- Congressman: McAuliffe victory means gun control a winning message
- Clinton aide admits soliciting disgraced D.C. fundraiser; says actions were legal
- Joel Osteen church victimized in $600K theft
- Obama goes shopping at Gap as minimum-wage thanks
- N.J. woman charged after client dies from black-market butt injections
- CIA chief Brennan ‘determined’ to speak out more this year
- Reset? What reset? U.S.-Russia ties at worst since Cold War
- 9/11 terror recruiter released in Syrian prisoner swap
- D.C. elections board gives green light to marijuana legalization initiative
- Elephants can tell difference between human languages: study
Cathedral’s same-sex marriage decision renews old debate, but doesn’t end it
The decision by leaders of the Washington National Cathedral to perform same-sex weddings is getting a mixed reception, with supporters calling it consistent with the church’s path for more than a decade and critics warning of further division on an issue that has roiled religious denominations across the country.
Officials at the cathedral, the most visible Episcopal church in the U.S., threw the weight of their national status, their century-old church, and thousand-member congregation behind the issue, announcing Wednesday that they would celebrate same-sex weddings effective immediately.
Leaders said the decision stemmed from a desire to move forward the “national conversation”on same-sex marriage after 30 years of study by the church, as well as the decisions of voters in three states, including Maryland, who approved referendums on same-sex marriage in November.
David Bains, a religion professor at Samford University in Alabama who has researched and written extensively about the cathedral, said the church’s leaders have worked for years to balance serving their congregation in the nation’s capital, where gay marriage has been legal since 2009, and being a beacon for Episcopalians across the country.
He noted that the church in Northwest D.C. — the site of such historic moments as presidential funerals, national celebrations and Martin Luther King Jr.’s last sermon — is no stranger to political activism.
Mr. Bains called it “a church and a ministry which would proclaim the truth of the Christian Gospel even when it challenged large parts of American culture.”
In almost three decades as dean of the cathedral, he said, the Rev. Francis B. Sayre Jr. sermonized until his retirement in 1978 on subjects such as racial injustice and the Vietnam War. More recently, the Rev. Gary Hall, current dean of the cathedral, declared that “enough is enough” after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December, and said it was time for the church to take up the issue of gun control.
“This current action, however, is probably the most potentially divisive act the cathedral’s leadership has taken in its history,” Mr. Bains said.
In July, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved blessings for same-sex marriages. While not mandatory, each Episcopal bishop is given the opportunity to decide whether or not his diocese will permit the ceremonies. Even if a diocese allows the blessings of same-sex relationships, no priest can be forced to perform the ceremony.
A spokeswoman for the 2 million-member Episcopal Church's headquarters in New York said the office does not keep numbers on how many of its 110 dioceses or its churches perform same-sex marriages.
The cathedral made the move to celebrate same-sex weddings a decade after the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003 elected the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson. The ordination created deep rifts, causing a number of U.S. churches to break away from the Episcopal Church and for a number of more conservative national churches in the Anglican Communion to break ties with the U.S. denomination.
Suzanne Gill, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, said she didn’t see the decision to permit same-sex marriages at the National Cathedral as a catalyst for another wave of secessions, but that the announcement will have a symbolic effect to church members.
“It is a nationally known church, so anyone who might have missed noticing before now, it will certainly be brought to their attention at this point,” said Ms. Gill, whose diocese broke away from the Episcopal Church and joined the Anglican Church in North America.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
- Three Gulf countries sink 'Noah' before movie's launch
- Lenten season marks big business for seafood sector
- ACU at 50: Strong and looking ahead
- Ready for spring? D.C. cherry blossoms to bloom by mid-April
- MOVIE REVIEW: 'Son of God'
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
An America drowning in red ink is the land of the free no more
- David Jolly wins in Florida, GOP keeps swing district seat
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- House Democrats trying to force unemployment insurance vote
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- FCC targets black conservative in TV station fight
- Redskins bypass big splash - for now - as free agency period begins
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
- Sharyl Attkisson resigns from CBS after months of talks
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again