifted a self-imposed Episcopal pledge from three years ago to use “restraint’’ in approving another bishop in a same-sex relationship.

The Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican body in the United States, caused an uproar in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

To calm tensions, Anglican leaders five years ago pressed Episcopalians for a temporary ban on electing gay bishops, and asked that the church refrain from developing an official prayer service for same-sex couples.

The 77 million-member communion is the third-largest grouping of churches worldwide, behind Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches.