Fla. Bishop to Authorize Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade intends to allow clergy in the Diocese of Southeast Florida to bless the unions of same-sex couples.

The authorization will only apply to gay and lesbian couples who have been legally married, he says.

Frade made his announcement Wednesday on his blog months after The Episcopal Church passed a resolution permitting bishops to "provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church" and calling for the development of liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex couples.

"For a long time in the life of the Episcopal Church we have been dealing with the realities of human sexuality," he wrote. "We have wrestled with who's in and who's out, who can be ordained and who can't, which relationships are to be blessed and which are not."

During the denomination's triennial convention in July, Episcopal leaders "opened the door a little bit," as Frade put it, to allow clergy to respond pastorally to legally married same-sex couples. They also opened the ordination process to all baptized members, including gays and lesbians in "lifelong committed relationships."

Frade has appointed a representative committee of diocesan clergy to develop liturgical guidelines for proposed same-sex blessing services and expects to have them ready in at least a month.

Although he is allowing the blessing of same-sex unions, the Southeast Florida bishop stressed that he is not authorizing clergy to perform same-sex marriage in the diocese. He also added that priests will not be obligated to perform any marriage he or she feels is inappropriate.