Pittsburgh-area Episcopal priests get ‘local option’ in blessing ceremonies for gay couples

By Peter Smith
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
November 25, 2013

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh plans to allow, but not require, priests to conduct blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples beginning in January.

The decision comes after months of talk and deliberation in the diocese, seeking consensus on the volatile issue that was already a major factor in a 2008 split among local Episcopalians.

Bishop McConnell’s decision authorizes priests to preside over a rite, approved in 2012 by the Episcopal Church’s legislative General Convention, for blessing lifelong covenants for same-sex couples.

Bishop McConnell said he has serious reservations about the theology implied by the language in the blessing. But he said allowing individual choice honors a covenant reached by those who remained with the diocese in 2008, seeking to foster unity among conservative, moderate and liberal elements.

“As I have listened to you, I have heard many passionate, and sometimes contradictory, hopes and fears,” he wrote in a pastoral letter released today.

“… Since this local character exists in variety of conviction, I find it reasonable that this variety should be allowed to express itself in local practice, by allowing the decision of whether or not to use this rite to be made by each pastor, in his or her own parish,” he wrote. “This ‘local option’ will allow each rector or priest-in-charge to minister pastorally according to his or her commitments and conscience, while putting none under constraint or duress.”


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