The decision by leaders
of the Washington National Cathedral to perform same-sex weddings is getting a mixed reception, with supporters calling it consistent with the church’s path for more than a decade and critics warning of further division on an issue that has roiled religious denominations across the country.
Officials at the cathedral, the most visible Episcopal church in the U.S., threw the weight of their national status, their century-old church, and thousand-member congregation behind the issue, announcing Wednesday that they would celebrate same-sex weddings effective immediately.
Leaders said the decision stemmed from a desire to move forward the “national conversation”on same-sex marriage after 30 years of study by the church, as well as the decisions of voters in three states, including Maryland, who approved referendums on same-sex marriage in November.
David Bains, a religion professor at Samford University in Alabama who has researched and written extensively about the cathedral, said the church’s leaders have worked for years to balance serving their congregation in the nation’s capital, where gay marriage has been legal since 2009, and being a beacon for Episcopalians across the country.