Last Saturday, two lesbian ministers of the Episcopal Church (the high priestess of abortion Katharine Ragsdale, president of Episcopal Divinity School, and the Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Massachusetts, Margaret Lloyd) got “married” in Boston in a ceremony officiated by Bishop Thomas Shaw. Peter Ould has an excellent analysis of the “marriage” liturgy, which was essentially that of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer refitted for two women.

The most interesting thing to me about the liturgy was the readings. The first was from Ruth 1:16-18, which has to do with friendship rather than marriage, but which is, I supposed, used to put listeners in mind of the ridiculous thesis that Ruth and Naomi were lesbians. The gospel lesson is from Luke 10:38-41, the story of Mary and Martha, which I guess was chosen because it has two women in it–I can’t see any other special relevance that it might have. But the best one is the second reading, which is normally taken from the epistles (Ephesians 5:22-33 or 1 Corinthians 13, for example). This one was taken from a most unusual source:

THE SECOND READING: From “Goodridge vs. Department of Health” by Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” … Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil
marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of selfdefinition.

So what’s this about? I can think of three possibilities:

1) Secular court decisions now have more spiritual authority than Paul among the sexually enlightened in the Episcopal Church.

2) What is moral is determined by what is legal in the Episcopal Church, so this works as well as anything.

3) There is no longer any respect for the integrity of Christian liturgy in the Massachusetts diocese, so what the hey! (Coming soon: readings from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance.)

Feel free to add your own speculations in the comments.