The Episcopal Church approved a policy on Tuesday that will allow priests, with their bishop’s permission, to conduct services bestowing the church’s blessing on same-sex couples, regardless of whether or not they live in a state where gay marriage is legal, reports the Times. According to CNN, the Episcopal Church, which has nearly 2 million members in the U.S., is now the largest denomination in the States to officially sanction same-sex relationships. But the liturgy is not a marriage rite. Rather, the three-year trial run of the service will be called, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.”
“We have authorized a blessing, and a blessing is different than a marriage,” said Nancy Davidge, the church’s media affairs representative. “A blessing is a theological response to a monogamous, committed relationship.”
“This is significant because it’s saying, ‘This is around to stay — this is not a passing fad,’” Mary A. Tolbert, founding director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion, told the Times. “It’s making a statement about the continued presence of gay and lesbian people among the congregations of the Episcopal Church, and that their lives need to be marked by liturgy as well.”
It’s been a big year for statements supporting same-sex couples: Last month a group of 300 Mormon church members marched for the first time in the Utah Gay Pride Parade in Salt Lake City, Utah; and of course, in May, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to publicly announce his support for gay marriage (once he had fully evolved on the issue).