By Kirk Petersen
Despite a long and emotional plea from the Bishop of Albany, the House of Bishops overwhelmingly approved a resolution designed to ensure that same-sex marriage rites are available for use in every diocese where civil law allows.
The House of Deputies passed a very similar version of Resolution B012 two days earlier, but because there was a minor technical amendment to the resolution, the deputies will have to vote again. The amendment protects the authority of a rector and priest in charge not to celebrate a same-sex marriage.
The deputies passed the earlier version 96-10 in the clergy order and 97-8 in the lay order, and there is no reason to think any votes will change based on the amendment.
On a voice vote in the House of Bishops, at least three distinct no votes were heard. Only the Rt. Rev. William Love rose to speak against the resolution, and said he disagreed with his fellow Communion Partner bishops who backed the measure.
“I don’t believe [the resolution] does what they said it has done,” Love said, to provide a way for theologically conservative bishops to act according to their conscience.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years, Love said, about “whether sexual intimacy within a same-sex couple was appropriate. There are many in this church who have proclaimed that it is, and that this is a new thing that the Holy Spirit is revealing, and that the Episcopal Church is being prophetic in putting this forward, and that ultimately the rest of the body of Christ will come to understand that. I don’t believe, presiding bishop, that that’s necessarily true.”
He said the discussions have involved “listening to people’s personal experiences, people’s feelings, their emotions. What we have not had an honest look at, sir, is what God has said about this issue.”
Two minutes per person were allotted for debate, but Love repeatedly asked the chair’s indulgence, and spoke for about 10 minutes. He quoted passages from the Book of Common Prayer and the vows he took when he was consecrated a bishop in 2006.
Other Communion Partners bishops rose to endorse the resolution, despite their reservations. “I very much hope it passes,” said Bishop Daniel Martins of Springfield, but he fears the church is “eroding the bishop’s authority as chief liturgical officer and therefore eroding the bishop’s authority as chief teacher.”
Communion Partners is an organization of theologically conservative bishops and clergy, and includes eight domestic bishops who have declined to authorize same-sex marriage rites in their dioceses.
Under B012, bishops who oppose same-sex marriage “shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites.”
The Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of New York, said that she and her partner, Becky, have been together for 30 years and had moved to and from states with varying laws on same-sex marriage. “When we finally legally got married, it was not in a church — and I’m a cradle Episcopalian. We got married in my therapist’s office,” she said, producing chuckles.
“I don’t think we have unwrapped the gift of gay and lesbian relationships who are partnered together, and really celebrated them. … It’s time not only to support marriage equality but to honor the gift.”