As expected, the House of Bishops overwhelming approved the provisional (trial, experimental) use of liturgies for the blessing of same sex unions at the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church yesterday. What was perhaps not so expected was the civil, even tender, tone of the “debate” on that resolution.

This was due in perhaps equal measure to three factors: 1) the decades long work we have done to build community and civility in the House; 2) the careful work of Bp. Tom Ely and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Church Music who have produced these rites and the legislative committee which drafted the resolution and; 3) (it must be said) the departure, over the last five or six years, of breakaway bishops who have consistently lowered the tone of civility in the House for decades.

Now, just as those of us on the progressive side of this issue were granted permission for “gracious pastoral response” in our dioceses before these liturgies were available, now some space has been granted for those bishps and dioceses who, in good conscience, cannot move in this direction. In fact, our theological diversity was “honored” in one of the resolution’s clauses.

This will put gay and lesbian people who live in such dioceses and yet would desire to have their unions blessed in the same kind of painful position women were in years ago when certain bishops and dioceses refused to move forward with the ordination of women. This is sad, but perhaps unavoidable, at this stage in our “evolution” on this matter. Perhaps neighboring bishops and dioceses can provide some pastoral assistance in the immediate years ahead for these folks.

Now, the resolution goes to the House of Deputies for certain approval there. The hope is that the Deputies will not amend the resolution which would send it back to the House of Bishops and risk losing the whole matter in the press of legislation in these final days of Convention.

With this major issue well on the way to completion, we now await the report from the Committee on the Structure of the Church and, of course, the budget coming out of Program, Budget, and Finance. These matters, and perhaps some lively debate on two resolutions on the Middle East, will keep our last few days in Indianapolis interesting!

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