Many Episcopalians across Oklahoma will learn Sunday why their bishop recently voted in a favor of a liturgical blessing for same-sex relationships.
The Rt. Rev. Ed Konieczny, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, said he has asked clergy at Episcopal churches throughout the state to read to their parishioners his letter dated Thursday outlining his reasons for supporting the same-gender rites.
The measure, approved this week at the Episcopal Church USA's General Convention in Indianapolis, includes an amendment proposed by Konieczny, which gives bishops oversight on the same-sex blessing in their diocese and also protects clergy from being forced to perform such rites.
Monday, Konieczny voted for “Resolution A049,” which allows clergy to use the rite called “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.” Konieczny was joined by other leaders in the House of Bishops, one of two voting bodies for the denomination, in approving the same-sex rites with a 111-41 vote, with three abstentions.
On Tuesday, the other voting body, the House of Deputies, also voted to authorize the rite. The liturgy can be used starting Dec. 2, the first Sunday in Advent.
A difficult decision
In a telephone interview with The Oklahoman, Konieczny said the vote was one of the most difficult decisions he has made in his almost five years as Oklahoma's Episcopal bishop. He also said the denomination's approval of same-sex rites is one that will reverberate within the Episcopal Church USA and the worldwide Anglican Communion of which it is a part.
The denomination — the American arm of the Anglican Communion — caused a furor when it became the first mainline Christian denomination to ordain an openly gay bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, in 2003. Konieczny said the latest resolution likely will invite more criticism — but support, as well.
“It will be seen by many in the Anglican Communion as one more step of departure of the Episcopal Church in the United States from the church itself. Those who are already feeling that we've acted in inappropriate ways and have made decisions without regard for the larger Communion will certainly see this in that same light,” he said.
“I also think there will be others in the Communion who will see it as something which opens up the opportunity for the church to truly witness and experience committed relationships by gay and lesbian persons and allow us the room to fully discern — beyond just conversation and rhetoric — an actual experience of persons in their life and ministry.”