The Episcopal Church in the United States has decided to scrap the terms "husband" and "wife" from its marital liturgy in its latest move to find favor with the LGBT community. Phrases related to "procreation" will also be deleted, as they may offend those who do not identify as heterosexual.
According to LifeSite News, the change aims to make the church's marriage ceremonies more "gay-friendly." Indeed, Gay and lesbian Episcopalians have been increasingly vocal in their complaints that the language of the current liturgy is both offensive and exclusionary. Being a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the US Episcopal Church comes under the loose governance of the Church of England, and consequently the Archbishop of Canterbury.
According to the Telegraph, the Church of England's Secretary General William Nye has been heavily critical of the change to such a sacred text and even threatened to cut ties with the U.S. church if it decides to introduce the new service as standard, and toss out the current wording in its Book of Common Prayer.
The drastic change would see the new service replace the phrase "the union of husband and wife" with "the union of two people."
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Couples will still be able to opt for the most traditional "husband" and "wife" when making their vows, but this will not be included in the standardized version. In his letter, Nye urged that using the new language as standard would lead to a growing "pressure to dissociate" the Church of England from the U.S. Episcopal church, warning that conservative members would see any such change to marriage liturgy as "completely unacceptable." Nye warned the Episcopal Church to avoid "irrevocably redefining marriage" through railroading their new liturgical language into Church proceedings.
However, many liberal members of the Church of England have voiced their support for the move, and hit back at Nye for speaking on their behalf.
"Thank you for leading the way on this important issue," a group wrote in an open letter posted online.
"We are grateful that you have recognised that not all married couples can have children and that a gender-neutral approach will enable us to become a loving and inclusive Church for all. We still have a few problems to sort out over here with those who keep threatening to leave, but we know that your actions have given great hope to thousands and shown that the Church is not as homophobic as it can sometimes appear.
We therefore want to publicly 'dissociate' ourselves from Mr Nye's initial response and are expecting 'stringent consequences' as a result of his actions."
Another liberal faith organization affiliated with the Church of England penned a direct response to Nye following his published letter.
"You will be aware that your previously undisclosed letter to The Episcopal Church has been met with anger, frustration and disappointment by many across the Church of England, on whose behalf you presume to speak," read a letter from OneBodyOneFaith, addressed to Nye.
In its About Us section, OneBody's website reads:
"OneBodyOneFaith works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual. transgender and intersex people in the Christian churches. We believe that human sexuality in all its richness is a gift of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way both of expressing and growing in love, and that it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex, but to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship."
The head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has continued to affirm the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. With that being said, Welby made some controversial remarks in a November 2017 interview in which he stated that he was unable to say whether sodomy is sinful or not.
"You know very well that is a question I can't give a straight answer to. Sorry, badly phrased there. I should have thought that one through," Welby told former Labour Party spin doctor Alastair Campbell in a candid interview at GQ Magazine.
"I don't do blanket condemnation and I haven't got a good answer to the question," he added. "I'll be really honest about that. I know I haven't got a good answer to the question. Inherently, within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships."
"I am also aware – a view deeply held by tradition since long before Christianity, within the Jewish tradition — that marriage is understood invariably as being between a man and a woman. Or, in various times, a man and several women, if you go back to the Old Testament.
I know that the Church around the world is deeply divided on this in some places, including the Anglicans and other Churches, not just us, and we are — the vast majority of the Church is — deeply against gay sex."
Welby added: "I don't think it is sinful to say that you disagree with gay sex. But to express that by way of hatred for people is absolutely wrong in the same way as misogyny or racism is wrong."