SALT LAKE CITY – At its 78th General Convention, The Episcopal Church approved resolutions concerning the definition of marriage. The convention approved AO54, which provides for a supplemental liturgy for gender-neutral marriage, and A036, which changes the wording of marriage canons to be gender neutral.
Resolution A054 provides for supplemental litugies separate from the 1979 marriage rite in the Book of Common Prayer, which was not changed. The rites are called Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015. These liturgies are authorized for church use the first Sunday of Advent, 2015 under each bishops’ authority. The A054 resolution also allows for clergy to decline to solemnize or bless a marriage and allows clergy to “solemnize a marriage using any of the liturgical forms authorized by this Church.”
The resolution also requires that clergy “shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage” and states that “this convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological objection to or support for the 78th General Convention’s action.”
The General Convention resolutions came the same week that the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. They expanded on the provisional rites approved at the 77th General Convention held in Indianapolis in July, 2012. At that convention, The Episcopal Church authorized the use of Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be A Blessing. These resources, included a rite for blessing the lifelong covenants of same-sex couples.
Specifically, the A036 resolution amends Canon 18 on the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony to become Celebration and Blessing of Marriage (the term for the service in the Book of Common Prayer) and adapts words such as husband and wife to gender neutral phrases such as “both parties.”
A054 passed the House of Deputies by 94-12 with two divided deputations in the clerical order and 90-11-3 in the lay order. A036 passed 85-15-6 in the clerical order and 88-12-6 in the lay order. The deputation of the Diocese of Southwest Florida voted for both resolutions.
The Convention also unanimously unanimously passed a mind of the house resolution entitled Communion Across Difference in support of bishops who dissented from the passage. The Communion Partners group affirmed a minority report to the two resolutions.