The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington, D.C.’s. National Cathedral, has announced that the nation’s church will be available for same-sex weddings effective immediately. According to a press release at the National Cathedral web site:
“Washington National Cathedral has a long history of advancing equality for people of all faiths and perspectives,” said Hall. “The Cathedral is called to serve as a gathering place for the nation in times of significance, but it is also rooted in its role as the most visible faith community within the Episcopal Church. For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples. It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit. We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”
Consistent with the canons of the Episcopal Church, the Cathedral will begin celebrating same-sex marriage ceremonies using a rite adapted from an existing blessing ceremony approved in August 2012 by the Church at its General Convention. That approval allowed for the bishops who oversee each diocese within the Church to decide whether or not to allow the rite’s use or to allow celebration of same-sex marriage. In light of the legality of civil marriage for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde (whose Episcopal Diocese of Washington includes D.C. and four counties in Maryland), decided in December 2012 to allow this expansion of the sacrament. Hall, as dean of the National Cathedral, ultimately led the Cathedral’s decision and adaptation of the same-sex rite.
“In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served,” Hall noted. “I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November’s election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage,” he added.
The National Cathedral’s official name is The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and it serves as the seat of both the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop of the Diocese of Washington. The cathedral was chartered by Congress to serve as the “national house of prayer,” although funding for the Cathedral has come entirely from private sources. The cornerstone was laid in 1907 with President Theodore Roosevelt and the Bishop of London in attendance. The first service was held in the unfinished Cathedral’s Bethlehem chapel in 1912, and construction finally ended in 1990 with the completion of the west towers. It is now the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the U.S.