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Subject Episcopalians: Bishops can bless same-sex unions
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Original Message Episcopal Church officials voted yesterday to allow bishops the latitude to bless same-sex unions -- the second vote this week in favor of gay rights and one that may further divide the worldwide Anglican community.

On the last day of the church's triennial national convention in Anaheim, Calif., officials stopped short of creating liturgical rites to bless same-sex unions, but approved a compromise measure that allows bishops, especially in states where same-sex unions are legal, to bless the relationships. The key portion of the legislation says bishops "may provide generous pastoral response" for such unions.

The vote came three days after the church passed a resolution allowing for the ordination of gay bishops. Both moves have prompted strong reactions among the larger worldwide Anglican Church, of which the Episcopal Church is a part.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the preeminent Anglican clergyman, had asked the Episcopalians before the convention not to take up issues that would further divide the church. This week, the influential bishop of Durham, England, wrote an essay describing the ongoing crisis as "a slow-moving train crash" and the most recent actions of the Episcopal Church as marking "a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion."

Meanwhile, gay rights advocates said this week's victories lay the groundwork for future moves. The resolution included a call for bishops to "collect and develop theological and liturgical resources" on same-sex unions to report to the next convention. Three years from now, they may consider creating a standard liturgy for same-sex unions with the eventual goal of including a rite for gay marriage in the church's prayer book.

Mike Angell, who is studying to become an Episcopal priest at the Virginia Theological Seminary, said yesterday's decision comes as a relief. "I have a number of friends -- straight and gay -- who requested me to perform their weddings once I'm ordained," said Angell, who believes in equality for gay parishioners. "I would have felt limited and compromised blessing hetero couples but not gay couples. It's an issue of justice."

[link to www.washingtonpost.com]
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