INDIANAPOLIS, July 10, 2012 ( — Yesterday, the House of Bishops of the Episcopalian Church approved a new provisional blessing for gay unions, while the full General Convention voted in favor of general acceptance for transgender clergy.

The votes are likely to drive a further wedge between the Episcopalian Church and the Worldwide Anglican Communion, which has been torn apart in recent years by the debate about homosexuality.

At the denomination’s convention in Indianapolis, the House of Bishops voted 111-41 in favor of Resolution A049, a motion to instate a rite for blessing same-sex unions. That vote clears the resolution for consideration by the House of Deputies, which must also approve it before it becomes official church policy.

In a separate vote, the Episcopal House of Deputies approved “anti-discrimination language” for transgendered clergy candidates, making clear the church-wide acceptance of ordination of “transgender” persons.

Some Episcopalian bishops spoke out against the resolution on same-sex blessings. Bishop Bauerschmidt, of The Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, urged the bishops to defeat the resolution.

“I speak in opposition to Resolution A049,” he said in defend true marriage.

The rite, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” includes a conscience clause that allows clergy to “decline to [preside at any rite of blessing defined herein]” reports the Episcopal News Service. It states that: “no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection” to the resolution. 

The resolution proposes that the liturgy be authorized for provisional use in Episcopal churches beginning on December 2, 2012. It will remain provisional for the next three years, while the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) undertakes “further study.”

Reverend David Thurlow, a member of the committee, also advocated rejecting the resolution. “For two thousand years the Church has had clear teaching regarding Christian marriage and Biblical norms of sexual behavior,” he said, pointing out that “through previous statements and resolutions the Church has pledged itself not to make any change to this traditional teaching.”

He said the resolution represents “a clear break and departure” from doctrine, “introducing and acting upon a new theology of human sexuality inconsistent with the clear teaching of Scripture.”

Likewise, Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana stood against the resolution, reports the Central Florida Episcopalian.

“The Christian world is going to understand us as having changed the nature of the sacrament of holy matrimony,” Bishop Little said. “The Christian world will look at that liturgy world and see vows, and exchange of rings, a pronouncement and a blessing and they will understand that to mean the Episcopal Church has endorsed same-sex marriage and changed a basic Christian doctrine. I do not believe that we are free to do that.”