The House of Bishops on Wednesday moved the Episcopal Church much closer to making it possible for all same-sex couples to marry in their home churches.
Currently eight diocesan bishops do not permit such marriages in their diocese, and several do not allow their priests to officiate at the marriages of same-sex couples in other dioceses.
The bishops passed a slightly amended version of Resolution B012, which had been passed by the House of Deputies on Monday.
That resolution directs that provision be made for same-sex couples to marry in local churches under the direction of the clergy member in charge of the congregation. The bishops added a clause specifying that nothing in the resolution should be construed as narrowing the authority of a congregation’s clerical leader.
In addition, the resolution directs bishops to permit them in their diocese nonetheless, requiring them to “invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation.”
The matter now returns to the House of Deputies, which is expected to approve the amended version of the resolution.
Debate on the matter was largely one-sided, with several bishops who do not currently permit same-sex couples to marry in their diocese saying they supported B012, which they preferred to a competing resolution on marriage, which would have made marriage rites available to same-sex couples by beginning the process of including them in the Book of Common Prayer.
Some bishops were tepid in their support. Bishop John Howard of the Diocese of Florida, said that the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 landed in his diocese like “a nuclear warhead,” and that B012 forced local clergy leaders into a “Sophie’s choice,” between their consciences and the needs of a same-sex couple.
Others were more enthusiastic. Bishop Mary Glasspool, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of New York, said same-sex couples were “a gift to the church that the church hasn’t unwrapped.” She recalled that she and her wife were married not in a church, because that was not then permitted, but “in my therapist’s office.” She said it was time to move toward marriage equality in the church.
The longest and most emotional contribution to the debate came from Bishop William Love of Albany who first read a section of his ordination vows and then told the house that if B012 passed, he was no longer sure he could assent to all of them.
Love charged the church with trying to “silence” him and the seven other bishops who currently do not permit same-sex couples to marry in their dioceses. He said he had been accused of being bigoted, homophobic and mean-spirited by people who did not know him. “I treat people with respect,” he said.
Speaking directly to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Love said, “I am concerned that the actions that are about to happen are going to undo all of the good work, sir, that you have tried to do.
“When this passes the floodgates are going to open once again,” he said, and predicted additional “bloodshed.”
Bishop Brian Thom of Idaho said that although he came to General Convention to support putting marriage rites for same-sex couples into the Book of Common Prayer, he supported B012 because, in the end, people want to “get married at home.”
A vote on the amended resolution has not yet been scheduled in the House of Deputies.