NORTHWESTERN PENNSYLVANIA —
The Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania will allow its clergy to bless the unions of same-sex couples, Bishop Sean Rowe has announced.
“For 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed, studied and discerned about our Christian understanding of same-sex relationships. Today we recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the committed, life-long unions of lesbian and gay people,” said Rowe, a native of Sharon who was elected bishop by the people of the diocese in 2007.
“When we celebrate these committed partnerships, the entire church and community is blessed by the love and fidelity of these faithful couples,” Rowe said.
Congregations in the diocese, which is based in Erie and includes 34 churches in the state’s 13 northwestern counties, can choose to participate in theological study, reflection and conversation about blessing same-sex unions. Once the congregation’s priest and its governing board of laypeople, called a vestry, decide to bless same-sex unions, they will confer with Bishop Rowe for permission.
Same-sex blessings will be conducted using the liturgical rite, or service, approved in July by The Episcopal Church’s governing body, called the General Convention. Churchwide use of the rite began Dec 2.
Some of the diocese’s congregations are expected to begin a period of study and conversation about same-sex unions immediately, said Rowe, while others may enter the process in the future and some may elect not to participate at all.
“I support blessing same-sex unions, but some of my faithful fellow Episcopalians do not,” said Rowe.
“The Episcopal Church in Northwestern Pennsylvania is a place where people of good conscience can disagree charitably about such matters. We respect and love each other, and we are united in the hope and healing of Jesus Christ.”