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New blessing


Although not legally binding in the state, the blessing of same-sex couples is becoming a reality in Episcopal churches.

Greg Horton November 27th, 2013

Finally, Episcopal churches in Oklahoma are getting approval to perform blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Guthrie’s Trinity Episcopal Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Oklahoma City are the first two in the state’s western half to receive approval from Episcopal Bishop Ed Konieczny.

Father John Borrego, the rector of Trinity, said his congregation went through a lengthy process to determine if the church would offer the ceremony.

“No member of the clergy could perform the ceremony unless there was consensus in the congregation,” Borrego said. “We provided numerous opportunities for the congregation to have input, including town hall-style meetings. We only had one person speak up who was opposed, and ultimately, she said she would support the congregation’s decision.”

The ceremonies are the result of a decision made at the Episcopal Church USA’s 2012 national general convention to allow American bishops to determine if the ceremonies would be implemented in individual dioceses.

A Konieczny-appointed committee recommended that congregations should determine for themselves whether to allow the ceremonies.

The recommendations of the committee and Konieczny were that at least one person in the couple be a member of the Episcopal Church and that the couples receive premarital counseling and advice from attorneys about the legal ramifications of their partnership.

Couples will sign a document pledging to enter a lifelong union and attesting that they are aware the ceremony is not legally binding in the state.

Rev. Justin Lindstrom, the dean of St. Paul’s, said he has yet to be approached about the ceremony, but he is beginning to put the word out about offering it. Like Trinity, Lindstrom and his staff held town hall-style meetings for the congregation. They also made themselves available to meet one-on-one with members who had questions.

“We didn’t lose a single person in this process,” Lindstrom said.

“The church has been more progressive the past three to four years than it has been in the past, so most of the more conservative members left before I arrived about a year ago.”

Borrego said his church also has not received inquiries yet, but he believes the process needed to happen before anyone had asked, “because this issue needs to be decided apart from a focus on individuals; congregations needed the time and space to have the conversation without the added pressure of people they know well waiting for the congregational decision.”

Couples wanting the blessing ceremony will have to petition Konieczny for permission before an in-state church can perform it, which helps the bishop work through at least one thorny issue: Members whose churches don’t perform the blessing may now find a church where their relationships may be blessed anyway.

 
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