SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Episcopalian House of Bishops and House of Deputies voted overwhelmingly this week to allow ministers to officiate same-sex “weddings” and to eliminate the terms “husband and wife” from the denominational rules on marriage.
The vote occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday in Salt Lake City during the General Convention, with the House of Bishops voting 129-26 to approve the changes and the House of Deputies following the next day with a vote of 173-27.
The changes, however, did not come without debate, as some Episcopalian leaders opined that the move was timely considering last week’s Supreme Court ruling, and others expressing concerns about infidelity to Christ and His design for marriage.
Gene Robinson, the first-ever openly homosexual bishop in the denomination, spoke in favor of the change.
“Gays and lesbians are living out their lives in holy ways,” he asserted. “It’s time that we declared how far we have come, and where we are at the moment and where we need to go in the future.”
But Bishop William Love in Albany pointed to Christ’s words in Matthew 19:4-5, which reads, “And He answered and said unto them, ‘Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh?'”
“If our Lord is the Son of God … God incarnate, He is quite aware of the nature of marriage and could have offered alternatives but did not,” Love told those gathered.
However, he also expressed his opinion that same-sex partnerships are allowable as long as the two remain abstinent.
Jose Luis Mendoza-Barahona of Honduras also spoke against the change, stating that it contradicts biblical principles and thus might result in a rift in the denomination.
“The fight has not ended; it’s starting,” he declared. “Those of us in the Church who are loyal followers of Christ are going to remain firm in not recognizing what happened today.”
According to George Conger of the Diocese of Central Florida, those who oppose same-sex nuptials may still opt out and bishops may prohibit an entire region from officiating over homosexual ceremonies.
“Priests in dioceses where the bishop forbid same-sex marriages may not solemnize gay marriages. A priest who did so would be liable for punishment for disobeying the bishop,” he explained in an article for the Washington Post. “A diocese that does not perform gay marriages must pass the couple on to another part of the church that permits gay marriage.”
Conger said that ceremonies will likely be held “in places like Washington, Los Angeles and New York, but likely won’t take place in more conservative parts of the Church, like Dallas, Albany and Orlando.”
According to the Episcopal News Service, Deputy Katrina Hamilton of Olympia told those gathered that she believes that affirmation should not end with same-sex relationships. She explained that she has been living with her boyfriends for six years and “feels that the church’s silence about such relationships is ‘passive judgment.’”
“We live together, we share some expenses and despite the admirable and laudable efforts of some friends and family I have no interest in having kids or getting married,” Hamilton stated. “While I know that could change one day, right now my relationship is not seen as having any independent worth—only a precursor to something I don’t intend to do.”