The National Cathedral in Washington DC, which is operated by the Episcopal Church of the USA, will soon be among the first Episcopal congregations in the nation to celebrate homosexual marriages. The celebrated worship space, which for more than 100 years, has seen significant events in American history, will now implement a rite of marriage for male and female homosexuals, as well as bisexual and transgender members. The centenarian church bears significant symbolic weight since it is there that the funerals of presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford were held, and remains a center of attraction for many Americans. The church will announce provisions for the rite on January 9.
Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of Washington ruled in December 2012 that her diocese would go ahead and recognize same-sex marriage since both the District of Columbia and Maryland now permit such marriages, in addition to eight other states. The state legislatures of Illinois and Rhode Island are now considering bills to also recognize such homosexual unions, while the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the issue this year in March.
Under a so-called ‘local option’ allowed within the Episcopal Church, the change was allowed by the denomination’s General Convention. Clerics are allowed to decide whether or not to celebrate same-sex marriages. Bishop Budde’s jurisdiction includes the District of Columbia and four counties of the Commonwealth of Maryland.
Episcopalians who support the change see it as a way to build a more inclusive community while also noting societal diversity.
According to a report by AP, Very Reverend Gary Hall of the National Cathedral said "I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do. And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it's being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be." Hall went on to say that the move by ECUSA is a step towards marriage equality in the United States.
The ECUSA represents a portion of the Anglican Communion, which boasts 77 million members around the world. The House of Bishops voted in 2012 to authorize a rite for homosexual marriage. This issue, along with the consecration of declared homosexuals as bishops, has divided the Anglican Communion. Some clerics and laity have left the Anglican Communion and have joined an ordinariate provided by the Catholic Church to accept them and that allows a ritual of the Mass that reflects the centuries old tradition of what started as the established Church of England.