On Wednesday, July 1, the House of Deputies concurred with two resolutions passed the previous day by the House of Bishops. The first resolution approved two marriage rites which can be used for same-sex couples. The second resolution altered the marriage canon to change gendered language.
Some have suggested that the Episcopal Church has changed the traditional view of marriage. Others have suggested that this is contradicting the “biblical” understanding of marriage. I suggest that rather, this is a part of a continuing conversation within the community of Jesus on what it means to be in the covenanted relationship that we call marriage. Indeed, Hebrew Scripture connotes a propertied understanding of marriage in which men could have more than one wife. Jesus and Paul make it clear that they understand marriage to be lifelong. Neither contemplated it as anything but between a man and a woman. Thus, we can see even in Scripture an evolving understanding of marriage.
The church’s tradition on marriage has further changed. This is perhaps most notable on the question of marriage. For much of the twentieth century, the church had two competing understandings of marriage regarding the question of divorce. We lived with that ambiguity and have largely come to an understanding that divorce is now permissible.
Similarly, for the last four decades we have been considering the question of same-sex marriage. Yesterday, our church opened the way for further and clearer expressions of covenanted relationships between two people, regardless of their gender — what some call marriage equality. I supported these resolutions because I believe that this is a godly and good decision. I believe that LGBTQ+ persons in our church are a part of God’s good creation and that their expressions of love and lifelong covenant should be blessed by the church.
I also recognize that some of my bishop colleagues and some of the people of our church and diocese do not agree. The resolutions that we passed and the spirit of the convention are insistent that our church create space for different perspectives on marriage. We will have clergy blessing same sex marriages; we will have clergy who decline to do so. We will continue to listen to each other and learn from each other. We will continue to experience life of the body of Christ together and discern God’s will together. That is a beautiful thing.
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