Virginia Episcopal Bishop Conducts Same-Sex Blessing

on December 4, 2013

Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has presided over the blessing of a same-sex union, according to an Arlington clergywoman.

Mother Leslie J. Hague, rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Arlington was joined in “holy union” with her partner, Katie Casteel, at Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Dunn Loring on November 23. The afternoon blessing ceremony followed Hague and Casteel’s civil marriage in nearby Washington, DC exactly one year before. Same-sex marriages are not recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

According to the September vestry minutes of St. Michael’s parish, Hague extended an invitation to every member of the church to the blessing ceremony. Hague and Casteel have shared a home for over eight years.

The blessing comes one year after Johnston granted the request of Christ Church in Alexandria to begin using a “provisional” same-sex blessing rite authorized by Episcopal General Convention in 2012. The blessings, despite using a modification of the church’s marriage rite, are not called marriage in Virginia as they are in the neighboring Diocese of Washington.

In his letter to Christ Church, Johnston wrote of how “support from such an iconic place as Christ Church will be very helpful indeed for the witness of our Diocese in this matter of pastoral care for all of our people…I look forward to working with you for LGBT inclusion in every way that I can.”

Hague has served at St. Michael’s since 2002. In 2011, Hague co-sponsored a resolution on diocesan litigation against departing parishes submitted at the Virginia Diocesan Council. The resolution affirmed “our continued support for the Bishop in his leadership to preserve Episcopal properties for the mission of the Episcopal Church by all available means, as requested by the Executive Board in 2006.”

“We are deeply grieved that those who have severed their ties to the Episcopal Church have continued to claim that our property now ought to belong to them, and that they have made this litigation necessary,” The background section of the resolution read. “[Retired] Bishop [Peter] Lee and Bishop Johnston have provided steady leadership, and we believe it is important that they have full latitude to determine which options are wisest in providing for the worship and ministry of Episcopalians in these locations for generations to come.”

Johnston’s time as Virginia bishop has been fraught with controversy over matters legal and theological. In late 2012 the diocese ordained its first openly partnered lesbian priest in a ceremony at the Falls Church Episcopal, while Johnston himself drew questions after sponsoring a diocesan clergy day with Jesus Seminar founder Dominic Crossan and later presided over a Good Friday service in which Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong decried the Nicene Creed as “a radical distortion of the Gospel of John,” asserted that several of the apostles were “mythological” and declared that Jesus Christ did not die to redeem humanity from its sins.

  1. Comment by Ryan Hunter on December 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    This is hardly surprising, given Bishop Johnston’s history. Among non-Anglicans like myself who don’t have so much of a grasp of affairs within TEC, his name will forever be linked to that of Spong. It still astounds me that Johnston presided over a service in which Spong spoke, allowing him to utter numerous, blatant heresies before Johnston’s flock, and he did nothing. Not even a polite correction of his heresies! When people become complacent with obvious heresy in their midst, this does not bode well for their denomination’s future. If people are so willing to shirk any allegiance to even the most basic Christian doctrines, their ‘churches’ become little more than social clubs or political lyceums. Fortunately, it seems Spong’s main supporters are mostly older liberals.

  2. Comment by bill on December 28, 2013 at 2:28 am

    By “Most basic Christian doctrines” do you mean the teachings of Jesus Christ or of the old various Old Testiment books that included laws against eating pork and shellfish in amongst the a rule about homosexuality. Because the laws of Jesus have NO direct references to being gay but say that the only real laws are to “Love God” and “Love one another”. If you are an Orthodox Jew, then I can accept your renunciation of homosexuality since you are following ALL of those rules that seem so wrong to the rest of us. But otherwise, you have already chosen a set of those laws that YOU think are important to you and therefore are picking and choosing what is important. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality and everything about loving each other so I (as a human who has no better understanding than any of you) can only conclude that he believes that living with the person who you love is the most important thing in the world

  3. Comment by gary on December 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    disgusting display of heresy via the wedding and via Spong’s continued nonsense

  4. Comment by Bob on December 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I am surprised that this action is legal in Virginia.

  5. Comment by avis rara on December 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Do they really call themselves “Mother”? Do other people refer to them thus?

  6. Comment by Greg Paley on December 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    A bishop can “bless” till he turns blue in the face, if these two women think God has blessed their “union,” they are delusional.

  7. Comment by Lou A on December 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    When I saw this so-called marriage union between these two women, it turned my stomach. To have this union by this perverted Bishop is an affront to our Lord and why he came to save us from the sins that this Bishop Johnson is endorsing. God forbid!

  8. Comment by Adrian Croft on December 11, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    One thing that disturbs me about the whole gay movement is this “in your face” quality. Gays and lesbians talk about how “persecuted” they have been, but fail to mention that, in the past, the ones who kept a low profile were generally left alone. I used to work for a Christian ministry (known by its initials, hint hint), and there were two women in my department who shared a condo and had lived together since they were college roommates. Were they two lesbians, or just two close friends who just never found the right guys to marry? No one knew for sure, so everyone operated on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and no one got their nose out of joint. The most conservative churches in America probably have gays and lesbians who, for their own reasons, choose to go there instead of to “gay-friendly” churches. Whence came this obsession with flaunting what you do in the bedroom? I can handle gay Kevin better if he introduces himself with “Hi, I’m Kevin” instead of “Hi, I’m Kevin, I’m gay – now you react, and I’m warning you, I’m judging you on the basis of your reaction, and I’ll call you a homophobe in a New York minute if you don’t behave.”

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