When Massachusetts introduced same sex marriage in 2003, it as alone among American states. Since then, a steady trickle of others have followed, either with meaningful civil unions or with full marriage equality. More will follow this year, and is increasingly obvious, as VP Biden has observed, that full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is now “inevitable” across the country. It is now only a matter of time. Although the opponents of same-sex marriage claim theirs is a principled stand based in religion, it is also becoming obvious that religious opposition too is crumbling. As with so much else that was previously prohibited on the pretext of religious belief, the religious objections to homoerotic relationships will in time be recognised as without religious validity for the modern world.
One recent Boston wedding was just one more among many – but it carries with it strong symbolic importance, and is an important signpost to a future without religious discrimination. Two lesbian Episcopalian clerics, each holding an office of some seniority and importance in their diocese, were married in the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston, in a wedding service solemnized by the Episcopalian bishop of Massachusetts, the Right Reverend M Thomas Shaw SSJE. What could be more respectable than that?
Already, the Swedish and Icelandic Lutheran Churches have agreed to solemnize same sex weddings in church, just as they do any others. The Finnish and Danish Lutherans, are moving in the same direction. The British Quakers want legal approval to conduct same sex weddings. In the US, the Unitarian Universalists have approved and advocated for same sex marriage since 1996. The general synod of the United church of Christ followed in 2005, while the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church of the USA, and the United Methodist Church have held regular debates on changing their rules to permit gay marriage, faced with steadily increasing demands from some local congregations, some of which have conducted gay weddings even without official sanction. The Episcopalian Church in the US has left the decision to local dioceses, some of which have already agreed to accept marriages without discrimination.
It is safe to say that just as civil marriage has slowly spread out from Massachusetts to other parts of the US, and from Northern Europe to an expanding list of other countries, so regular same sex weddings in church will spread steadily from Boston across the US, and from Sweden (where they were approved two years ago) across Europe, and from the Universal Unitarians and United Churches, to many more denominations. As acceptance in church becomes commonplace, so the pseudo-religious arguments for sexual discrimination will crumble.
Here is the press release for the wedding in Boston cathedral:
Historic Lesbian Marriage in Boston Cathedral Unites Top Clergy of Episcopal Church
The historic marriage of Episcopal Divinity School, dean and president, the Very Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale and Mally Lloyd, Canon to the Ordinary, took place today at the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston.
The Episcopalian bishop of Massachusetts began 2011 by solemnizing the first lesbian marriage – of two senior Episcopalian clergy – at Boston’s St Paul’s Cathedral Saturday (January 1).
The marriage of Episcopal Divinity School, dean and president, the Very Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale and Mally Lloyd, Canon to the Ordinary, was the first lesbian marriage solemnized by the Right Reverend M Thomas Shaw SSJE, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
At the marriage attended by close to 400 guests, Bishop Shaw commented: “God always rejoices when two people who love each other make a life long commitment in marriage to go deeper into the heart of God through each other. It’s a profound pleasure for me to celebrate with God and my friends, the marriage of Katherine and Mally.”
The couple met on June 30, 2008, at the urging of a mutual friend. At the time, Canon Lloyd, 57, said, “We were both travelling a lot and so we would talk by phone. And somehow when you talk a lot by phone, a relationship can go deeper more quickly than when you spend time in person. At least that is what happened to us.”
Although this is a second marriage for Canon Lloyd, it is the first for Dean Ragsdale,52. “It’s astonishing how the world is changing,’’ Dean Ragsdale said, “when I grew up, I never believed I would be able to have someone special in my life and now to have almost 400 people show up to support us at our marriage ceremony is wonderful.”
Canon Lloyd says: “We have a lot in common, we each have a spiritual life that the other understands and respects and we also understand the amount of travelling and often late hours that our work requires. Somehow too when you are in your fifties, certain things just aren’t as big a problem as they seemed in your twenties.”
Though the Episcopal Church’s canons and formularly still state that marriage is between a man and a woman, the church at its General Convention in July of 2009 decided to allow that “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”
In November 2009, Shaw announced his decision to allow clergy in the Diocese of Massachusetts to solemnize all marriages–a long wait for many given that same-gender marriage had been legalized in Massachusetts more than five years earlier.
Ragsdale, 52, became dean of the historic Episcopal Divinity School in October 2009. She is the first woman to hold that position. The school is among the most progressive seminaries in the world. It was the first to train African-American theologians, the first to accept women on its faculty and among the first to prepare women for ordination. The Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu selected the school with his daughter Mpho for her theological education.
Ragsdale is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and holds a master of divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary and a doctor of ministry degree from Episcopal Divinity School. She served as vicar of St. David’s Church in Pepperell and as president of Political Research Associates in Somerville before her appointment as president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in 2009.
Ragsdeale has served on the national boards of the White House Project, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. She has worked in the national offices of the Episcopal Church and as a consultant in the areas of professional ethics, organizational planning and development, advocacy training, and theological foundations of public policy advocacy.
Lloyd, 57, as canon to the ordinary to Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE since December 2008, serves as a chief executive, overseeing operations for one of the Episcopal Church’s largest and most politically active dioceses. She is a deputy to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention and a member of the church’s influential Program, Budget and Finance Committee.
Prior to joining the bishop’s staff, Lloyd was for six years the rector of Christ Church in Plymouth. She has been an active leader in the diocese for many years, serving on Diocesan Council and its Executive Committee and providing mentorship through the Fresh Start program for clergy beginning in new ministry.
(Source: PR Web)
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Gay Marriage, in Church: Sweden (Queering Theology and Ministry)
Gay Marriage, in Church – Denmark Next? (Queering Theology and Ministry)
Gay Marriage, Coming to Iceland (Queering Theology and Ministry)
Gay Marriage in Church Inching Closer in Finland (Queering Theology and Ministry)
Blessings Same Sex Unions in Toronto (Queering Theology and Ministry)
Blessing Same-Sex Unions in Church: Episcopalians Move in Virginia (Queering Theology and Ministry)