UPDATE – July 2009
July, 2009 marked an historic moment in the life of the Episcopal Church, here in the United States. The general convention in Anaheim, California voted three important resolutions that will have major changes in the spiritual lives of LGBTQ people:
1) overturned the 2006 moratorium on electing lesbian and gay bishops,
2) recognized a local option for developing liturgical rites to bless same-sex unions, and
3) called for transgender civil rights at the local, state and federal levels.
Resolution C056 passed on July 17, 2009 acknowledges “changing circumstances” that call for a renewed pastoral response from the church for considering same-gender blessings, including state laws on same-gender marriage, civil-unions and domestic partnerships. The resolution also authorizes the House of Bishops, in conjunction with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, to devise an open process that will invite churchwide participation in collecting and developing theological resources and liturgies. The commission is to report its efforts to the next General Convention in 2012.
The Resolution left open to each bishop the right to determine what such a generous pastoral response might mean in her or his diocesan context. This resolution neither forces nor demands any bishop, diocesan convention, congregation or clergy to take any action it considers contrary to its will.
Already the policy change is bearing fruit. The Rev. Bonnie Perry, a partnered lesbian priest in the Diocese of Chicago, is a candidate for Bishop of Minnesota. Bonnie was a candidate for Bishop of California several years ago before the de facto moratorium – now ended – was enacted. Clearly this year’s general convention reflects a renewed conviction: The unity of the church cannot be bought at the expense of some of its members.
The Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D., an out gay Episcopal priest, wrote in a recent article, “By giving overdue attention to gender in the controversies concerning “homosexuality,” this year’s General Convention… has named the elephant in Christianity’s living room: None of us can deal effectively with sexuality and religion without addressing gender.”