There were no fireworks, not even a few claps from supporters when the Episcopal Church approved liturgy for same-sex blessings last week. But the vote was noteworthy.
Proponents were tempered in any celebration. Opponents were stoic but polite. It didn’t make for good TV. But some will remember the convention in Indianapolis as no small move for a denomination that elevates liturgy so highly.
The vote at the Episcopal Church’s triennial convention is worth at least a fraction of the attention given to the Super Bowl earlier this year. The Super Bowl comes around every year with the NFL’s own rituals, whether they include Madonna or the Colts. The Episcopal Church will only begin offering liturgy for blessings for same-sex couples once, and it did that last week — in Indianapolis. Some celebrated as others mourned.
The implications will be less obvious in Indianapolis where some priests have already blessed some same-sex couples. About six or seven parishes of the 48 in the diocese have received less than one request a year.
The vote was somewhat expected after years of votes on sexuality since nearly a decade ago, when the denomination elected its first gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson.
“It’s not likely to have the same kind of bombshell effect,” the Right Rev. Cate Waynick, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis who voted in favor of the move, told me. “This will not change the way we’ve responded in the pastoral needs of our members.”
In her 15 years as bishop, she guessed, about a dozen same-sex couples have been blessed within the diocese.
Until last week, the denomination did not have rites addressing lay members in same-sex partnerships. Aside from discussions over church canons and the Book of Common Prayer, it reflects a focus that has been less formal until now.
In the past decade, the denomination has lost about 16 percent of its members and spent millions on lawsuits over property battles with churches that have left. The denomination retained several mostly empty churches while deciding to sell its New York headquarters.
“Foundational institutions in the U.S. are under assault from the culture, further
This article originally appeared on: http://www.indystar.com/article/20120716/OPINION13/207160304/Sarah-Pulliam-Bailey-Momentous-vote-Indy-gay-blessings