Conservatives, however, have accused Episcopalians, in the words of one activist here, of “having an adulterous relationship with the spirit of the age.” Bishop Peter Beckwith of Springfield, Ill., said, “We are allowing our church to be shaped by the culture rather than pursuing our God-given mission of shaping the secular culture.” Beckwith compared homosexuality to gambling, which is legal in several states, but which many Christians oppose on moral grounds.
Even liberals here have said the church should not depend on the state to make decisions for it. Former New Hampshire Bishop Douglas Theuner, who retains a vote in the House of Bishops, argues that all bishops – not just those in states where same-gender partnerships are legal – should be allowed to adapt rites of blessings for gay couples.
“If we say we’ll only do what the state allows us to do, then in effect we’re saying that the state effects our theological decisions, and that shouldn’t be,” Theuner said.
Episcopalians have taken cues from the culture on marriage mores before, particularly in the 1970s when it voted to allow divorced people to remarry in the church, said Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Ky.
“We need to respond to the realities our people face and the culture in which they live,” said Sauls. “That doesn’t mean we cave to expectations and give up our standards, but it does mean we have to be culturally sensitive.”
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