As of Sunday, clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin — which includes St. Francis Episcopal Church of Turlock — may perform blessings of same gender civil unions and domestic partnerships.
The change in church policy was announced Tuesday by the diocese. The Rt. Rev. Chester Talton, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, authorized "the clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin (to) perform blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships characterized by `fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.' "
In Turlock, there have been no requests for same gender blessing ceremonies, said Rev. Kathryn Galicia of St. Francis Episcopal Church. But Galicia doesn’t foresee any negative responses within the congregation to the new church policy.
“We did as the Bishop requested and discussed it among ourselves,” Galicia said. “We support the Bishop in this and we think it’s time to care for the people pastorally.”
The official authorization of the same gender blessings by the Bishop outlines the history of the shift in doctrine and cites a 1976 resolution of the church’s General Convention, which stated in part, “That it is the sense of the General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.”
The authorization goes on to state that, “Couples in (same gender relationships) are part of the Diocese of San Joaquin. They are in our congregations and in positions of leadership. They are our friends, neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ. It is now time, to the extent permitted by California law and the canons of The Episcopal Church, to extend to these couples the ‘generous pastoral response’ necessary to meet their needs as members of this Church.”
The church’s policy change was released to congregations and members of the diocese in May.
The authorization clarifies that clergy are still not allowed to perform same gender marriages, until such time as both the Canons of the Church and state law permit such unions.
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