A resolution in the works for years came to fruition this week when same-sex blessings were approved by the House of Bishops at the Episcopal General Convention.
The blessing is a recognition of the couple’s commitment by the church and blesses their union together, much like a wedding ceremony without the legality. The Episcopal Church became the largest denomination in the U.S. to endorse same-sex unions with the resolution, which passed with a vote of 111-41 with three abstentions and approves the blessings for three years.
However, Dallas’ heavily LGBT Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle won’t likely perform the ceremonies at all. The Rev. Steve Waller, openly gay rector at St. Thomas, told Dallas Voice last month that he had not asked for permission to perform the blessing if it was approved at convention because conservative Dallas Diocese Bishop James Stanton wouldn’t allow them.
Bishops have the authority to approve or ban same-sex blessings in parishes in their diocese as outlined in the resolution.
“We would not be given such permission by our diocese,” Waller said. “I can’t speak for the bishop, but I suspect he will toe the line and not grant permission. Our bishop has been pretty clear that he didn’t want to do that.”
Waller could not be reached Thursday for comment on the resolution’s passage. Stanton didn’t return calls last month or Thursday asking whether he would allow the blessings.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s provisional bishop, the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, told Dallas Voice that he would retire soon and would leave it up to the next bishop to decide if the blessing will be allowed.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the passage brought tears to gay couples at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Houston’s heavily gay Montrose area.
“I’ve had people in tears” over the approval, said the Rev. Lisa Hunt. “It’s one thing for us as community to say you’re welcome and then to have rites that you can’t do … now they can really believe that the welcome is true.”
St. Stephen’s and St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin were the first two parishes to be granted permission to perform the blessings by Bishop Andy Doyle of the Diocese of Texas. Hunt said she plans to perform them as early as November.
The convention, which began last week and ends today, also approved new anti-discrimination language for transgender clergy and church members.