Two lesbian Episcopal priests kicked off the New Year by marrying in Massachusetts.
The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, dean and president of Episcopal Divinity School, and Mally Lloyd, canon to the Ordinary, married on Saturday at St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston in front of nearly 400 guests. The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, solemnized the marriage.
For orthodox Anglicans, the lesbian union was another act of defiance.
"This is another action of reckless disregard for the life of the Anglican Communion and the authority of the Bible by The Episcopal Church," the Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, president and CEO of the American Anglican Council, told The Christian Post. "They continue to ignore the Communion's pleas for restraint and continue to go their own way."
The Episcopal Church in the U.S. defines marriage as between a man and a woman. But in 2009 the national body passed a resolution allowing bishops, particularly those in civil jurisdictions where same-sex marriage and civil unions are legal, to provide "generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church."
That year, Shaw gave the green light for clergy in the Diocese of Massachussetts to solemnize all marriages. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004.
The blessing of same-sex unions within The Episcopal Church is nothing new and such actions have drawn rebuke from the wider Anglican Communion, which is comprised of more than 77 million members worldwide.
Anglican leaders worldwide agreed to a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions in 2004. They also agreed to practice restraint on the consecration of bishops living in same-sex relationships. But the U.S. body has continued to defy the moratoria to the frustration of conservative Anglicans.
Robert H. Lundy, spokesman for the American Anglican Council, noted that The Episcopal Church has long blessed same-sex unions. But the latest union between Ragsdale, 52, and Lloyd, 57, is being touted as a marriage, and the first lesbian marriage of two senior Episcopalian clergy at that.
"For many people, this is splitting hairs," Lundy commented. "It may be the first time it's being called a marriage, but it's nothing new."
"All this will do for others around the Communion is further illustrate what we've been saying here," he said. And the AAC has long stated that The Episcopal Church has departed from traditional Christian and Anglican Communion teaching.
"For most people, they already broke the camel's back a long time ago," Lundy said.
Last year, The Episcopal Church consecrated its second openly gay bishop despite calls by the wider Anglican Communion to practice "gracious restraint." As a consequence, The Episcopal Church was suspended from participating in ecumenical dialogues and stripped of any decision-making powers on the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order – a body that examines issues of doctrine and authority.