Decision to create task force taken after Tennessee bishop bans same-sex marriages in his diocese despite official permission by Church at national level.

The Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee has turned to the National LGBTQ Task Force to review the Church’s ongoing issues with ministers officiating at same-sex marriages. Although the Episcopal Church at the national level has given official permission in 2015 to all Episcopalian churches to accept gay marriages, it had also allowed bishops to choose whether or not they will accept same-sex marriages at the diocesan level or not.

It was under this provision that the bishop of Tennessee, John Bauerschmidt, banned the clergy in his diocese from officiating same-sex marriages. Although he hasn’t said he diocese won’t be accepting these couples, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee feel that the ban is an impediment to the progress the Episcopal church has been making.

Bishop Bauerschmidt has asked same-sex couples who want to get married to do so in another diocese. As the power to allow same-sex marriages rests with the bishops, same-sex couples are forced to look for dioceses where same-sex marriages are allowed and get married there. The Bishop himself refers the couples to neighboring Kentucky.

Clergy and lay people from the diocese desired the Bishop to lift the ban. Instead of the usual submission of a proposal to the National Church, the Episcopalians selected a task force which would study same-sex marriages closely; possibly with an aim to come up with a way to encourage the bishop to lift the ban. The decision to create a task force was approved by over two-thirds of the delegates who attended the Annual Convention that was held at Christ Church in Nashville on January 21, 2017.

The resolution to create a task force was taken in place of three others, which directly dealt with same-sex marriage itself. Two of the resolutions asked to expand the power of deciding whether or not to officiate at a same-sex marriage to all ministers. One was directly aimed at encouraging the bishop to lift his ban.

Those who supported the resolutions that asked to extend the power to all ministers believe that the power to allow same-sex marriages has already been given, and that they seek only to extend this power to all the representatives of God at the Church.

Susan Huggins, co-chair of the task force, has announced the members who will be part of the task force. The task force will be able to give their recommendations to the panel at the 2018 Annual Convention.

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