PROVINCE I: Pastoral resource issued for same-gender couples counseling

November 23, 2008

A Province I task force has issued "a pastoral resource for Province I Episcopal clergy ministering to same-sex couples." The document is the first of its kind in the Episcopal Church.

The report was accepted at the Province I synod held November 21 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord, New Hampshire with a resolution stating that its "use is to be determined by diocesan bishops."

The document consists of four parts: an historical and theological overview of same-gender unions; an exploration of issues specific to same-gender couples and their congregations; a statement of legalities, which vary from state-to-state; and a framework for counseling same-gender couples who desire a public commitment. An appendix of websites, books, documents and other resources is also included in the report.

In an interview, Province I president Marjorie Burke said, "This document is a gift to the entire Episcopal church." She noted that several states outside New England are considering the issue of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Two states in Province I, Massachusetts and Connecticut, allow same-sex marriage, and two other states in the province, New Hampshire and Vermont, allow civil unions.

The task force consisted of nine clergy and lay members of dioceses in the New England province. It was recommended by Province I's executive council in November, 2005 and formed in April of the following year.

According to Susan Ohlidal, provincial executive director, the report will be copyrighted and posted on the Province I website by the end of this year.

-- The Rev. Lisa B. Hamilton is correspondent for Provinces I, II, III and IV. She is based in Venice, Florida and Sandisfield, Massachusetts.

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