An Episcopalian bishop in the US has thanked God for the institution of marriage while officiating at the wedding of two lesbian priests in Boston.
Bishop Thomas Shaw said that God always rejoices when two people “make a lifelong commitment in marriage to go deeper into the heart of God through each other”.
The Rev Katherine Ragsdale, president of the Cambridge Episcopal Divinity School, married the Rev Mally Lloyd on 1 January at the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston, in front of a congregation of around 400 people.
The wedding has been condemned by opponents of same-sex relationships. They say that the US Episcopal Church is deviating from the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which it is part.
The Episcopal Church’s rules state that marriage is between a man and a woman. But in 2009 the Church agreed that “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide [a] generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church”.
A number of US Episcopalians have said that, while they wish to maintain good relations with other Anglicans, they are unwilling to restrict what they see as the outpouring of God’s grace and love in marriage.
The use of the word “marriage” rather than “union” seems to have caused particular anger amongst the Church’s critics. But he American Anglican Council (AAC), a group opposed to same-sex relationships, made clear that they would have opposed the ceremony whatever word was used.
"This is another action of reckless disregard for the life of the Anglican Communion and the authority of the Bible by the Episcopal Church,” insisted Rev David Anderson, chair of the AAC.
In 2004, the Anglican Communion agreed to a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions. However, commentators in the US and elsewhere point out that the Communion agreed to “listen” to gay and lesbian people. They say that many socially conservative Christians have not done this and thus failed to keep to their side of the bargain. The former Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, described gay people as “worse than animals”.