The Episcopal Church has officially become the largest U.S. denomination to approve the sanction of same-sex unions.
In a vote on Tuesday evening by its House of Deputies, the Episcopal Church approved a measure to allow same-sex civil unions and civil marriages but not actual same-sex marriage.
Supporters of the same-sex blessings by the Episcopal Church did make clear that this approval did not include marriage ceremonies, despite any similarities. Instead the ceremony is called the “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” in which prayers are held and vows and rings are exchanged.
To participate in “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” same-sex couples must complete counseling before their unions or civil marriages are blessed by the Episcopal Church.
Many other mainline Protestant churches in recent years have created barriers for gay ordination or instead allowed individual congregations to celebrate gay or lesbian unions. The United Church of Christ is the only major U.S. Protestant group to fully endorse same-sex marriage.
According to the website for the Episcopal Church, "The Cognate Subcommittee on Blessings of the Committee 13, Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music," reports that its resolution "also asks the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to undertake further study during the next three years on how the blessing of lifelong, committed same-sex relationships relates to Christian theology and scripture, and to reflect on the matter with our sisters and brothers throughout the Anglican Communion and with our ecumenical partners."