Wednesday, April 13, 2011

20 Years of Blessing (well, almost!)

I knew it was coming up ... the twenty year anniversary of the first same-sex blessing at All Saints Church in Pasadena. I knew that then-rector George Regas preached his seminal sermon -- God, Sex & Justice -- in 1990.

And I knew that the parish had spent a year in conversation and discernment, led by the rector and the "God, Sex & Justice Task Force." And I knew that Mark Benson and Philip Straw were the first couple to to stand on the All Saints chancel and receive the church's blessing to their already-blessed-by-God relationship.

And so I got to thinking that the 20th anniversary of that groundbreaking ceremony must be coming up soon ... and wouldn't it be great to mark "20 Years of Blessing" in some kind of celebratory way! Well, thanks to "Google" I now know that the service took place on Saturday the 18th of January 1992 ... so we've got a little time to plan the party

Stay tuned for more on that idea ... and in the meantime, here's the 1992 L.A. Times article about Mark and Phil's blessing. (What a difference a coupla decades make!)

Blessing of a Covenant: Gays United in Rites at Prominent Pasadena Church

For eight years they lived together without benefit of marriage. Even after they spoke their vows in a church ceremony witnessed by 500 guests, plenty of people remain convinced that this couple is living in sin.

But when Mark Benson, a 47-year-old physician's assistant, and Philip Straw, a 45-year-old postal worker, promised to love, comfort and honor each other in a ritual last Saturday at All Saints Church in Pasadena, it marked a spiritual evolution. By blessing the Benson-Straw union, All Saints--the largest Episcopal church west of the Mississippi--assumed a bold stance in the crusade to liberalize traditional Christian views concerning homosexuality.

"Homosexuality is such a divisive issue, I'm sure there is a great deal of distress" about the ceremony, said the Rev. George Regas, All Saints' activist rector. "But the people who were there, who know these men, knew this was appropriate and good. . . . It had such a sense of rightness about it," added Regas, who proposed that All Saints confer blessings on gay unions in a November, 1990, sermon titled "God, Sex and Justice.

Such "weddings" or other ceremonies blessing gay unions--while not recognized by the family laws of any state--have been performed for years in the United Church of Christ, the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Church and some other liberal churches and synagogues.

Gay activists and clergy alike consider the All Saints effort significant because of the prominence of the church, which has a membership of about 3,000. According to a church survey, about 8% of the congregation is gay.

The initiative at All Saints--whose congregation is known for its activism in such liberal causes as aid to Central American refugees and opposition to the Persian Gulf War--has been blamed for polarizing factions within the wider Episcopalian church. The denomination, which draws from Catholic and Protestant traditions, is known for embracing people with diverse theological viewpoints.

Episcopalian leaders at last summer's national convention in Phoenix called for more study, prayer and dialogue after they were unable to reach a consensus on the homosexuality issue. They affirmed a traditional Christian standard of sexual morality that advises celibacy for persons who are not part of a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman.

Surveys have indicated that a majority of the 2.4 million Episcopalians nationwide oppose such changes.


Ann said...

Wow - that means about the same length of time for Susie and Jan's wedding at St. John the Evangelist Bowdoin Street in Boston.

Mark said...

Why does All Saints' refer to itself as the largest Episcopal church west of the Mississippi? I love All Saints', of course, but that fact just isn't true. A quick glance at the statistics and numbers of the Episcopal Church show several larger churches. It's not all about size!