The Episcopal Church has approved a blessing for same-sex couples, becoming the first major denomination to do so. Bishops at the church's general convention in Indianapolis voted 111-41, with three abstentions, in favor of using a provisional rite for gay couples for the next three years, reports the AP. The convention also approved new measures to prevent discrimination against transgendered clergy candidates and church members.
The rite, called "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant," includes a clause stating that nobody in the church will be forced to perform the ceremony. Dissenting bishops said the blessing would put the church "out of the Christian mainstream," but Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde argued that it is needed to honor "lifelong same-sex couples" who "have served Christ and Christ's mission in ways incalculable to measure." The liturgy will feature famed phrases like "we are gathered here today" and "I do"; click to read about which words will be absent.