The following message from the Bishop was originally written on March 17, 2021

My Beloved Siblings in Christ Jesus,

I have been asked about a recent statement from the Vatican that says that the Roman Catholic Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriages.

I really have very little to say regarding the teaching of another Christian tradition. The Statement reflects the consistent historic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. It is in keeping with a particular understanding of natural law theology, and is related to that denomination’s teaching on birth control and even the ordination of women. While I value that tradition of Christianity and I have learned much from the Roman Catholic Church (especially recently from Pope Francis in the Encyclical Letters Laudato si' and Fratelli tutti), I understand the limitations of all denominations and how finite human institutions often engage the world. I am saddened some felt that this Statement was needed.

In the end, as a Bishop of the Episcopal Church, I am somewhat indifferent regarding this Statement from the Vatican except insofar as it continues to hurt and marginalize some of the children of God. As Episcopalians, we need to be aware of the teaching of our Church.

Keep in mind that The Episcopal Church acts through General Convention (the governing body of our Church which includes the House of Deputies made up of clergy and lay deputies from each diocese and the House of Bishops) by resolutions, canons (church law) and authorized liturgical (worship) material. We established theological support for same-sex marriage with two General Convention resolutions in 2015. The first formally approved gender-neutral and same-sex marriage ceremonies, and the second changed the current marriage “canons” to allow clergy to officiate same-sex marriages using either a marriage rite from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer or a “trial” liturgy.

In 2018, the General Convention approved expanding marriage rites for same-sex couples to all dioceses. Bishops who object to marriage equality on theological grounds may request that pastoral care and oversight for same-sex couples (who wish to be married by priests in their home churches) be provided by another Episcopal bishop. The resolution also makes clear that no clergy member can be forced to preside at any marriage ceremony (that actually has always been true and is nothing new).

In 1994 “sexual orientation” was added to the non-discrimination canons for ordination in the Episcopal Church. In 2009 General Convention adopted a resolution stating that, “God’s call is open to all,” and eradicating discriminatory barriers to the election of bishops. The Church had previously consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003. General Convention formally approved transgender ordination in 2012.

The teaching of the Episcopal Church (and therefore actions of General Convention) has been shaped by 1979 Book of Common Prayer and, especially the Baptismal Covenant (pages 304-305). Through the decades, we have asked and answered the following over and over again: