Episcopal Church delegates, meeting in General Convention in Salt Lake City this week, approved resolutions on Tuesday and Wednesday granting full marriage equality within the church to its members and those they marry. The move came just a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on June 26 that made marriage equality the law of the land.
Previously, Episcopal bishops had been free since 2012 --- when the last triennial convention was held --- to authorize same-sex marriages in diocese where such marriages were legal. The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa, had done so. Civil marriage equality has been in force here since 2009. A provisional liturgy also was made available then that would work either as a blessing, where marriage was not legal, or as a marriage rite, where it was.
The Episcopal House of Bishops gave overwhelming approval to the resolutions on Tuesday; the House of Deputies, consisting of clerical and lay orders, followed suit overwhelmingly on Wednesday.
Resolution A036, approved this week, eliminates language defining marriage as between a man and a women from canon law. Resolution A054 authorizes two new marriage rites that may be adapted for use by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. These will be officially available for use at the beginning of the new church year --- Advent 2015.
The resolutions do not mean, however, that all Episcopal bishops and priests are on board. Bishops of conservative diocese, and there are some of these, still may prevent parishes within them from performing same-sex marriages. And conservative priests may decline to do so. However, the resolutions do demand that dissenting bishops and priests find ways to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples within their jurisdictions.
Leadership in the move toward full equality within the church should be credited to those denominations that deserve it --- Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Church and others.
Episcopalians have been working toward this point for 39 years, since the 1976 general convention when a resolution was approved stating that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the church.”
We've been using the line, "The Episcopal Church welcomes you!" for about that long, too. And now it's true.