Open for Business

Famous church’s bells to ring for same-sex couples

The Washington National Cathedral – a longtime friend of gays and lesbians as both members and those in leadership positions – is finally beginning to host same sex marriage ceremonies in their church.

The key development came last July when the Episcopal Church approved a ceremony for same-sex unions at its General Convention in Indianapolis, followed by the legalization of gay marriage in Maryland, which joined the District of Columbia. The national church made a special allowance for marriage ceremonies in states where gay marriage is legal.

Longtime same-sex marriage advocate the Very Rev. Gary Hall took over as the cathedral’s dean in October. Conversations began even before he arrived to clear the way for the ceremonies at the church that so often serves as a symbolic house of prayer for national celebrations and tragedies.

Here’s an interesting part … which I suppose is a natural by-product of being a church that also performs same sex marriages and all: it’s still against Episcopal law.

Cathedral officials said the church will be among the first Episcopal congregations to implement a new rite of marriage adapted from the blessing ceremony for gay and lesbian couples that was approved last year by the Episcopal Church’s national governing body.

Official Episcopal law still defines marriage as between a man and a woman, so the cathedral says it will be performing weddings that combine civil marriage ceremonies under local law with a blessing from the church. They will use the new language approved for same-sex couples instead of the marriage ceremony from the Book of Common Prayer. Only one major U.S. Protestant group, the United Church of Christ, has endorsed same-sex marriage outright.

At this point, though, I begin to wonder what the point is of hanging on to Episcopal law, then.  I’m certainly not against same sex marriage, but seeing how society is moving in yet another direction that is in direct conflict with some of the oldest edicts of the church, why not simply discard them altogether?  I get pissed off when I see people cherry pick the bible to justify their bigotry and sexism; however, it doesn’t make much more sense to cherry pick all of the good things while pretending the bad just doesn’t exist, either.

I’m not a member of a church so there’s likely far more in play here than I realize, but things like this look as if they’re moving more Christians to embrace only the positive aspects of Christ’s life, ignoring most or all of the Old Testament completely.  This is the kind of thing that happens when an increasing number of people interpret the bible and the life of Jesus through the lens of a modern society.  As the new dean, Very(?) Rev. Gary Hall said:

“I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do,” Hall told the AP. “And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it’s being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be.”

Boy, if too much of this keeps happening, evangelical Christianity will be a thing of the past!  One can only hope.

“What I think religious groups do best is they put people in proximity with one another,” he said. “My sense is that it’s much more difficult to condemn homosexuality if you know that the son of your best friend in church or someone who worships in the next pew from you is gay.”

“Today, the church sent a simple but powerful message to LGBT Episcopalians – you are loved just the way you are, and for that we embrace you,” said the Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, the deputy director of HRC’s religion and faith program.

Well, all the best to them.  Again, I may look a little cross-eyed at how they’re making it work in the context of combining civil ceremonies with religious blessings to follow all of the right rules … instead of just changing the church rules … but whatever.  It’s a huge step forward, and I’m happy just for that.  I hope more follow suit.

This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Religion and Public Life, Religion in the News, Society Marches On and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Open for Business

  1. Dan Adler says:

    I heard the interview on NPR last evening on the way home with Gary Hall. I’m happy that they’re taking this step, but honestly, I’m not sure how “high profile” the national cathedral really is. It’s not exactly often in the news or even the public consciousness.

    http://www.npr.org/2013/01/09/168983534/national-cathedral-hopes-to-set-example-by-performing-same-sex-marriages

    • Any time a church takes this kind of step, I’m grateful … but yes, you’re right. Maybe now, though, it will get a little more publicity and – with any luck – motivate other smaller churches to do the same.

  2. Pingback: I’m Just a Giglio … | Crimes Against Divinity

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