Progressive Anglicans in Canada and the United States are pushing ahead with local procedures for blessing lesbian and gay people in the church. The US Episcopal Diocese of California has authorised the use of three trial rites for same-sex unions.
The California convention's decision follows the Synod of the Diocese of Ottawa and the Synod of the Diocese of Montreal calling on their respective bishops to approve rites for blessing gay couples earlier in October 2007.
The latest vote, which took place at San Francisco’s landmark Grace Cathedral on 20 October, came after the governing body asked Bishop Marc Andrus to authorise rites developed by the diocesan liturgical commission following careful consideration.
A resolution was also adopted by the Diocese of California Diocese which refused to “discriminate against partnered gay and lesbian bishops-elect” and condemned the “lack of access to adequate pastoral and ritual care" for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Episcopalians in the USA.
Bishop Andrus declared: “Let me say that I welcome the resolution on marriage and blessing being offered at this Convention... [one] “that properly augments my pastoral goal of caring alike for all of the people of the diocese, not reinforcing damaging distinctions.”
He added: “I also think... that the resolution writers have honoured the spirit of the Windsor Report and subsequent requests from the Primates of the Communion not to develop ‘public rites’.”
The key issue is the local and trial-based nature of the rites, and the fact that they stem from past agreements - though this is unlikely to satisfy anti-gay Anglican activists.
The three same-gender blessing rites were recommended in a 48-page report to the convention from the diocesan Commission on Marriage and Blessing, created by the convention back in 2005.
They include adaptations of The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage from The Book of Common Prayer; the Marriage Liturgy, Second Form, from A New Zealand Prayer Book; and A Rite for the Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Covenants from the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.
"Trial use" is the typical way that new liturgies for the Episcopal Church are considered before wider approval.
Delegates at a Canadian Anglican conference last week called 'Widening the Circle' said that progressive voices in the Church need to reclaim the word “orthodox” from such conservative groups, recognising that it means Gospel generosity and historic Anglican breadth - not a narrow and judgmental misinterpretation of the Christian message.
Inclusive Church in the UK will gather for a conference called 'Drenched in Grace' next month (November 2007).