You may have seen the news that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church has just passed resolutions authorizing two new marriage rites and a change in the canons of the church. Through these resolutions, the church can now offer marriage rites to same sex couples. Up until now, there were only provisional services for the witnessing and blessing of life long covenants for such couples. The resolutions, though coincidentally coming just after the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, are in fact the result of a decades long conversation in the Episcopal Church about what full and equal inclusion means for gay and lesbian persons. Now, the church can offer a full blessing to gay and lesbian couples, as well as a call to commitment in a marriage.
Blessing and call. At times, the struggle for marriage equality is viewed as a struggle for rights – specifically the right to marry. But along with the blessings embodied in the marriage service is a call for the couple to take on a responsibility – to signify, in the words of the marriage service, “the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church.” Married couples, in making vows of unconditional love, commit themselves to be a witness in the world of what the love of Christ looks like.
That is no easy responsibility, and no couple ever is completely successful in doing such a thing. That is why every marriage service also includes the promises of the larger community – family, friends, and the church – to love and support the couple in their new life together.
When my spouse Thomas and I made our public commitment to each other over ten years ago, we were living in Vermont, where civil unions had been authorized by the state. We had a quiet and meaningful legal service, presided over by a dear friend who was a justice of the peace. A regular marriage service in the church was not possible at the time. But it was essential for us to gather with our friends and families for what we could call a Blessing of Our Civil Union. There in church, surrounded by family and friends, we joyfully took on the responsibility as well as the blessing of a covenant relationship. We wanted to give thanks to God for bringing us together. And we knew we would be unable to sustain that relationship without Christ’s presence and the ongoing love and support of the community gathered around us.
I rejoice that now all couples may benefit from the blessings of marriage. And I rejoice that the Episcopal Church will not only bless, but also call all married couples – whatever their makeup – to be a sign of Christ’s love in the world.