by Jimmy Tobias
On Feb. 6, Missoula’s Holy Spirit Episcopal Church announced that its governing body, with support from the congregation, had approved the blessing of same-sex unions. It becomes the largest denomination in Missoula to approve such a rite.
Rev. Terri Ann Grotzinger, the church’s rector, says her congregation went through a long process of discussion and discernment before the church’s leadership committee took a vote on the issue.
“Not everybody agrees in the Episcopal church on what we should or shouldn’t do on lots of different things. We often have widely differing views in the same congregation,” Grotzinger says. “We listened to those views. … And then the [leadership committee] had to say where they were and why and vote on it.”
The leadership group, also know as the vestry, unanimously supported same-sex blessings.
“I personally was very awed and impressed by the thoughtfulness and the depth of caring that people expressed in written form and oral form,” says Bob Wattenberg, senior warden of Holy Spirit’s vestry. “People thought about this. … I think the church got it right.”
Along with Holy Spirit in Missoula, Saint James’ Episcopal Church in Bozeman and Calvary Episcopal Church in Red Lodge have also approved the rite.
Holy Spirit joins a growing group of local congregations that affirm committed same-sex relationships. Other churches in the area that recognize same-sex unions include the University Congregational Church, or UCC, and the local Unitarian Universalist congregation. UCC’s Rev. Peter Schober, whose church started performing same-sex blessings in 1993, says that religious communities are moving in the right direction when it comes to gay rights.
“It’s like we hit a tipping point a couple years ago and now we have gone from one way of being to a whole different way of being,” he says. “It really has been unbelievably gratifying to see that change occur and it is a great example of how, with social justice issues, there is a long arc and finally you get there.”