Episcopal clergy in Washington, D.C. have been given the green light to preside at same-sex marriages.
Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Diocese of Washington made the announcement Thursday, a day after gay and lesbian couples began applying for marriage licenses.
"Through the grace of Holy Baptism, there are no second class members of the Body of Christ, " Chane said in a statement. "We are of equal value in the eyes of God, and any one of us may be called by the Holy Spirit into holy relationships as well as Holy Orders."
Chane joins Episcopal bishops in other states – including Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal – in permitting clergy to wed homosexual couples.
The Episcopal Church approved a resolution last summer allowing "bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal" to "provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church."
The resolution also noted the need to consider providing theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships. The Episcopal Church does not permit its "Order of Marriage" to be used in the marriage of same-sex couples.
The latest move by the Diocese of Washington marks a break with the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion – of which The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch. Anglican leaders have affirmed and reaffirmed a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions as well as the consecration of practicing homosexuals. The global body officially rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture. At the same time, it calls Anglicans to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation.
Chane has cited the familiar Scripture passage on loving your neighbor as yourself as one of the reasons he felt "compelled" to offer the sacraments of the church to gay and lesbian couples.
He also contended, "[I]f one is fully initiated into the Body of Christ, the Church, then one has full access to all the sacraments of the Church, including marriage, ordination and consecration. Through the grace of Holy Baptism, there are no second class members of the Body of Christ, and certainly no outcasts. We are of equal value in the eyes of God, and any one of us may be called by the Holy Spirit into holy relationships as well as Holy Orders."
The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 was passed by the Washington D.C. City Council in December and signed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Congress did not intervene to prevent the bill from becoming law on Wednesday. The U.S. Supreme Court also refused to intervene.
A group of ministers, including Bishop Harry Jackson, are pushing for a ballot initiative to try to overturn the act.