The Episcopal churches in Mississippi will be permitted to bless same-sex unions under a scheme put forward by Bishop Duncan M. Gray, III.
In his presidential address to the 186th annual meeting of the diocese on 1 Feb 2013, Bishop Gray said congregations could not offer gay marriages, and were not free to offer blessing of gay unions at will.
However congregational leaders “will be free to enter into a process of prayer and study on the matter. They will be asked to submit the design and results of their study and also to explain to the Bishop how the blessing of same gender unions would enhance the congregation’s missional efforts,” the diocesan website said.
Bishop Gray stated the process for introducing gay blessings to Mississippi was one similar to that adopted by the Diocese of Texas. The Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle, has stated that while his is personally opposed to gay blessings, he would not block congregations from going forward with the innovation. St David’s Episcopal Church in Austin has taken up the bishop on his offer and is expected to be the first Texas Episcopal Church to offer the temporary provisional rite authorized by the 2012 General Convention in Indianapolis.
The bishop said he had initiated the Mississippi gay blessing scheme in order to avoid the issue dominating the election of his successor. Bishop Gray announced a call for a bishop coadjutor, with a tentative election date set for 3 May 2013. He told the Diocesan Council meeting he planned to remain in office until February 2015 when he would retire.
Bishop Gray told the Council the Mississippi gay blessing scheme was a temporary measure that would expire in 2015. And it was not mandatory. “No priest, no vestry, no congregation will be asked to do anything that violates their conscience,” he said, adding that gay blessings “will only be authorized in congregations” that has asked his permission and followed his study guide.