Virginia Episcopalians OK same-sex unions

By Julia Duin The outgoing bishop of New Hampshire, Douglas E. Theuner, right, presents the incoming bishop, V. Gene Robinson, … Continued

By Julia Duin


The outgoing bishop of New Hampshire, Douglas E. Theuner, right, presents the incoming bishop, V. Gene Robinson, left, with a crosier, carved by a Palestinian shepherd, as a gift during Robinson’s investiture ceremony Sunday, March 7, 2004, at St. Paul’s Church in Concord, N.H. Robinson officially became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop. Robinson’s elevation led to a split within the Episcopal Church on the issue of same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Lee Marriner)

One religion story that escaped almost everyone’s notice this past weekend is that the nation’s largest Episcopal diocese voted to allow church-sanctioned same-sex unions.

Time was when the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia was way too conservative or even middle of the road to consider such an action. The northern tier of the diocese used to be populated with several large conservative congregations that would have never agreed to same-sex blessings. But these congregations pulled out of the diocese several years ago in response to the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. The leave-takers, the majority of whom voted to leave during a dramatic series of votes in nine churches on Dec. 17, 2006, were also less than thrilled that a majority of the Virginia diocese’s bishops and delegates to the 2003 Episcopal General Convention in Minneapolis voted to ratify Robinson’s election.

Things since have changed in the Old Dominion State. The resolution passed last weekend read:

“Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia thanks Bishop Shannon Johnston and the diocesan team for the very fruitful ‘Listen … And Be Heard’ sessions in 2010, and urges our bishop to ‘provide a generous pastoral response’ by moving forward with guidelines with regard to public blessings of same gender unions.”

These sessions were set in motion two years ago as a “listening process” on whether “a consensus is emerging … to permit parishes to bless unions consisting of two persons of the same gender who have committed to a stable and permanent relationship,” according to a 2009 resolution. Most conservatives who would have protested the idea of a consensus on such a controversial topic had long since departed the diocese.

This past weekend during the diocese’s annual convention in Reston, Johnston, who took over the diocese more than a year ago from retired Bishop Peter J. Lee, set the stage with a speech that clearly laid out how he hoped the vote would go. “I have always affirmed that committed, monogamous same-gender relationships can indeed be faithful in the Christian life,” he said.

He was not as definite two years ago, when he admitted to having approved an openly gay candidate as a postulant – or candidate – for the priesthood while at the same time telling delegates, “I do not feel free at this time to ordain persons who are in same-sex relationships.” Instead, he wanted to ascertain the mood of the diocese on the matter.

By the summer of 2009, the Episcopal Church, at its General Convention in Anaheim, basically approved same-sex blessings, meaning that the mood of the diocese had been overtaken by events. And some Virginia Episcopalians began to ask why the nation’s largest diocese was not leading the way in also allowing these unions. A year ago, the 80,000-member diocese again deferred to a panel to debate the issue. But the outcome was in little doubt. After all, Virginia Theological Seminary, the nation’s largest Episcopal seminary located in Alexandria and a major incubator for the Virginia diocese’s new clergy, just got an award last April from Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) “for its twenty-year commitment to the inclusion of homosexual students, faculty, and staff.”

Thus, this past weekend’s vote is not a huge surprise. Mary Ailes, the lone blogger I’ve been able to locate at the event, gives this account of how the vote went. Sounds like there wasn’t much debate.

After all, who were they to go up against their own denomination, which has already posted what they called a “theological conversation” on what blessing gay relationships will look like? Look here to see a list of the 19 dioceses that have official written policies allowing the blessing of same-sex relationships. My guess is that Virginia will be on that list soon.

Should Christian denominations follow the lead of new state laws allowing same-sex marriage by creating liturgical rites for these unions?

About

  • billr54619

    So, Julia – you aren’t buying the idea that Council’s amendment to change the wording from “guidelines for” to “guidelines with respect to” same sex blessings has any importance or makes any difference ? No matter, the issue is on Bishop Johnston’s desk, and the Bishop said that he intended to “do something” on the matter before General Convention 2012. All clear now ? Grrreatt !!FWIW – we actually thought that the move to vote by orders was introduced to give the laity the chance to outvote their more liberal clergy. No such luck – the vote was lopsidedly “for” R-2 as amended in both orders. So much for the idea that the laity of the Diocese of Virginia has any ability to resist the bad ideas that their clerical leaders foist on them. It is a bit shocking to realize how many well-dressed middle class, apparently sane adults can be induced to publically support nonsense like this, irrespective of the clear meaning of scripture, the historical teaching of the church, and just plain common sense. And then there were the resolutions against bullying and incivility….

Read More Articles

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.