A Lowcountry Episcopal bishop has granted permission for priests to bless same-sex couples in committed relationships.
The decision announced Tuesday by the Right Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, leader of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, follows the May decision by Bishop Andrew Waldo, who heads the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.
Like Waldo, vonRosenberg made it clear that priests are not required to perform the rite, which was approved at the 2012 general convention of The Episcopal Church.
“I do want to be clear that this permission does not define an expectation for clergy,” vonRosenberg wrote in his letter to the priests. “In your own life of prayer and within community, you will decide how to respond to this statement of permission.”
South Carolina has not legalized same-sex marriage, so the blessings performed constitute a spiritual commitment between the partners. Before a priest performs the blessing ceremony, the vestry or mission committee of his or her church must approve the liturgy.
The decision comes in the same month that The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina are mired in a court battle over who has the rights to the diocese name and, most importantly, its extensive properties.
The Right Rev. Mark Lawrence exited the national Episcopal church over its growing liberalism but with the support of a majority of priests kept intact the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and remains its leader.
Those aligned with the national church formed The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.