The Episcopal Church, which has been strained by gay-rights issues since the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire eight years ago, is now divided over how to respond to the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.
As a result, gay and lesbian Episcopalians will be allowed on Sunday to get married by priests in Brooklyn and Queens, but not in the Bronx or Manhattan or on Staten Island; in Syracuse but not in Albany.
That is because the church has not taken a firm position nationally on same-sex marriage, leaving local bishops with wide latitude to decide what priests may do when the law takes effect in New York State. In the state, with six Episcopal dioceses, the bishops are split: two have given the green light for priests to officiate at same-sex marriages, one has said absolutely not, two are undecided and one has staked out a middle ground, allowing priests to bless, but not officiate at, weddings of gay men and lesbians. ... The bishops of the Long Island and Central New York Dioceses have authorized priests to preside at same-sex weddings; the bishop of the New York Diocese (which includes three of the city’s five boroughs) is allowing them to bless but not officiate at such rites; the bishop of the Albany Diocese is barring any involvement by priests; and the bishops of the Rochester and Western New York Dioceses remain undeclared. Read more here.
Both the Associated Press and The New York Times have recently released articles on the state of the Episcopal Church's response to the New York State change in same-sex marriage.
We at Integrity/NYC-Metro are very happy that the elected representatives of New York State have recognized lifelong commitments between people of the same sex, as marriage. We pray for the day that this recognition will take hold in every state in our country, and at the federal level of government.
Integrity's vision for the Church is this: "all the sacraments for all the baptized." We understand this as meaning that one standard--prayerful, thoughtful, and equitable--should be spelled out and applied to both heterosexual and LGBT people.
We recognize that the different bishops of the dioceses in New York State are interpreting the "generous pastoral response" permitted at General Convention in 2009, in varying ways. While Integrity would rejoice if all bishops were to immediately solemnize marrriages, we realize that this is not immediately likely for varying reasons, and we urge charity and pastoral engagement on all sides in other dioceses.
Vindictive language and attribution of evil motives on any side are profoundly unchristian, wound the heart of God, and provide fodder to anti-Christians who believe the church is evil. (sic)
The Episcopal Church has existing canons regarding the solemnization of marriage. While these use male-female language that we believe needs changing, Integrity does not see any reason to request that clergy exempt same-sex couples from the reasonable and healthy requirements contained in these rules, among them: • Each partner is free to marry, freely consents to the marriage, and intends that the marriage be lifelong. • The couple intends that the marriage take place in the context of the Christian community that is the church. • At least one of the parties is baptized. • The couple has completed appropriate pre-marital counseling from the cleric performing the marriage or some other approved person. • Any (and all) previous marriages and/or domestic partnerships have been dissolved legally and evidence of this has been provided to the cleric. • Any former spouse(s) and children have been and are being treated justly. (In some parishes, this is understood as being current on any and all child and spousal support.) • Where necessary, the appropriate bishop has given consent. • Thirty days' advance notice has been provided to the cleric. (The canons state this can be waived for a serious reason. Since there is no reason at this point to expect that the right to marriage in New York is going to be revoked soon, there would need to be a more weighty reason than a strong desire to be among the first married under the new law.)
All clergy, church lay people, and seekers wishing to be married should remember that both the state and the Episcopal Church are very, very clear that no cleric should feel pressured into performing any particular marriage--by a couple, their families, friends, or ethnic/cultural mores.
We urge all parishes, regardless of their stance on same-sex weddings, to update their websites with accurate, complete, and current information regarding their wedding policies, so that seekers may find and read it before making contact.