If the rite is approved, as expected, at the church’s General Convention in Indianapolis, the liturgy would be the first such rite endorsed by a major denomination in the U.S.
The blessing rite would not be a sacrament and would not confer “marriage” on the couple, as the Episcopal Church law currently defines marriage as the union of man and woman.
Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. of the Diocese of Pennsylvania told the Kansas City Star: “For some people, it’s going to be troubling. For others, it’s going to be thrilling.”
Bennison, who as a seminary professor in the 1990s organized some of the Episcopal Church’s earliest seminars on same-sex marriage, said in an interview that he did not expect passage of the rite to be as controversial as the 2003 ordination of openly gay Rev. Gene V. Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
For some of the 2 million Episcopal Church members who might turn to Bible scripture as a stand against the proposed same-sex rites, Bennison and many other Episcopalians say the biblical injunctions against homosexuality are important – but not the final word.
“We have (biblical) texts that endorsed slavery, but nobody today believes that slavery is the will of God,” he said. “So there’s continuing revelation” about notions of right and wrong.
“That doesn’t mean we can make up anything we want to,” he said, “but the authority to accept what scripture means lies in the community of believers.”