Last evening, the House of Bishops at the General Convention to the Episcopal Church decided in for a penny, in for a pound. As long as they were going to toss one moratorium (on ordaining sexually active gay bishops), they might as well toss the other one as well. They passed a resolution giving the go-ahead for the development and use of same-sex union blessings. Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm has the gory details:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further

The references to “changing circumstances” and “civil jurisdictions” is their way of saying one of two things, if not both: 1) They have been looking for the states to give them an excuse to go ahead with what they wanted to do anyway; and 2) they are letting the states set the agenda for the church.

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological, and liturgical resources and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

This is not their way of saying that they want African (except maybe South African) input. It’s their way of saying that they want to work with the Canadians and any others who may have already started down this road.

Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further

“Generous pastoral response” means that dioceses in New England and Iowa may now proceed to do as they please. The rest of you will have to wait until these are officially authorized in 2012, unless your state legalizes same-sex marriage or civil unions between now and then, in which case please proceed.

Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further

This means, “we won. Tough nuts.” There seems to be a question about whether dissenters will be allowed to forgo the blessing of same-sex relationships, given that there was a “conscience clause” in the resolution before it was amended. The reason for dropping it, according to some proponents, is that there’s no way to force any cleric to perform any given marriage or marriage-like ceremony, plus the church-wide rites aren’t in place yet. I’m sure opponents of women’s ordination, who were assured back in the 1970s that they would never have to go against their conscience and ordain women, can tell the opponents of this measure all about how much the Episcopal Church’s assurances are worth.

Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort.

This still has to pass the House of Deputies, but the chances of it failing there are about as great as the chances of the Washington Nationals winning the World Series this year. I can’t wait to see N.T. Wright’s response to this.