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Same Sex Blessing Spreads throughout The Episcopal Church

Same Sex Blessing fever spreads throughout The Episcopal Church
More than two thirds of the domestic dioceses give their blessing to partnered same gender relationships

By David Virtue with Mary Ann Mueller
November 28, 2012

Since The Episcopal General Convention passed A049 at last July's General Convention in Indianapolis, the trickle of Episcopal dioceses that have authorized Same Sex Blessings has now become a veritable flood. According to Virtueonline's exhaustive research, 69 domestic dioceses have decided to fully embrace and allow for the provisional Same Sex Blessing ceremony to be celebrated within their borders.

Virtueonline called each diocese or churches within the diocese to ascertain if SSB was permissible; checking diocesan and congregational websites for their posted information on SSB; and researching the Internet for published stories about Episcopal bishops who have announced their intensions - for or against - concerning a pastoral response for partnered same-gender relationships.

VOL learned those dioceses giving a nod to SSB include: Arizona, Arkansas, Bethlehem, California, Central New York, Central Pennsylvania, Chicago, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, East Tennessee, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Oregon, Easton, El Camino Real, TEC Fort Worth, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indianapolis, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Long Island, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Newark, North Carolina, Northern California, Northern Michigan, Northwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio, Olympia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, TEC Quincy, Rio Grande, Rochester, San Diego, TEC San Joaquin, Southeast Florida, Southern Ohio, Southern Virginia, Southwestern Virginia, Spokane, Texas, Upper South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC, West Missouri, West Tennessee, Western Michigan, Western New York, Western North Carolina, and Wyoming.

Even though these dioceses permit or will be permitting SSB, there are some tight guidelines. These guidelines vary from diocese to diocese. In some dioceses, the bishop is the final determiner on which couples can participate in the ceremony. Some dioceses allow for SSB in certain churches only. So there is a wide variation in how SSB is being implemented throughout The Episcopal Church.

As Advent approaches, the 19 dioceses which said that SSB is not a part of their liturgical offerings included: Alabama, Alaska, Albany Central Florida, Dallas, East Carolina, Eau Claire, Florida, Fond du Lac, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Northern Indiana, Oklahoma, Springfield, Tennessee, West Texas, Western Kansas, and Western Louisiana.

In July upon the passage of A049, bishops from several dioceses signed the Indianapolis Statement. The representative dioceses are: Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, North Dakota, Northern Indiana and Springfield.

Currently 12 are still actively discerning the implementation of SSBs. They include: Atlanta, Central Gulf Coast, Lexington, Milwaukee, Navajoland, Northwest Texas, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Southwest Florida, West Virginia, and Western Massachusetts and TEC Pittsburgh.

The dioceses of Lexington, Rhode Island and Atlanta all have new bishops who are all discerning how they will deal with SSB. Word is that a letter has gone out from the new bishop in the Diocese of Atlanta to all his priests informing them of his decision. However, when VOL asked what that decision was, we were told that information would not be released until the priests have been duly informed.

One diocese, South Carolina, is reconstituting. Technically, the TEC Diocese of South Carolina does not exist and the rump diocese has yet to be formed. It would be fair, based on the actions of Bishop Mark Lawrence at the 77th General Convention, to say that he would be in the solidly no camp. The Episcopal Church's liturgical rite for blessing same-sex relationships was authorized at the last General Convention for use in the Episcopal Church beginning the first Sunday in Advent, December 2.

The rite and a short theological summary, both excerpted from the report of the Church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) titled "I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing". It must be approved by each diocesan bishop before it is used in individual dioceses. It has been authorized by General Convention for provisional use until 2015 upon which the General Convention will decide if SSB is to remain a permanent part of the liturgical practice of The Episcopal Church or not.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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