True to Episcopal Church’s Past, Bishops Split on Gay Weddings

The Episcopal Church, which has been strained by gay-rights issues since the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire eight years ago, is now divided over how to respond to the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.
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Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano will let priests in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island officiate at same-sex weddings. In some other New York dioceses, bishops will not or are undecided.

As a result, gay and lesbian Episcopalians will be allowed on Sunday to get married by priests in Brooklyn and Queens, but not in the Bronx or Manhattan or on Staten Island; in Syracuse but not in Albany.

That is because the church has not taken a firm position nationally on same-sex marriage, leaving local bishops with wide latitude to decide what priests may do when the law takes effect in New York State. In the state, with six Episcopal dioceses, the bishops are split: two have given the green light for priests to officiate at same-sex marriages, one has said absolutely not, two are undecided and one has staked out a middle ground, allowing priests to bless, but not officiate at, weddings of gay men and lesbians.

The Episcopal Church, known as one of the most welcoming to gay men and lesbians among mainline Protestant denominations, finds itself in an uneasy position on the issue — embracing neither the clear stance against same-sex marriage taken by Roman Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Muslim, Mormon and Orthodox Jewish leaders, nor the supportive position of Reform Jewish, Unitarian Universalist and many liberal Protestant leaders. The Episcopal Church is a small denomination — the church claims 172,623 members in New York State — but is also prestigious and influential.

Now, gay and lesbian Episcopalians are finding their joy at the legalization of same-sex marriage tempered by the ambiguity over where they stand in their church.

“The Episcopal Church should really communicate that God loves everybody,” said Roy Kim, 40, who is engaged to an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Clayton Crawley. “The Episcopal Church does do that better than most churches, but it’s a great opportunity now to really, unequivocally say that.”

He and Father Crawley worship at St. Paul’s Chapel, which is part of Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. In keeping with the local bishop’s directive, Trinity’s priests will not officiate at same-sex marriages, and the parish has not decided whether to allow them to bless such unions.

The Episcopal Church’s rules define marriage as a “union of a man and a woman” but also say the clergy must “conform to the laws of the state” governing marriage. In 2009, the denomination approved a resolution saying that “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

But New York State’s bishops differ over just what a “generous pastoral response” means, and even the bishops most supportive of gay rights are struggling to balance their desire to sanctify the relationships of all of their parishioners with their reluctance to further alienate conservative Anglicans in Africa and even the United States.

The bishops of the Long Island and Central New York Dioceses have authorized priests to preside at same-sex weddings; the bishop of the New York Diocese (which includes three of the city’s five boroughs) is allowing them to bless but not officiate at such rites; the bishop of the Albany Diocese is barring any involvement by priests; and the bishops of the Rochester and Western New York Dioceses remain undeclared.

“It could appear to someone looking from outside the church that this is all we’re talking about, and it isn’t,” said Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano of the Long Island Diocese. “It finds its place in the larger question of how you minister to the wider world.”

Bishop Provenzano, whose diocese includes Brooklyn and Queens, concluded that a “generous response” allowed presiding over the marriage rite. But Bishop Mark S. Sisk of the New York Diocese found that the “generous response” resolution did not supersede the canon law defining marriage.

“The landscape regarding marriage is still changing across the country, within the church and for gay or lesbian couples themselves,” Bishop Sisk, who supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, said in an interview conducted by e-mail. “The church is still in the process of creating liturgies for these rites and incorporating them into church law.”

A number of gay Episcopalians professed sympathy for what they viewed as Bishop Sisk’s effort to balance competing views.

“That’s a fair middle-of-the road-position,” said Mary O’Shaughnessy, coordinator of the New York metropolitan area chapter of Integrity USA, which advocates equal treatment for gay men and lesbians in the Episcopal Church. “There is nothing that I will call homophobic about that.”

Derek Baker, 46, also expressed understanding for Bishop Sisk’s predicament.

“He’s between a very pointy rock and a very firm hard place,” said Mr. Baker, who plans to have his marriage blessed at the Church of the Ascension in Greenwich Village, where he has been a parishioner for two decades.

The situation is particularly awkward for gay priests like Father Crawley. Bishop Sisk has said that gay and lesbian priests “living in committed relationships” should marry — even though they cannot do so in church.

“That’s called hypocrisy,” said the Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, rector of the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene in Rochester. Father Hopkins is a past president of Integrity USA.

But Bishop Sisk responded, “The expectation that clergy in relationships will marry is not a demand, nor does it come with a specific timeline.” He also said clergy members could be creative in fashioning liturgies that might include a civil marriage conducted in the church but solemnized by a secular official, followed by a pastoral blessing offered by a priest.

Some gay and lesbian Episcopalians said they were content to allow the church to proceed slowly because they believed it was moving in what they viewed as the right direction. The issue of same-sex marriage will most likely be raised again at the church’s next national conference, next summer.

“The bishop might be completely behind gay marriage, but he also understands that unless we have the conversation, and unless we are patient, the church will break,” said Javier Galitó-Cava, a gay Episcopalian and actor who worships at St. Paul’s. “I want to kick and scream and say ‘How dare you, I’m not a second class citizen’ — but if I want this to happen, for myself and for my children, we have to take it one step at a time.”

http://tinyurl.com/3wh6kud

10 out of 10 Church of England Dioceses vote for women bishops

The first ten Dioceses in the Church of England to vote on women bishops have all voted in favour – almost all by an overwhelming majority.

They have all also turned down requests for extra provision for opponents, mostly by huge margins.

In every Diocese there have been separate votes of bishops, clergy and lay members.

Taking the votes of all the Dioceses together, over 80% of lay members, over 80% of clergy and over 80% of bishops have voted for the proposed law, which also makes provision for those opposed to women being ordained as priests and bishops.

Parishes will be allowed to opt for a male bishop and/or a male vicar.

Hilary Cotton, Head of Campaigns for WATCH, said, “Across the country Church members are saying, ‘Please just get on with making women bishops’. They are voting overwhelmingly in support of the legislation that will make that happen, and also creates space within the Church for those who will not accept women bishops. They do not want any more wrangling or delay.”

All 44 Dioceses have to vote on the draft legislation for women bishops by November 2011.

It will then face a final vote in General Synod in York 2012 where there will need to be 66% of members of each of the three Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity, for it to be approved.

It will then proceed to Parliament for final endorsement.

For more detailed figures look HERE!

http://tinyurl.com/65jd6p7

Normalization of homosexuality is a ‘calamity’ – John Piper

Amid ongoing “gay pride” celebrations and the push for gay marriage, influential evangelical John Piper wants to put it all in perspective for the church.

“My sense is that we do not realise what a calamity is happening around us,” Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, wrote in a commentary on Thursday.

“Christians, more clearly than others, can see the tidal wave of pain that is on the way. Sin carries in it its own misery.”

It’s been nearly a week now since marriage for gay and lesbian couples was legalised in New York and since hundreds of thousands of Americans celebrated homosexuality with gay pride parades, not only in New York but also in Piper’s home state of Minnesota.

Homosexuality and its celebration are nothing new, the Reformed pastor clarified.

“[Homosexuality] has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man,” he wrote.

“What’s new is not even the celebration of homosexual sin. Homosexual behaviour has been exploited, and revelled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia.

“What’s new,” he underscored, “is normalisation and institutionalisation. This is the new calamity.”

America, and the rest of the world, is moving toward the institutionalisation of homosexuality, the 65-year-old pastor lamented.

Yet the Bible makes it clear that homosexual behaviour is sin, he said.

“Alongside its clearest explanation of the sin of homosexual intercourse (Romans 1:24-27) stands the indictment of the celebration of it,” he said.

“Though people know intuitively that homosexual acts (along with gossip, slander, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness) are sin, ‘they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them’ (Romans 1:29-32).’I tell you even with tears, that many glory in their shame’ (Philippians 3:18–19).”

For the first time since it began tracking the issue of same-sex marriage in 1996, a Gallup poll last month found that a majority of Americans (53 per cent) believe marriages between same-sex couples should be recognised by law as valid.

Moreover, 56 per cent of Americans say gay or lesbian relations is morally acceptable, another Gallup poll found in May. Only 39 per cent perceive homosexual relations as morally wrong.

Piper stressed that his purpose for writing on the controversial issue is “not to mount a political counter-assault”.

He doesn’t believe that is the calling of the church.

Rather, Piper expressed his desire to “help the church feel the sorrow of these days. And the magnitude of the assault on God and his image in man.”

He didn’t pin the sin of sexual immorality on homosexuals alone, however. Heterosexuals are just as guilty.

Piper emphasised that Jesus died for both heterosexual and homosexual sinners so that they might be saved. Jesus, he stressed, offers “astonishing mercy”.

But rather than embracing that salvation, thousands celebrated sin last weekend, he lamented.

“Christians know what is coming, not only because we see it in the Bible, but because we have tasted the sorrowful fruit of our own sins. We do not escape the truth that we reap what we sow. Our marriages, our children, our churches, our institutions – they are all troubled because of our sins,” he wrote.

“The difference is: We weep over our sins. We don’t celebrate them. We turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help. We cry to Jesus, ‘who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).'”

“And in our best moments, we weep for the world.”

The win in New York for gay rights activists is expected to propel the gay marriage movement forward. Already, they are working to push similar legislation in Maine and to defeat a measure amending the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman in Minnesota.

Amid the movement to redefine marriage, Piper made it clear that Jesus created sexuality and “has a clear will for how it is to be experienced in holiness and joy”.

“His will is that a man might leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and that the two become one flesh (Mark 10:6-9). In this union, sexuality finds its God-appointed meaning, whether in personal-physical unification, symbolic representation, sensual jubilation, or fruitful procreation.”

Nevertheless, there are no signs of the gay marriage movement slowing down. With that, Piper left Christians with this concluding note:

“This is what I am writing for. Not political action, but love for the name of God and compassion for the city of destruction. ‘My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.’ (Psalm 119:136).”

http://tinyurl.com/3ft86aa

Methodist clergy vow to defy church…

200 Illinois Methodist clergy vow to defy church, bless same-sex unions

June 26, 2011|By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporter

More than 200 United Methodist clergy in Illinois have pledged to flout church policy and bless unions for same-sex couples, putting their jobs, homes and callings in jeopardy if couples take advantage of their offer.

Methodists in the Northern Illinois Conference also called on the global church to impose no more than a 24-hour suspension for clergy who defy the policy.

http://tinyurl.com/3kejk3z

 

Methodist Clergy Risk Careers To Defy Gay Marriage Ban

A growing number of pastors in the United Methodist Church say they’re no longer willing to obey a church rule that prohibits them from officiating at same-sex marriages, despite the potential threat of being disciplined or dismissed from the church.

In some parts of the U.S., Methodist pastors have been marrying same-sex couples or conducting blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions for years with little fanfare and no backlash from the denomination. Calls to overturn the rule have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks, ratcheting up the pressure for the Methodist church to join other mainline Protestant denominations that have become more accepting of openly gay leaders.

http://tinyurl.com/6k33v2t