Friday, 10 July 2015


Episcopal Church approves religious weddings for gay couples amid controversy

Joy following Episcopalian vote in favour of religious weddings for same-sex couples(©ANSA)
The US Episcopal Church announced that it has approved ceremonies for same-sex marriages, just days after the Supreme Court legalized the practice nationwide

At their annual General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City, bishops of the Episcopal Church have authorized their clergy to perform same-sex weddings. The announcement comes shortly after the Supreme Court legalized the practice across the whole of the US.

On Wednesday Episcopalians voted to allow religious weddings for gay couples. Not every priest, however, will necessarily officiate at a same-sex wedding as the resolution adopted - as a compromise, after different opinions were expressed on the subject - states that Episcopalian priests can refuse to celebrate such weddings. “The compromise means that same-sex weddings may occur after Nov. 1, 2015, with the full blessing of the church in places like Washington, Los Angeles and New York, but likely won’t take place in more conservative parts of the church, like Dallas, Albany and Orlando,” The Washington Post informs.

The Anglican community that includes American Episcopalians was quick to react: the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby released a statement expressing “deep concern” over the resolution, claiming that the decision taken by the US bishops “will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships”.


I am glad to see that the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in the USA has decided, at its annual meeting to celebrate gay weddings.

This comes just after Ireland legalised civil gay marriage by a referendum and after the US Supreme Court said that gay people in the US should have access to civil marriage. 

In Ireland, people like myself, who are on the Irish Government's Register of Solemnisers will be able to celebrate civil marriages for same sex people.

Most of the clergy on that register are from the so called "mainstream" churches and they will not be obliged to perform same sex marriages - no indeed will they want to.

Thats fine. Freedom of thought, action and religion is the name of the game for all of us.  

However, having said that the Christian Church has been performing ceremonies and blessings for same sex people for centuries. 

Gay marriage sounds like an ultra-contemporary idea. But almost twenty years ago, a Catholic scholar at Yale shocked the world by publishing a book packed with evidence that same-sex marriages were sanctioned by the early Christian Church during an era commonly called the Dark Ages.

Illustration of Serge and Bacchus, in a same-sex union

John Boswell was a historian and religious Catholic who dedicated much of his scholarly life to studying the late Roman Empire and early Christian Church. Poring over legal and church documents from this era, he discovered something incredible. There were dozens of records of church ceremonies where two men were joined in unions that used the same rituals as heterosexual marriages. (He found almost no records of lesbian unions, which is probably an artifact of a culture which kept more records about the lives of men generally.)

John Boswell

Bolstered by this evidence, Boswell published a book in 1994, called Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. The book comes out next month for the first time in a digital edition. It was an instant lightening rod for controversy, drawing criticism from both the Catholic Church and sex pundit Camille Paglia. Given the Church's present-day views on gay marriage, these detractors argued, Boswell's history seemed like wishful thinking.

I see Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, says that the US Episcopal Church's actions will make ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue more difficult.

Justin needs to be reminded of a few things:

1. The Roman Catholic Church does not regard him either as a priest or a bishop - they think he is a layman dressed as a bishop.

2. As soon as the Anglican Church decided to ordain women as priests interfaith activity with Rome became more difficult.

3. The only real Anglicans that Justin will have problems with are the African Anglicans - who are even more antiquated in their outlook than Rome.

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