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Committee to assess same-sex rites plan

The bishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma has formed a committee of clergy and lay people to come up with recommendations regarding how the diocese will respond to a resolution allowing clergy to perform same-sex liturgical blessings.
by Carla Hinton Published: December 8, 2012
/articleid/3735563/1/pictures/1902665">Photo - The Rt. Rev. Edward Konieczny, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma
 <strong>PAUL HELLSTERN - The Oklahoman</strong>
The Rt. Rev. Edward Konieczny, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma PAUL HELLSTERN - The Oklahoman

“I love to take the time to listen to people pastorally, to allow people to express themselves, to get some level of understanding about where we're going.”

Facing challenges

Konieczny said the same-sex blessing resolution is challenging for several reasons.

He said some people have expressed concern that the same-sex liturgical blessing in the resolution closely mirrors the marriage liturgy contained in the denomination's prayer book. Konieczny said both the blessing and the marriage ceremony include similar components such as a declaration of intent, exchange of vows and exchange of rings.

Konieczny said these similarities are part of an ongoing debate in the church.

Another challenge is that some members of the church do not approve of the same-gender rites.

Konieczny said he does not think many of them are uncomfortable with homosexual individuals so much as they find the same-sex liturgical blessing to be contrary to what they grew up with.

“It comes around from their understanding about what they have known in their lives about traditional marriage,” he said. “We all carry around those tapes that we play about the way that we were raised, the values that we've come to understand as our own moral compass in our lives.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the same-gender blessing resolution is a state constitutional amendment that effectively bans same-gender marriage in Oklahoma.

Konieczny said the committee will need to remember that there are no legal implications connected to the same-sex liturgical blessing.

He said this is unlike the marriage ceremony, in which clergy in Oklahoma act as agents of the state.

“It (liturgical blessing) does not, and I know this is another part of the conversation with gay and lesbian persons, have the legal rights that go forth with marriage,” he said. “Those are civil decisions that are made by civil authorities not by the church.”

Konieczny said the diocese will have to be cautious so that gay and lesbian couples do not mistakenly perceive that the church's pastoral response in administering the blessing carries any legal rights.

He said he is optimistic that the new committee will help the diocese move forward in regards to the same-sex blessing issue, no matter the difficulty.

“I'm very aware that this is challenging conversation for lots of people and I'm respectful of that,” he said.

“I want to make sure we don't do things arbitrarily and that we hopefully in the Diocese of Oklahoma can be an example of living out our baptismal covenant of honoring and respecting the human dignity of all human beings and, at the same time, work for those things in society that require that we see how justice is implemented.”

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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