In 2009, the Episcopal Church officially began laying the groundwork for gay marriage ceremonies to occur within its houses of worship. Now, just a few years later, the church has released drafts of what same-sex marriage rites could look like.
As Religion News Service highlights, these are merely rough drafts that are under review, but they are the first glance regarding what the future holds for gay nuptials. It may be years before these documents are refined and made official, but this is a noteworthy step in the church's acceptance of gay marriage.
While churches are already performing same-sex marriage ceremonies in localities where the process is legal, there is no official liturgy to govern these actions. The Episcopal Church's Public Affairs office addressed this issue through the following announcement on its web site last week:
The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of the Episcopal Church has forwarded to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies excerpts from its report, “I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing”: Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships.
The report, nearly three years in the making, was prepared by the SCLM in compliance 2009-C056, "Liturgies for Blessings," a resolution approved by the General Convention (GC) of the Episcopal Church in 2009 which directed the SCLM to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships through an open process.
Later this month, the House of Bishops (HOB) meeting will begin to look through the report to discuss next steps. The discussion and debate will be available for viewing from March 16-23 on the Deputy Online Forum for the public's viewing.
The excerpts that were released last week include a theological reflection on blessing gay marriages and relationships, a proposed liturgy and other recommendations that will be made at the denomination's general convention in July.
RNS explains the potential next steps:
The drafts will now be studied by bishops and lay/clergy delegates ahead of the church's General Convention this summer. The General Convention in Indianapolis won't be asked to formally approve them, and it looks like formal approval wouldn't come until 2015, 2018 or even 2012, depending on whatever timeline the General Convention approves. Either way, the formal liturgies are not likely to be included in the Book of Common Prayer unless and until Episcopalians opt to formally revise it.
The traditional vows that are typically heard at weddings are presented as follows:
"In the name of God, I, N., give myself to you, N. I will support and care for you: enduring all things, bearing all things. I will hold and cherish you: in times of plenty, in times of want. I will honor and keep you: forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow."
Here is a portion of the proposed sermon, below (read the entire document here):
You can read the entire rough draft, which includes the church's historical views and theological reasoning for embracing same-sex marriage here.
(H/T: Religion News Service)