Episcopal Churches May Opt for Same-Sex Blessings

Article excerpt

Episcopal churches across East Tennessee will be able to bless same-sex unions for couples in their congregations early next year, a decision the diocese outlined in a letter sent to members this week.

Bishop George Young said it will be up to leadership at individual churches to have a dialogue with their congregations and decide whether to offer the liturgy, which he said is still different from a marriage ceremony.

"Some churches have been chomping at the bit to do this for a number of years and will make their decision pretty quickly to move forward, and others probably won't do it for a long time," Young said. "And then the biggest group is in the middle, trying to decide how they can best respond and honor the gay and lesbian folks in their church."

Lenoir City native Ariel Wingerter travelled nearly 500 hundred miles earlier this year to legally marry her wife, Brennan, in Washington, D.C. The couple returned to Knoxville and had a reception with family and friends to celebrate, but it wasn't the same as being married in your own church, she said.

"To have the church that I go to and I tithe to and I love to openly say that we, as the Diocese of East Tennessee, will be able to give you that blessing in our church, it's really special and it makes us more equal with everyone else," Wingerter said.

Wingerter, 27, who met her wife when she moved to Knoxville to attend law school at the University of Tennessee, said they may consider having a vow renewal ceremony in the church during a future anniversary.

"Not being able to walk down the aisle you want to walk down because someone doesn't agree with your love is hurtful," Wingerter said. "It's really a great thing, and I'm proud of (the Episcopal church) for doing it. I feel really supported by the whole diocese, and not just my congregation."

The move toward blessing same-sex unions has been more than three decades in the making, going back to 1976, when the church first passed a resolution to affirm that "homosexual persons are children of God who have full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral care for the Church," something Young outlined in his letter.

In the years since then, the Episcopal Church has ordained gay and lesbian clergy, and active gay and lesbian church members have become fairly common within congregations.

During the national convention in June, bishops passed a resolution that would provide a provisional liturgy that would honor same-sex unions. …