Contact: Loralei Coyle 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, email@example.com; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton, firstname.lastname@example.org; both with The Institute on Religion and Democracy
WASHINGTON, June 4 /Christian Newswire/ -- New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed a law on May 31 that makes civil unions for homosexual couples legal; it will take effect in January 2008. The governor stated his belief that the civil unions will not "threaten" marriage. The Episcopal Church's bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, told the press that Episcopal priests in the diocese can bless civil unions: "Just like in marriages, every priest will have the option to bless or not to bless."
IRD Director of Anglican Action Ralph Webb commented,
"Bishop Robinson's allowance of blessing civil unions as a local option—even though such blessings are not required of priests—provides yet another illustration of how the Episcopal Church opposes the traditional definition of marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman.
"It's tragic that just within the last year, we have seen increasing evidence of a hardening of this position. Some Episcopal Church parishioners, parishes, parachurch groups, and diocesan bishops opposed state marriage amendments upholding the traditional definition of marriage last fall. And this spring, the denomination's Executive Council passed a resolution urged against future General Conventions being held in states where the marriage amendments are in effect.
"And the tragedy is on full display in the bishop's phrase, 'Just like in marriages.' What's at stake here is the Judeo-Christian understanding that no other relationship—whether that of cohabiting heterosexual couples or same-sex partners—in which two people commit to living together can approximate marriage or should receive the church's blessing. That understanding informs the Episcopal Church's own Book of Common Prayer.
"It's the Episcopal Church's stance against that understanding that has led to many of the current problems in the Anglican Communion today—and that has led it to disregard the concerns of the primates of the Anglican Communion. It is also partially that stance that has led many thousands of Episcopalians to leave the denomination in the last few years."
Special Note: The primates (i.e., leaders of Anglican Communion provinces) have given the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops until September 30 to provide assurances that it will neither authorize same-sex blessings nor consent to the consecration of bishops living in a same-sex relationship.