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Faith leaders applaud Episcopal Church’s approval of rite to bless same-sex unions and the ordination of transgender people

July 11, 2012

Members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, applauded the Episcopal Church’s approval of an official liturgy for blessing same-sex unions and a nondiscrimination policy that will allow transgender people to be ordained to the priesthood. The resolutions were passed by the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, the Episcopal legislative bodies, at the triennial General Convention in Indianapolis, Ind.

Statement by the Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D.
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Pacific School of Religion
Member, National Religious Leadership Roundtable:

This week the Episcopal Church took two important steps toward making the good news of the Gospel a reality for all. By including gender identity and gender expression in its nondiscrimination canons, and by approving a rite of blessing for same-sex couples, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church officially acknowledged what has been the practice in many parts of the church for many years now: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people ‘have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church.’ Those words were adopted 36 years ago by the 1976 General Convention.

As an Episcopal priest, I celebrate the history of Gospel welcome that has brought us to this moment and I am proud of my church for its clear witness to that welcome in the wider world. Many Episcopalians have known for some time the blessing that same-sex couples offer to the mission and ministry of the church. The General Convention has now provided a liturgical rite to make that blessing visible and tangible in our congregations.

This is an important moment, not only for LGBT Episcopalians but for all those who are eager to put the good news of the Gospel into practice, both in our churches and in broader movements for social justice. As God said to Abraham so long ago, ‘I will bless you… and make you a blessing’ (Genesis 12:2). Thanks to the faithful and prayerful work of many, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church has now acknowledged more fully the blessing of LGBT people in our midst.

Statement by the Rev. Susan Russell, All Saints Church, Pasadena, Calif.
Member, National Religious Leadership Roundtable:

The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies has concurred with the overwhelming majority of their bishops in voting by a wide margin to authorize liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships. Those who spoke in opposition to the resolution accurately noted that the historic vote was a landmark decision as the Episcopal Church continues to ‘evolve’ on full equality for its LGBT members.

I look forward to the next three years of experiencing these rites of blessing in our congregations and engaging in the study of the history and theology of marriage the convention also called us to undertake. I look forward to the Episcopal Church continuing to evolve on the issue of marriage equality. And — having taken the historic steps we took yesterday over the fence between fear and possibility — I look forward to joining our UCC brothers and sisters in being a headlight and not a taillight on full marriage equality.

Statement by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, President, Integrity

Integrity USA has been working for thirty five years towards the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Church. Same-gender unions have been blessed in Episcopal churches all over the country for decades, but this is the first time a church-wide public service has been agreed. It is a milestone in the journey toward achieving full inclusion, and being able to truly declare that ‘all means all’ in the worship life of the denomination. It will enable Integrity to reach out to LGBT persons who have been rejected by the churches they were raised in, as well as those who were raised without any connection to Christianity.

The new blessing liturgy is not a marriage service. It does not use the language of marriage, but emphasizes the lifelong, monogamous, committed nature of the relationship being blessed. Integrity will continue to work for full marriage equality in The Episcopal Church.

This is a hugely important moment in the history of this church. The Episcopal Church does not have statement of belief other than the ancient creeds. We say that if you want to know what we believe, you can look at the words of our worship. So a liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships brings same-sex couples fully into the life of the Church and proclaims that the Episcopal Church considers that their lives can be holy and blessed by God.

In 1994, the Episcopal Church expanded its non-discrimination rules to include ‘sexual orientation,’ but it has taken a great deal of patient work from transgender people and their allies to bring the Church to this point. Just as the Church began to accept gay and lesbian members and clergy as fellow members of the Church with just as real a relationship with God, so over the past five years, trans-men and -women have become visible. Their ministry among us has been exemplary and they have worked tirelessly to help the Church understand that to be transgender is as valid a human experience and as acceptable to God as to be happily heterosexual.

Statement by Cameron Partridge, TransEpiscopal:

We are filled with joy for this clear affirmation that the Episcopal Church welcomes and values the ministerial gifts of transgender people, lay and ordained. We are also delighted by the strong support and broad understanding of trans issues shown by deputies representing a wide range of regions and generations in this church. As the church steps boldly into new frontiers in various facets of its life, we are proud to be part of this spirit-filled movement.  We thank all of our allies, especially IntegrityUSA, The Consultation, and the Chicago Consultation for their tireless, heartfelt support.

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