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US bishop authorises official church blessings for same-sex couples

California bishop Chester Talton said committed gay relationships are a “sacred union” and they will be officially recognised by the church from Sunday.

File photo
File photo
Image: Damian Dovarganes/AP/Press Association Images

AN ANGLICAN BISHOP in California has said that gay couples can now have their relationships blessed in church – bringing gay marriage a step closer to religious acceptance.

Bishop Chester Talton has told priests in his diocese of San Joaquin that they “may perform blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships.” The relationships will be recognised as “sacred unions” by the church.

California has seen bitter battles over the legitimacy of same-sex relationships, with gay marriage legal for a brief period until it was outlawed by the high-profile Proposition 8 constitutional amendment which voters narrowly accepted in 2008.

However, a statement from the diocese said that gay couples “are part of the Diocese of San Joaquin. They are in our congregations and in positions of leadership. They are our friends, neighbours, and brothers and sisters in Christ.” Blessings will be performed at churches across the region from this Sunday, the Lodi News-Sentinel reports.

The statement warned that priests cannot perform gay marriages until they are legalised by canon and state law. However, the diocese went further than state authorities in the range of partnerships which can be blessed.

Currently, California only gives legal recognition to domestic partnerships between same-sex couples if one of the pair is 62 or older. But the diocesan statement said any same-sex relationships could be blessed if they were marked 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.”

About the author:

Michael Freeman

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