Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church concluded yesterday in Indianapolis. During the last eight days of legislative business, we have passed a budget for 2013-2015, approved the formation of a task force that will work on restructuring the church, and considered many theological, pastoral, and social issues.
The headlines have been grabbed by General Convention's passage of one particular resolution: A049, which approves a provisional rite for blessing same sex unions. This rite and its accompanying resources are the result of a collaborative, churchwide process that has unfolded over the past three years and has included input from the House of Bishops and from leaders in this diocese.
For more than 30 years, The Episcopal Church has considered its response to the pastoral needs of lesbian and gay Christians. This General Convention's decision to authorize a trial rite for blessing same-gender unions recognizes the Holy Spirit at work in the committed, life-long unions of lesbian and gay people. Across our church, there are Episcopalians and other Anglicans who have been drawn further into fidelity and service to the world by living in committed same-sex partnerships based on holy love and the gift of seeing Christ in one another.
As you know from the letter I sent to you before General Convention, I support the step we have taken by authorizing a rite for blessing same sex unions, but other faithful Episcopalians do not. The Episcopal Church in Northwestern Pennsylvania is a place where people of good conscience can disagree about such matters. We respect and love each other and we are united in Christ, which is a bond stronger than any legislation or issue.
I will authorize the use of the new provisional rite for same sex blessings in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, but no member of the clergy will be required to perform this rite. Between now and the first Sunday in Advent, which is the earliest date the approved rite may be used, I will consult with the Standing Committee to determine a process for congregational conversation, discernment, and reconciliation.
As I make my way home from Indianapolis, I look forward to talking with you about the work of the General Convention and to the path of discernment that we will travel together.
Your servant and bishop,
Sean W. Rowe (The Rt. Rev.)