At their general convention in Indianapolis on Monday, Episcopal bishops approved a resolution to create a liturgy for same-sex unions. The vote was surprisingly overwhelming, with 111 in favor, 41 against and 3 abstaining.
The measure now goes on to the House of Deputies, comprised of both lay members and clergy from the 1.96 million strong denomination. “It is the Jesus thing to do in our time,” said the Rev. Michael Louis Vono.
If approved, the liturgy—“The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant”—would be used starting at the beginning of the Advent season in December, and make the Episcopal Church the largest Christian denomination in the U.S. with formal rites for same-sex unions. Currently individual dioceses can bless gay nuptials, but there is no standard blessing or ceremony.
Church leaders are quick to say the resolution isn’t an endorsement of same-sex marriage: “We have authorized a blessing, and a blessing is different than a marriage,” said a church spokesperson. “A blessing is a theological response to a monogamous, committed relationship.”
The House of Bishops also approved a proposal to include “gender identity and expression” in the church’s nondiscrimination canon, paving the way for transgender men and women to become ministers. (That proposal, too, faces a final vote.)
“I stand here as a priest today because my diocese specifically said that my gender identity and expression didn’t disqualify me from the discernment process… I ask that as a church we do the same for my trans sisters and brothers,” the Rev. Carla Robinson, a transgender vicar in Seattle, told the AP.