The Episcopal Church is set to become the first major U.S. religious body to bless same-sex marriages after its bishops decided on Monday at a meeting in Indianapolis to change the definition of marriage in their code.
The church's Chamber of Bishops has already agreed upon the change, and the new liturgy is expected to pass the House of Deputies later this week, as confirmed by Ruth Meyers, a chair of the Episcopalians' Subcommittee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music. The policy was approved by a 111-41 vote with three abstentions on Monday, CNN revealed.
"Today the Episcopal Church affirmed the human dignity of a deeply stigmatized population that is far too often victim to discrimination, bullying and abuse," remarked the Rev. Lowell Grisham, a leader of the Chicago Consultation said in a statement.
The Episcopal Church has been gradually becoming more and more gay-affirming, after it first allowed gay priests to serve 16 years ago, which strained its relations with the Anglican Communion, of which it is a part.
Most recently, a legislation that paves the way for transgender people to be ordained was passed and approved by the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The Episcopal General Convention decided to amend its church laws during the 77th General Convention, which is meeting in Indianapolis until Thursday. The new law now states:
"No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age."
Same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church would come into effect in December, although there will first be a three-year trial run called "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant."
Not all members of the Christian community, nor even the Episcopal Church itself, are welcoming of the changing of the traditional definition of marriage, however.
"At least they could be honest and admit they only want comment from those who have been busy pushing this organization that pretends to be a church over the cliff. Otherwise they would have listened to the millions and millions and millions of people who have been shouting at the top of their lungs – STOP. Don't do this. See how well they have listened?" said Jackie Bruchi from StandFirminFaith.com, which supports traditional Anglicanism in America.
Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana also said that the Episcopal Church should not attempt to change the definition of what is fundamental Christian doctrine.
"The Christian world is going to understand us as having changed the nature of the sacrament of holy matrimony," Bishop Little said. "The Christian world will look at that liturgy world and see vows, and exchange of rings, a pronouncement and a blessing and they will understand that to mean the Episcopal Church has endorsed same-sex marriage and changed a basic Christian doctrine. I do not believe that we are free to do that," he added.