One of the largest churches in the world will soon be performing same-sex wedding ceremonies, according to a recently released official announcement.
The Washington National Cathedral, which belongs to The Episcopal Church's Diocese of Washington, D.C., made the announcement on Wednesday. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, said in a statement that the cathedral would be using the recently approved Episcopal rite for the blessing of same-sex couples.
"For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God's blessing in the lives of same-sex couples," said Hall. "We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation."
In July 2012, The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops took up a vote to approve blessings for same-sex couples. The new rite would be titled "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant."
A measure was approved in a vote of 111 yeas to 41 nays, with three abstentions. From there, it went to TEC's House of Deputies, wherein 78 percent of voting lay members and 76 percent of clergy members voted in favor of it.
In August, the denomination's General Conference approved the new rite. Spokesmen for The Episcopal Church have clarified to media that the approved measure was a "blessing" of same-sex couples, not a marriage rite per se.
"We have authorized a blessing, and a blessing is different than a marriage … A blessing is a theological response to a monogamous, committed relationship," said Nancy Davidge, TEC media affairs representative, to CNN back in July.
Further, according to the National Cathedral's announcement, other rules still apply, such as at least one of the two people in the couple having to be a baptized Christian.
"As a general rule, only couples directly affiliated with the life of the Cathedral … are eligible to be married at the Cathedral," said the cathedral.
Robert Lundy, communications officer for the American Anglican Council, told The Christian Post that the move was "no surprise."
"The leadership of the National Cathedral, like the leadership of The Episcopal Church, is progressing further outside the bounds of Biblical Christianity," said Lundy.
"This move may further a perception that the church and America are leaving our moral foundation. However, the reality is that the National Cathedral's leadership does not represent the vast majority of Christians in this county (or the world)."
While the implementation of the new rite took place effective immediately, the first couples to take part in the blessing have not yet been announced.
The Washington National Cathedral did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.