Anglican Diocese of California offers backing to gay blessings

The Episcopal Diocese of California has given authorisation for the use of three trial rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

|PIC1|The vote, which took place at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral on 20 October came after the Synod requested that Bishop Marc Andrus authorise three rites developed by a diocesan liturgical commission.

The decision has been made in spite of liberal claims that the US Episcopal Church had obeyed the Anglican Communion's request to ban gay bishops and same-sex blessings.

A resolution was also adopted by the California Diocese which denounced the ban of gay bishops promised last month by the US House of Bishops.

The controversial resolution stated that the diocese refused to "discriminate against partnered gay and lesbian bishops-elect".

It also condemned the "lack of access to adequate pastoral and ritual care for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender" Episcopalians across the Church.

Bishop Andrus stated, "Let me say that I welcome the resolution on marriage and blessing being offered at this Convention."

He added that it "properly augments my pastoral goal of caring alike for all of the people of the diocese, not reinforcing damaging distinctions".

"I also think, at the same time, that the resolution writers have honoured the spirit of the Windsor Report and subsequent requests from the Primates of the Communion not to develop 'public rites'," Bishop Andrus said.

Assurances were given by the US House of Bishops in New Orleans last month that the Episcopal Church would exercise restraint and not push forward with any pro-gay agenda.

The latest developments, however, may be of little relief to the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Dr Rowan Williams, who has fought to prevent a schism within the worldwide Church.

The three same-gender blessing rites were suggested in a 48-page report to the convention from the diocesan Commission on Marriage and Blessing, created by the diocesan convention two years ago.

They include adaptations of The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage from The Book of Common Prayer; the Marriage Liturgy, Second Form, from A New Zealand Prayer Book; and A Rite for the Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Covenants from the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.

"Trial use" is the typical way that new liturgies for the Episcopal Church are considered before final approval.

The California convention's decision is the third time in recent weeks an Anglican diocese has called for rites for blessing same-gender couples.

Earlier this month, the Synod of the Canadian Diocese of Ottawa called on its bishop to approve rites for blessing same-gender couples. The Synod of the Diocese of Montreal did the same on October 19.