A Louisville congregation has quietly become the first in the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky to begin blessing same-sex relationships.
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church conducted its first such blessing late last year, for two male members of the congregation, after voting last April to approve such ceremonies.
The move, while not reflecting diocesan policy, is a milestone in one of the state’s denominations that generally has been the most accepting of gay members and ministers. But it also has complicated efforts to maintain unity, given that some churches and members oppose homosexuality.
The Rev. Lucinda Laird of St. Matthew’s stressed that the ceremony was not presented as a civil or sacramental wedding — since neither Kentucky nor the Episcopal Church recognizes same-sex marriages.
According to the news item Bishop Ted Gulick responded:
As word of the change filtered out among Episcopalians, Bishop Ted Gulick, who will be retiring later this year, issued a statement neither approving nor opposing the ceremony.
Gulick maintained he could not authorize same-sex rites because the denomination has not approved them for its foundational Book of Common Prayer. But he has left the door open to private ceremonies.
“As we pray, so we believe,” Gulick said in a written statement. “Until the ‘we’ on this issue becomes very large, it is dangerous to place such rites ‘front and center’ in our liturgical life.”
But, he added: “If the conscience of the ordained minister allows, private liturgies of blessing and support and public services of the Eucharist in thanksgiving for the covenanted, lifelong, monogamous realities of these committed relationships can be held in the churches of our diocese.”
He added in an interview: “It is our norm that we don’t do those publicly in a church building, but we don’t second-guess each other’s private pastoral ministry.”