The Episcopal Church struck a historical compromise on same-sex marriage following a Friday vote at its triennial convention.
Delegates to the Episcopal General Convention in Austin, Texas overwhelmingly approved a resolution allowing same-sex couples to marry in all churches, even if individual bishops object. If members of the diocese do not wish to participate in the ceremony, B012 mandates that bishops find someone else who can step in and provide “pastoral support” for the couple.
Supporters claimed the move would be another step forward for the Episcopal Church on LGBTQ inclusion. When the General Convention last met in 2015, church leaders voted in favor of adopting trial-use liturgies which paved the way for marriage rites for same-sex couples.
“For 40 years, our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have been at the back of the bus and, every so often, they are invited to move forward one row at a time,” the Rev. Scot McComas claimed during Friday’s deliberations.
But even as the Episcopal Church has moved forward on LGBTQ issues, progress has not been absolute.
Following the 2015 resolution, eight of the 101 total diocese in the United States continued to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying in their local congregations, citing religious convictions. Such districts were located in Florida, Illinois, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
One of the bishops who blocked recognition for LGBTQ couples, Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, praised B012 as preserving “the ministry of bishops as chief pastors and teachers in our dioceses.”
Others expressed concerns, however, that the groundbreaking decision could lead to further rifts in the church following the consecration of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003. John Howard of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida claimed many church members left the faith over the controversial issue of LGBTQ clergy, as the Religion News Service originally reported.
Episcopal Bishop of Albany William Love added that last week’s resolution could lead to legal action.
“I’m concerned that when this passes, the floodgates are going to open once again, the bloodshed is going to open once again, the insidious lawsuits are going to continue once again,” Love claimed.
Bauerschmidt told The Tennessean there remains “much to work out” in the implementation of B012, claiming that Episcopal leaders will be determining “what it means for our diocese with clergy and congregations in the coming days.” This conversation will likely include formalizing the process of handing off same-sex weddings should a bishop wish to recuse himself from the ceremony.
The new policy will not take effect until Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent.