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Boston Marriage: Top Episcopalian Clerics Wed in Same-Sex Ceremony

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Jan 3, 2011
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Two highly placed Episcopalian clerics married in Boston in a same-sex wedding celebrated at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.

The wedding took place on New Year’s Day, and joined the Very Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale and Mally Lloyd in holy matrimony, according to a Jan. 2 press release. Ragsdale is the dean and president of Episcopal Divinity School. Lloyd is the Canon to the Ordinary.

The ceremony marked the first same-sex wedding to take place at the cathedral in the nearly seven years since marriage equality was granted in Massachusetts, the first state in the union to extend legal parity to gay and lesbian families.

The wedding was also the first to be officiated over by the Right Reverend M. Thomas Shaw, who serves as the Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. It was only a little more than a year ago, in November, 2009, that Shaw decided to allow clerics in the Diocese of Massachusetts to officiate at all weddings, regardless of the genders of the celebrants, noted the release.

"God always rejoices when two people who love each other make a life long commitment in marriage to go deeper into the heart of God through each other," said Bishop Shaw at the ceremony, which was attended by about 400 people. "It’s a profound pleasure for me to celebrate with God and my friends, the marriage of Katherine and Mally."

"The couple met on June 30, 2008, at the urging of a mutual friend," recounted the release. "At the time, Canon Lloyd, 57, said, ’We were both travelling a lot and so we would talk by phone. And somehow when you talk a lot by phone, a relationship can go deeper more quickly than when you spend time in person. At least that is what happened to us.’ "

The release noted that the marriage is the first for Dean Ragsdale, and the second for Canon Lloyd. "It’s astonishing how the world is changing," Ragsdale said, going on to note, "when I grew up, I never believed I would be able to have someone special in my life and now to have almost 400 people show up to support us at our marriage ceremony is wonderful."

"We have a lot in common," said Canon Lloyd, adding, "we each have a spiritual life that the other understands and respects and we also understand the amount of travelling and often late hours that our work requires. Somehow too when you are in your fifties, certain things just aren’t as big a problem as they seemed in your twenties."

"Though the Episcopal Church’s canons and formularly still state that marriage is between a man and a woman, the church at its General Convention in July of 2009 decided to allow that ’bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church,’ " noted the release.

"Ragsdale, 52, became dean of the historic Episcopal Divinity School in October 2009," the release said. She is the first woman to hold that position. The school is among the most progressive seminaries in the world."

The release went on to say, "Lloyd, 57, as canon to the ordinary to Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE since December 2008, serves as a chief executive, overseeing operations for one of the Episcopal Church’s largest and most politically active dioceses. She is a deputy to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention and a member of the church’s influential Program, Budget and Finance Committee."

Religious and social conservatives blasted the marriage, focusing on Ragsdale’s advocacy for women’s reproductive freedom. "Ever notice how liberal women are almost always fugly (inside and out)?" read text posted at BeJohnGalt on Jan. 2. The text was placed beneath a photo of Ragsdale, who was shown speaking at a rally for reproductive freedom.

BeJohnGalt also suggested that accepting gays among the laity and the clergy was behind declining numbers in open and affirming religious traditions. "Yesterday we were discussing the lack of a moral doctrine in many mainstream Christian religions and how it is hastening their demise," the posting read. "A number of Episco0pal and Anglican bishops and priests have moved to the Catholic Church in recent years and, in several cases, entire parishes have converted to Catholicism, primarily due to the Episcopal Church’s acceptance of homosexuality."

According to contested claims, church attendance overall is declining not only in America, but also in developed nations globally. A 2008 study indicated that all mainstream denominations were losing adherents. One study refuted this, but was itself called into question by survey results that indicated that Americans tend to exaggerate their church attendance. Churches with more modern approaches that target the young have done better than "traditional" churches at maintaining their numbers and vitality.

Participants at conservative chat site FreeRepublic.com posted similar denunciations. "[T]his is why the Episcopalians are nothing but a joke anymore," wrote one. "[T]he evil was welcomed in and now it is destroying."

Wrote another, "How special (and sick).....now WE KNOW homosexuality is their RELIGION..."

"This nut thinks she’s a Christian?!?" posted another. "That’s some strange brand on "Christianity" she’s preaching. Yikes! I hope people run fast & far from her ’message’."

"Hopefully, they used a calliope instead of the church organ to play the ’wedding’ march," quipped another.

Religious site Stand Firm dismissed the wedding as "Circus Entertainment" in a Jan. 3 posting that referred to Ragsdale as a "Lesbian infanticide advocate."

The Episcopal News Service reported on Jan. 3 that Ragsdale was attended at the wedding ceremony by two nephews and a niece. Lloyd’s three children from her first marriage, two sons and a daughter, attended her.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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