Church marriage comes to E. MA Episcopalians

Timothy Kincaid

November 30th, 2009

Bishop ShawA favorite tactic of anti-gay activists is to pretend that changes to civil marriage law will require churches to change their religious practices in some way. But to do so requires a willful determination to ignore the evidence to the contrary (or a willful determination to lie).

And a decision made by an Episcopal Bishop in Eastern Massachusetts proves the point. Although gay and lesbian couples have had the right to legally marry in that state, they could not do so in an Episcopal Church or with an Episcopal priest presiding. Priests could “bless their union”, but not declare “by the power vested in me” that they were married.

Until now. (Boston Globe)

Five years after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the local Episcopal bishop yesterday gave permission for priests in Eastern Massachusetts to officiate at same-sex weddings.

The decision by Bishop M. Thomas Shaw III was immediately welcomed by advocates of gay rights in the Episcopal Church, who have chafed at local rules that allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, but not sign the documents that would solemnize their marriages.

This change in policy should cause anti-gays to worry. But not for any reason that they will admit.

Contrary to the political ads and fiery denunciations from pulpits, changes to civil marriage laws do not require churches to do anything. But they do provide the framework under which same-sex couples can live exemplary lives and show conscientious religious leaders that their objections are based not in principle but in presumption and false impression.

Civil marriage equality will in time lead many many churches to not only adapt to including same-sex marriages but to also hold up such commitments as the most appropriate venues for love and sexual expression for same-sex attracted persons. But this change will be voluntary, a change of heart based on decency, empathy, compassion, and their observation of married couples in their pews.

Anti-gays speak loudly of “religious freedom” and of the fear of coercive efforts to compel them to follow man-made laws rather than God’s laws. But I believe that a voluntary change of heart is something that anti-gays fear far more than any coercion from government.

And I believe that their efforts to ban marriage equality are designed and intended more to deny religious freedom to those who, like the Episcopal Church, would celebrate such marriages than they are to stop that small percentage of the population who would avail themselves of the opportunity.

Yes, anti-gays lost political battles in Massachusetts over the last five years. But their real losses are felt in the announcement of Bishop Shaw.

Elise

November 30th, 2009

“But I believe that a voluntary change of heart is something that anti-gays fear far more than any coercion from government.”

This.

The anti-gays, or at least the ones who know the first thing about the law, know that the fantasies they spin of government persecution and roundups of conservative pastors in the night are just that, fantasy.

But slowly being left behind as society moves forward and relegates them to the dustbin of history? That terrifies them because it’s real, and it’s already started.

Richard W. Fitch

November 30th, 2009

Praise be to God! and to Bishop Shaw.

cd

December 1st, 2009

Yup. The “loss of religious freedom” they truly fear is the one where pretty exemplary parishioners walk in the front door and say they’re in favor of gay marriage. That they can’t reconcile their conscience with what the local conservative hardliners insist to be true. And that the argument they bought into before never really made sense to them…and less so the longer they looked at it.

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