As you may know, at this past summer’s General Convention, The Episcopal Church passed a resolution allowing all rectors of Episcopal Churches to perform same sex marriages. This means that every Episcopalian now has the opportunity to be married in his or her home parish. As of Advent I, which is Sunday, December 2, all clergy in Southern Virginia may use the trial rites for marriage – including same-gender marriage - without permission from the office of the Bishop.
As has always been the case, parish clergy with primary authority (rector, priest in charge, etc.) are free to decide for themselves whether or not to perform any marriage – same-gender or otherwise. In other words, no clergy person in the Episcopal Church is obliged to perform any particular marriage.
The vestry and I have talked about same-sex marriage. My stance about same sex marriage is the same as my stance about heterosexual marriage: If a couple loves each other, loves God, and is actively involved in our faith community (or, because of distance, in some other Christian community), then it is my honor and privilege to bless their marriage. As a clergy person, I am not willing to perform weddings for folks, straight or gay, who are not actively engaged in a relationship with God that is being lived out in a community of faith. I have no interest in St. Andrew’s becoming a “wedding chapel”—a pretty backdrop for any couple that is not serious about grounding and nurturing their relationship in God.
I know that, as in so many things, there is wide diversity of opinion at St. Andrew’s about same sex marriage. As I’ve said before, one of the great blessings of our faith community –and one of the great gifts we have to offer to our increasingly polarized world—is the way we at St. Andrew’s come together despite our differences to worship God and be nourished at God’s table. A parishioner whom I greatly love and admire and whose views on same sex marriage are completely different from mine said to me, “I wouldn’t want to be part of a church in which everyone has to believe that same sex marriage is okay.” Neither would I. I want to be part of a church in which we recognize, honor, and respect the dignity of every human being—even and especially those whose views are so different from our own.
As we enter into this new season of life in our church, may we hold one another and ourselves gently, trusting in God’s love and mercy. And let us hold in our prayers all couples preparing for marriage. Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair (BCP, 429).