Finally, after much prayer and consultation, I have decided that the time has come for Southern Ohio to adjust its policy regarding the blessing of same-sex unions. As you all know, in the forums that preceded my election as your diocesan bishop, I was very clear that I thought the church should bless the godly, faithful and life-long union of two persons of the same sex. Moreover, my views on this matter have been expressed in two published books. So my own views will not be a surprise to anyone. At the same time, as I also stated in the forums, I do not wish to act in isolation from the Episcopal Church. So since I became a bishop I have upheld the policy I inherited, which did not permit the blessing of same-sex unions under any circumstances. It is my view that the recent General Convention resolutions D025 and C056 have altered the terrain, by reasserting the possibility of godly unions between persons of the same sex, and by inviting bishops who have jurisdiction in states that have offered some form of civil union to gay and lesbian couples to exercise “pastoral generosity” in offering the church’s public ministrations to such couples. In so doing, the Episcopal Church has effectively acknowledged that the godly union of two persons of the same sex ”“ by which I mean the union of two persons who have vowed lifelong fidelity to one another, and accept accountability to the faith community as a faithful household ”“ can be blessed by the church. I am convinced that in fairness to our fellow Episcopalians who have entered into such unions or who desire to do so, we must move deliberately toward the implementation of a policy that will permit and govern the blessings of such unions in Southern Ohio. On this basis, I am lifting the prohibition on the blessing of same-sex unions in this diocese, effective Easter 2010.
I am aware that there are some in this diocese who will be unhappy with this change in policy, and that there are clergy who cannot in good conscience officiate at such blessings. It is important to underscore that no priest within the Diocese will be under any obligation ”“ now or at any time ”“ to perform such blessings, and the position of those who wish not to perform any such blessings will be respected and honored. I wish to do whatever I can to allay any fears on this score.
Although it will take some time to work out all the details of this policy, here are a few parameters which I will be imposing from the outset. No blessing of a same-sex union shall occur without my written permission. I will consider each request individually and will require 60 days notice in each case. I expect that at least one of the two persons seeking a blessing within this church will be a confirmed or received Episcopalian in good standing, and that adequate counseling with the officiating priest (or an agreed-upon substitute) will be required prior to the blessing. I acknowledge that these requirements may seem discriminatory to some. They are however necessary at the present time, in order that I may exercise pastoral oversight as we venture into this new territory for the diocese. Similarly, I will be expecting parish priests who wish to perform such blessings to engage in significant conversation with the congregation or congregations they serve before they move in this direction. In asking for this, I do not intend in any way to suggest that the appropriate exercise of the priesthood is subject to any other oversight than that of the bishop’s, but to ensure this policy be a matter of open conversation, and that all local voices be heard.
Read it all (pdf).