An Episcopal church in California plans to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples beginning mid-June.
All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, one of the largest congregations in the denomination, adopted last Thursday the "Resolution on Marriage Equality" in response to a California Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay "marriage."
The 125-year-old congregation "will treat equally all couples presenting themselves for the rite of marriage," said the Rev. Canon J. Edwin Bacon Jr. in an announcement.
"I am honored to serve a church where the leadership demonstrates such stirring courage to move beyond lip service about embodying God's inclusive love to actually committing our faith community to the practice of marriage equality," Bacon commented, according to Episcopal News Service.
On May 15 in a 4-3 ruling, the state high court struck down a ban that prohibited same-sex couples from "marrying." The justices ruled that "domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage."
After the high court cleared the way for same-sex "marriage" in a decision that was a blow to Christian and pro-family groups, churches were faced with the pressing question of whether they must recognize and officiate gay weddings.
California has an estimated 92,000 same-sex couples.
Episcopal Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles is establishing a task force to help clarify the impact of the court's decision on local congregations.
While many bishops in The Episcopal Church support the rights of gays and lesbians, the denomination has not "yet made" the decision to bless same-sex unions, Bishop Jim Mathes of San Diego noted.
"We are in the midst of a challenging but vital conversation about holy relationships in this diocese and indeed across the [Anglican] Communion," Mathes said.
The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, had passed a resolution in September 2007 saying they will "exercise restraint" in authorizing public rites of the blessing of same-sex unions. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had made it clear, however, that the church will not retreat from the "full inclusion" of gays and lesbians but is willing to "pause" as the Anglican Communion remains divided on the issue of homosexuality.
Meanwhile, Bacon of All Saints Church believes the latest pro-gay move by his congregation "aligns" them with "the Scriptures' mandate to make God's love tangible by 'doing justice and loving mercy.'"
But Richard J. Mouw, president of the conservative Protestant Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and a friend to Bacon, says All Saints' decision to perform same-sex weddings is "a very serious mistake."
By linking gay "marriage" to issues of "justice and mercy" rather than moral standards, All Saints restricts dialogue with people who have "legitimate questions" about their definition of marriage, Mouw said, according to Pasadena Star News .
"It should be clear to everyone that he's (Bacon) out of step with his global Anglican communion and fostering what many of us sincerely believe is a real threat to the social fabric," Mouw noted.
The global Anglican Communion maintains that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture.