In an announcement made this week, Episcopal clergy in the diocese of San Joaquin, California, will from Sunday begin the practice of allowing for the recognition of gay and lesbian partnerships as “sacred unions.”
This news came in a release from the Diocese of San Joaquin Commission on Equality in which the church carefully sets out that current doctrine and indeed federal law do not recognize same-sex marriage and until both of these things change, the church’s position on marriage as between one man and one woman shall remain the same.
However, citing the church’s own Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention, which states in part, “That it is the sense of this General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church,” and also touching upon the extraordinary legal situation in California where gay marriage was briefly allowed between marriage bans in 2008, the church has moved to give recognition to gay and lesbian unions because it wishes to make a formal acknowledgement that same-sex couples are just as capable of living in committed, monogamous unions as heterosexual couples.
From the church release (h/t to On Top Magazine):
Couples in such relationships are part of the Diocese of San Joaquin. They are in our congregations and in positions of leadership. They are our friends, neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ. It is now time, to the extent permitted by California law and the Canons of The Episcopal Church, to extend to these couples the “generous pastoral response” necessary to meet their needs as members of this Church.
Effective on Pentecost, June 12, 2011, clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin may perform blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships characterized by “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”2 Said relationships shall be called “Sacred Unions” for purposes of the blessing and recognition of these relationships.
The document goes on to affirm that no member of the clergy will be forced to solemnize same-gender unions and reinforces that there can be no formal recognition of same-sex marriage as a marriage until doctrine is amended.
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