The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has reportedly expressed his "deep concern" over a resolution inside the U.S. Episcopal Church's House of Bishops that is seeking to remove references to marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman, among several other changes.
"While recognising the prerogative of The Episcopal Church to address issues appropriate to its own context, Archbishop Justin Welby said that its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships," the Anglican Communion News Service reported on Tuesday.
Resolution A037 in question refers to new marriage liturgies for trial use and a canonical change approved by the Episcopal House of Bishops, which will need to also be approved by the House of Deputies before they can come into effect.
Episcopal News Service explained that new marriage rites will, if approved, allow the options of using the words "wife," "husband," "person" or "spouse," making them applicable for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Resolution A037 further recasts the requirement that clergy conform to both "the laws of the state" and "the laws of this church" about marriage.
The amended version now reads clergy "shall conform to the laws of the state governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage. Members of the clergy may solemnize a marriage using any of the liturgical forms authorized by this Church."
A provision allows clergy to "decline to solemnize or bless any marriage," however.
Some, such as retired New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, said that the changes are the right move for the church.
"It's time that we declared how far we have come, and where we are at the moment and where we need to go in the future," Robinson asserted.
Bishop William H. Love of Albany, who opposed the resolution, argued that there isn't support in Scripture for solemnize gay marriages.
"I think much of the argument has been based on all sorts of things in terms of our understanding of marriage and relationships," Love said.
"Nowhere does God say that people shouldn't love one another. … That's not an issue. Nowhere does God say that two men or two women can't share a life together or share a home together or be legal representatives for each other. The one thing that God seems to have spoken through Holy Scripture is that it is not appropriate to use the gift of sexual intimacy between a man and a woman" outside marriage.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday in a 5-4 decision that same-sex marriage must be legalized across all 50 states.
The Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part of, supports the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, a position that Welby has defended on a number of occasions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury warned back in 2013 that redefining marriage weakens the institution, as the U.K. was debating legalizing gay marriage.
"The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense predating the state and as our base community of society is weakened," Welby said.