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Episcopal priest
blesses union of gay couple in Arkansas

Episcopal priest
blesses union of gay couple in Arkansas

An Episcopal priest who was the first to bless a gay couple in Arkansas says it was not his intent to be the first at anything but rather to recognize two men who "discovered God's presence in a redeeming, life-giving way" over the past 15 years. The Reverend Ed Wills, the pastor at St. Michael's in west Little Rock, blessed the relationship of Ted Holder and Joe van den Heuvel on Saturday night in a service before approximately 200 people.

The Right Reverend Larry Maze, bishop of the 55 congregations in the Episcopal diocese of Arkansas, in July authorized blessings for same-sex couples. Seven other dioceses have written policies for the practice, while others haven't formalized the process.

"I just wanted the sign of the cross made over our relationship," Holder said. Van den Heuvel added, "It's good to be somewhere where you can feel the love of other people and to be honest about yourself. It just felt good and right."

Holder, 53, and Van den Heuvel, 50, were raised in other Protestant congregations (Holder a Methodist and Van den Heuvel, Dutch Reformed) and became Episcopalians shortly after they met, seeking a more formal liturgy. The pair said they joined St. Michael's after leaving another Episcopal congregation that wouldn't consider blessing their relationship. (AP)

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