As a non-praciticing Episcopalian, it’s interesting and distressing to see the machinations over LGBT participation in the church, and how open and welcoming its stance is as more of its flock come out of the closet. On Wednesday, the General Convention opens in Anaheim, CA (July 8-17) and the discussion of human sexuality is on the agenda.

Deputies and bishops are being asked to reconsider the 2006 convention’s stand that the church “exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

The statement was widely acknowledged as applying to gay candidates and was titled Resolution B033.

This article goes into quite a bit of arcane detail about what is being considered during the convention, but one matter stands out — how the church will respond to same-sex civil marriages in the states where it is legal.

The Windsor Report also called for a moratorium on “public rites,” but some Episcopalians say that the context of the issue has changed. In 2005, civil partnerships and same-gender marriages became legal in England and Canada, respectively.

In the United States, the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire allow same-gender marriages or are due to by Jan. 1.

The convention will consider a resolution (B012) to give bishops in those states leeway in performing such marriages. Sponsored by Maine Bishop Steve Lane, the resolution asks convention to extend “generous discretion … to clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry” to adapt the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and Blessing of a Civil Marriage rites in the Book of Common Prayer for use with same-gender couples.

Such adaptation would have to take place under the discretion of the bishop and they would give the House of Bishops annual written reports on their experience each March and to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for its report to the 77th General Convention.

…Previous efforts to have the General Convention ask for the development of authorized liturgies for blessing same-gender unions have failed, but the 2003 meeting allowed dioceses the option of allowing such rites. A few months before that convention, the communion’s provincial leaders or primates had said that “it is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care.”

The Anaheim meeting again will face requests for an official churchwide rite. A typical trajectory for the approval of such a rite could run at least six years, including trial use followed by committee and convention approvals.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding