(The Washington Post) Washington National Cathedral — the seat of the Episcopal Church, one of the world’s largest cathedrals and the host of the official prayer service for the presidential inauguration later this month — has decided to start hosting same-sex weddings...
Even though it is known that the Episcopal Church, a small but prominent part of American Christianity, has been supportive of equality for gay men and lesbians, “it’s something for us to say we are going to do this in this very visible space where we pray for the president and where we bury leaders,” said the Rev. Gary Hall, who became dean of Washington National Cathedral in the fall. “This national spiritual space is now a place where [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people can come and get married...”
Hall said he would have approved the marriages at the cathedral soon anyway but was encouraged by having the formal rite, which he said gives same-sex couples a theologically proper ceremony.
The “heterosexual marriage [ritual] still has some vestiges of patriarchy, with woman being property. There’s hope in same-sex marriage that it is a teachable moment for heterosexual couples. The new rite is grounded in baptism and radical equality of all people before God,” said Hall, who has been blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples for decades. “I’d like to use it for heterosexual weddings because I think it’s so much better than our marriage services.”
Mark Masci, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum who has focused on the issue of same-sex marriage and religion, noted that it is the mainline Protestant denominations in American religion — among them Episcopalians, Presbyterians and United Methodists — who have experienced the most turmoil about the subject. The larger faith communities — the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and most of the nondenominational Christian world — “aren’t even considering these sorts of things.”
He said it’s impossible to predict where the issue is headed, but he noted that younger evangelicals generally seem more open on the topic of homosexuality than middle-aged or older ones.
The cathedral’s decision is the second time in recent weeks that Washington’s new Episcopal leadership has made headlines. Hall and Washington Bishop Mariann Budde, who arrived in the fall of 2011, were among the religious figures who quickly called for gun-control legislation after last month’s massacre in Newtown, Conn.
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