[Diocese of Chicago] The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, sent this letter to his diocese earlier this evening when marriage equality legislation passed the Illinois General Assembly:
November 5, 2013
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Earlier today, the Illinois General Assembly voted to approve marriage equality and soon Governor Quinn will sign the bill into law. As you know, I have long supported this move, and I am proud of the many Episcopalians across our diocese whose hard work and fervent prayers have made this day possible.
The scriptures tell us to testify to what we have seen, and in communities and congregations across our diocese, we have seen that extending legal protection and respect to same-sex couples has created stronger, happier households and contributed to the common good. Now in Illinois, the respect afforded by civil unions has been extended to the dignity of true equality. I rejoice that it is now easier for our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers to order their lives together, to care for one another and to raise children in a stable home. Justice has been done.
Because both church and state claim authority over the institution of marriage, this legal victory takes on theological dimensions. As I have written before, I believe that marriage is a sacred vocation. The union of two persons in heart, body and mind is a school of holiness, a way of ordering our lives so that we might learn to be more faithful servants of Christ. I also believe that the faithful, loving, and lifelong union of two persons–of the same sex or of opposite sexes–is capable of signifying the never failing love of God in Christ for the church and the world. Such unions can be sources and signs of grace, both for the couple and for the wider community. And I believe that we need all of the sources and signs of grace that we can get.
Here in the Diocese of Chicago, once marriage equality takes effect in June 2014, clergy will be permitted, but not required, to witness same-sex marriages in the State of Illinois and to officiate at the blessing of these holy unions using “I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing,” the liturgical rite approved by General Convention in 2012.
I am grateful to be a bishop in a state that offers all couples equality and in a church that provides all couples with a community of faith, love, support and accountability.
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee
Bishop of Chicago