It doesn't matter if you attend religious services weekly or if you have fallen away, if you're atheist or agnostic, if you think religion is the opiate of the people or the road to peace - established religion in America is an important force.
So when the bishops of the Episcopal Church voted this week to affirm gay clergy, it was an important move..... to all of us who support gay and lesbian rights, for a couple reasons.
First, the Episcopal Church is seen as the canary in the coal mine by other mainline Protestant Churches. They are waiting to see if accepting gays and lesbians as full members of the church will lead to a breaking away from the international church, or whether different views will be able to co-exist happily.
If the Anglican fellowship survives with an inclusive Episcopal Church, it might lead other denominations - Lutherans, Presbyterians - to follow the example of the United Church of Christ and become fully inclusive of gays and lesbians as well.
And once all Mainline Protestant churches start approving of gay marriage, it will be very difficult for politicians and anti-marriage advocates to make a religious argument against gay marriage, since it will be even more clear that not all denominations agree on this issues.
Secondly, however, the entire issue points out something that those of us who are American gays and lesbians often forget: the rights (or lack thereof) of gays and lesbians internationally has an effect on us here at home.....
More rights here can mean more rights abroad. And more rights abroad, means more rights and respect here.
And what did the Episcopalians do? They voted to reiterate their support that GLBT people can be bishops, and yesterday, voted to allow same-sex blessings in their church.
The NY Times describes it,
The bishops of the Episcopal Church agreed Wednesday to a compromise measure that stops short of developing an official rite for same-sex unions, but gives latitude to bishops who wish to go ahead and bless such unions, particularly in states that have legalized such marriages.....[T]he vote was a momentous step for a church that has been mired in intrafactional warfare over homosexuality for more than a decade. ....many Episcopalians at the convention here believe they will have support and will not be ostracized. They are drawing on the testimony of Anglican guests from Africa, Asia and Latin America, who they have brought to the convention here as proof that they have international allies.How's that canary singing?