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
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
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
"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. …