By Kirk Petersen
The House of Deputies overwhelmingly approved a resolution intended to ensure that same-sex marriage rites are available in every diocese of the Episcopal Church, even if a diocesan bishop does not approve.
Resolution B012, as amended moments before the vote, was approved by nearly identical margins in the lay and clergy orders. It passed by a margin of 96-10 in the clergy order, with four deputations divided, and by 97-8 in the lay order, with 5 deputations divided. Passage required 56 votes in each order.
The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops with less certain prospects. Same-sex marriage rites have wide support among diocesan bishops, of whom 93 have approved trial use since 2015, while eight have declined authorization in their dioceses. But many bishops feel strongly about maintaining episcopal authority, and B012 eliminates bishops’ having any say regarding same-sex marriage rites.
The deputies voted down amendments offered by opponents of same-sex marriage, but then approved an amendment with limited discussion, leaving some deputies uncertain about what they were being asked to approve. Spotty Wi-Fi access in the convention hall complicated matters, as resolutions and amendments are distributed via a Virtual Binder that requires internet access, at vbinder.net.
At a media briefing after the vote, deputy Christopher Hayes, who offered the successful amendment, explained that its purpose was to clarify the language of the resolution to ensure people would have access to the liturgies “in their local congregations, as broadly as possible throughout the church,” and at the same time “protect the theological consciences of those who disagree with that.” Hayes is chancellor of the Diocese of California.
Usually bishops have required a say in heterosexual marriage only when one or both members of the couple have been previously married and divorced.
To eliminate the possibility that a bishop opposed to same-sex marriage would use a previous divorce as a reason for blocking a marriage, the resolution says that bishops “shall in the case of remarriage after divorce invite another bishop of this Church to oversee the consent process.”
Hayes explained that this provision differs from DEPO, or Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, the mechanism called for in B012 as it originally was proposed. Hayes explained that DEPO is for cases in which there is a “broken relationship” between a bishop and a congregation, and another bishop takes over all supervision of a church.
The revised resolution would leave the congregation under the supervision of the diocesan bishop for all matters other than same-sex marriage.