The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia hedged on recognizing same-sex unions Saturday, instead voting to form a committee to set standards for church-sanctioned blessings of such unions once they are approved by the entire 2-million-member Episcopal Church.
About 346 delegates to the dioceses annual council meeting at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria narrowly voted — by a show of hands — to form the committee.
It was a less radical choice for the 80,000-member Virginia diocese, the largest in the Episcopal Church. A substitute amendment suggesting the diocese allow openly gay clergy and same-sex blessings failed after a lengthy debate.
The vote was in response to last summer’s decision by the Episcopal General Convention, which met in Anaheim, Calif., to pass resolution C056, which empowered the denomination to begin “collecting and developing theological resources and liturgies” for same-sex blessings. The denomination is expected to endorse some kind of rite at its 2012 meeting in Indianapolis.
Sixteen Episcopal dioceses — including four since last summer — already allow same-sex blessings.
Saturday’s resolution was a compromise between three previous proposed resolutions: one that proposed Episcopalians keep to a traditional understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman, and two others that proposed the diocese lift its current prohibition against same-sex blessings, ordaining sexually active homosexuals or allowing them to serve in a parish.