Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Episcopal Bishop Gives Clergy Green Light to Wed Same-Sex Couples

Episcopal clergy in eastern Massachusetts are now allowed to solemnize marriages for "all eligible couples," including gay and lesbian couples.

“It’s time for us to offer to gay and lesbian people the same sacrament of fidelity that we offer to the heterosexual world," Bishop M. Thomas Shaw told The Boston Globe.

Shaw's decision to permit priests to officiate at same-sex weddings went into effect on Sunday. It comes five years after Massachusetts became the first state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

"Christian marriage is a sacramental rite that has evolved in the church, along with confirmation, ordination, penance, and the anointing of the sick, and while it is not necessary for all, it must be open to all as a means of grace and sustenance to our Christian hope," the Episcopal bishop stated.

Leaders of the diocese met in August to develop a policy in response to a resolution passed by The Episcopal Church's highest legislative body this past summer. In July, The Episcopal Church adopted a resolution stating that “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

The resolution also noted the need to consider providing theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships.

The Episcopal Church's House of Deputies further approved a resolution opening the ordination process to all baptized members, including practicing homosexuals.

Dallas bishop the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton rejected the resolution, declaring that the Diocese of Dallas would continue to "stand with the larger Church in affirming the primacy of Scripture, the sanctity of marriage and the call to holiness of life."

But over the past few months a number of dioceses have decided to lift bans on the blessing of same-sex unions, with the Diocese of Massachusetts taking a step further to allow clergy to solemnize same-gender marriages.

"Your bishops understand this (resolution) to mean for us here in the Diocese of Massachusetts that the clergy of this diocese may, at their discretion, solemnize marriages for all eligible couples, beginning Advent I," Shaw explained. "Solemnization, in accordance with Massachusetts law, includes hearing the declaration of consent, pronouncing the marriage and signing the marriage certificate."

He made clear that the provision is an allowance and not a requirement and that any member of the clergy may decline to wed gay and lesbian couples.

The eastern Massachusetts bishop noted to The Boston Globe that the diocese includes "a significant number of gay and lesbian clergy who are in partnerships" along with many gay and lesbian parishioners.

The Diocese of Massachusetts includes approximately 190 parishes and 77,000 church members.

[By Lillian Kwon, Christian Post Reporter]

Is this what happens when a denominational Bishop decides he is God?

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Allow Freedom of Speech

The Supreme Court for the second time in as many weeks refused to hear the case of a high school valedictorian who spoke about their faith in a graduation speech.

The high court said Monday that it would not hear the appeal of Erica Corder, who was forced to apologize for her 2006 speech at the Lewis-Palmer High School commencement in Monument, Colo.

Two weeks earlier, the justices said they would not revive the lawsuit filed by Brittany McComb of Henderson, Nev., who accused school officials of violating her free speech rights and having engaged in viewpoint discrimination when they censored her speech in 2006 because of its Christian content.

In both cases, school officials had screened the valedictorians’ speeches in advance and removed religious references, but the two speakers went forward with talking about their faith.

In Corder’s case, the principal threatened to withhold the valedictorian's diploma unless she issued a public apology for her actions. Notably, however, Corder was still not allowed to graduate even when she issued the apology and wasn't issued a diploma until she added the sentence: “I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did.”

In response, Corder sued, but federal courts threw out her lawsuit, saying the school didn't violate her rights because her remarks were "school-sponsored," rather than private speech.

Fla.-based legal group Liberty Counsel, which asked the Supreme Court to hear Corder's case, argued that "a valedictorian’s speech is not government speech."

“Everyone knows that a valedictorian earned the high GPA and understands the speech belongs to the student,” stated Liberty Counsel Founder Mathew Staver when his legal group filed the request with the Supreme Court in August. “It is reprehensible that the school district threatened to withhold Erica Corder’s diploma, merely because a few sentences of her 30-second speech included references to God.”

Despite the arguments, the school district maintains that "all actions taken by school officials were constitutionally appropriate."

The case is Corder v. Lewis-Palmer School District No. 38.