Episcopal church leaders saddened by sanctions for performing gay marriages

The day-to-day operations of the church or commitment to marriage equality won’t change, officials stressed.

The Episcopalian Trinity Church in Boston.

As a married gay man, Episcopalian vicar Bill Rich felt personally stung by the new sanctions imposed this week on American Episcopalians for allowing clergy to perform same-sex marriages.

But he wasn’t surprised. The sanctions, which include stripping the U.S. Episcopal church of voting rights within the Anglican Communion for three years, come after years of debate of same-sex marriage within the church.

“To a certain extent, I’m over it,’’ said Rich, vicar of the Episcopal Trinity Church in Boston. “But the American church has made it completely clear through our presiding bishop that these sanctions are not going to have an impact on our choices about how we treat gay and lesbian, bisexuals and transgender people, and it’s not going to stop us from having committed ourselves to marriage equality.’’

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The decision came during a week-long meeting in Europe summoned by the archbishop of Canterbury.

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates and the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, vowed to support LGBT members of the church.

“We re-affirm [sic] our commitment to the full inclusion of all Christian persons, including LGBTQ Christians, in the life of the church–its fellowship, its leadership and its sacramental life,’’ they wrote. “This commitment is firm in the Diocese of Massachusetts, where we have known the immeasurable grace brought to our life together by such full inclusion.’’

The reverends also reaffirmed their place as a member of the Anglican Communion and said the sanctions won’t change operations within the church.

“News media reports that the Episcopal Church has been suspended from the Anglican Communion’ reflect a misconception regarding our polity and identity,’’ they said in a statement.

Trinity church, located in Back Bay, is known for being inclusive of the LGBT community.

That won’t change because of these sanctions, Rich said, stressing the fact that decisions within the American church are made independently of the Anglican Communion. Still, both the Diocese and Rich expressed regret that it has come to this.

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“Of course it’s sad,’’ Rich said. “Whenever Christians of any kind particularly Christians within the Anglican Communion can’t agree to disagree more charitably, it is deeply sorrowful.’’

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