The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida, has authorized his clergy to provide pastoral blessings—but not to preside over same-sex weddings—within about a month.
Bishop Frade announced his decision to a clergy conference that met on Sept. 9 and 10. Bishop Frade has asked the Very Rev. Douglas William McCaleb, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, to lead a team that will gather liturgies and write guidelines for blessings of same-sex couples. The blessings will be provided only to couples who have a marriage certificate from any U.S. state that permits same-sex marriage, or from countries such as Canada or Spain that have authorized same-sex couples to marry, the bishop said.
Bishop Frade said he had asked a drafting committee of fellow bishops during General Convention whether such blessings might also be extended to civil unions. In his diocese, for instance, many elderly heterosexual couples are married in all but the legal sense because of dire tax consequences. The bishops at General Convention did not make provisions for such couples, he said, and he will respect those limits.
“Our hope is that this won’t distract us from the mission of the church,” Bishop Frade said. “We are in the fishing business, not in throwing out.”
Bishop Frade cited a meditation he delivered at the 11th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in September 1999. “If gays and lesbians of this world are sinners, then we should be sitting down with them to eat and drink as our Lord did during his time with those that were called sinners,” he said then. “I want to make sure that they are able to see the Lord among them—the compassionate Christ that keeps appearing in the gospels in the company of sinners.”