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Episcopal liturgy for gay marriages created in Vermont

Episcopal liturgy for gay marriages created in Vermont

Vermont's Episcopal diocese has become the first in the country to develop a liturgy--a script for a religious service--in response to a state law making same-sex unions legal. "We have been living with the legal reality of same-sex unions for over three years," Bishop Thomas Ely said in a statement made public Friday. "It is appropriate and timely for the diocese of Vermont to prepare and use these services for members of our congregations." Some Episcopal dioceses have already sanctioned same-sex unions. But Vermont's is the first to do so in a jurisdiction that offers legal recognition to such unions. It also is the first to do so in such a comprehensive manner, said Stan Baker, senior warden--similar to chairman of the board--of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, the Vermont Diocese's head church in Burlington. Baker was also the lead plaintiff in the case that produced what is widely called the Baker decision, a December 1999 Vermont supreme court ruling that called on the legislature to offer something akin to marriage to gays and lesbians. "There isn't another diocese that has this complete a policy, with theological background supporting it, the liturgy itself, and resources for the couple," Baker said. Those include a plan for pastoral counseling of couples before they enter into what will be known as a holy union, he said. Anne Clarke Brown, director of communications for the diocese and also a partner in a civil union, said "it's really a conservative desire on the part of gay and lesbian couples to have our relationships recognized in the church. We want to be held accountable to the same values" as a woman and man making what are meant to be lifelong vows. The national church, the Episcopal Church USA, resolved at its General Convention last year that "local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions."

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