Why the National Cathedral’s decision to perform same-sex marriages matters

Nikki Kahn THE WASHINGTON POST The National Cathedral will become one of the first Episcopal Churches to perform same-sex weddings. … Continued

Nikki Kahn


The National Cathedral will become one of the first Episcopal Churches to perform same-sex weddings.

When I read the announcement that the Washington National Cathedral would begin officiating LGBT weddings, I felt a profound sense of homecoming. LGBT people across the country have often felt exiled from faith communities and this gracious symbol of welcome into the nation’s spiritual center feels like a call to begin anew. LGBT people of faith have spent years in the trenches struggling to make marriage equality a reality but have often gone unheeded in favor of the louder and shriller voices of the opposition who have repeatedly used religion as a weapon against LGBT people. As I discussed in a previous post, we have seen this image of religion change as the nation saw people of faith not just in support of marriage equality but often serving as the linchpin in the key ballot states of Maine, Maryland, Washington. This recent grace-filled gesture by the Cathedral’s Dean is a fitting symbol for how far we have come in a long journey toward reconciliation between people of faith and the LGBT community.

A few years ago, I attending a Maundy Thursday service at the National Cathedral. I had a particularly hard day. I needed anonymity, and I thought I would find it at the cathedral’s service. Instead, what I encountered was one of the most intimate services I’ve ever experienced. At the end, all were invited forward to the chance to wash each other’s feet in remembrance of Jesus’ commandment that we care deeply for one another. It was a powerful ritual act of healing and a reminder that we were all part of the human family where the things that divide us–rank, occupation, and identity–could literally be, at least for that brief moment, of service, washed away. The intimate act of humility was made more powerful by its setting in a beautiful and august hundred-year-old church. It was as if the religious establishment was humbling itself to its deepest calling to honor God through the simple act of loving and caring for one another. The service that night helped me find my way back to my own humanity and my faith by connecting me to something more profound than my individual struggles that day. I have that same feeling today as I reflect on the decision to open the cathedral to LGBT couples wishing to marry.

The best of who we are, as a nation and as communities of faith, is summed up in how well we love. When the National Cathedral welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships because they have within them the same seeds of an expansive love that exist with straight couples, the church itself can be healed. Conversely, when our faith communities diminish our love or construct it as a disembodied political issue as if real lives were not at stake, we all suffer. When the National Cathedral takes the stand to value the most intimate relationships between people, it is in many ways humbling itself — like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. In so doing the church can find its way back to being the church again.

Of course, our work in religious communities is far from done. A great dialogue is currently happening between faith communities and LGBT people of faith. This is a very good thing. As we engage in this dialogue, LGBT people and allied people of faith are discovering a new found confidence. We are not simply defending ourselves from specious readings of the Bible but are asking boldly what does God call us to do? In Illinois, where marriage equality is up for debate, the Episcopal Bishop Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee wrote recently,
“As a Christian, I believe that our society needs all of the sources and signs of grace that we can get. As a citizen of the United States, I believe in equal protection under the law. I believe that both ends will be served when marriage equality is the law of the land in Illinois, and I am grateful to be bishop in a church that offers all couples a community of faith, love, support and accountability.”

Celebrating marriage equality in our congregations is a celebration of love and thus is as Lee states, “a source and sign of grace.” Communities of faith still have a long road of reconciliation to travel, but the welcoming of committed and loving LGBT couples into the Washington National Cathedral is a profound symbol of how far we have come and of the healing that is emerging.

Dr. Sharon Groves, director the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign.

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  • Who Is Jesus?

    Which is why during the once in a lifetime earthquake here in Washington DC back in 2011, the National Cathedral was one of the only buildings damaged, along with the luciferic phalic symbol of the Washington monument. Then when they called in one of the largest cranes in the country to fix it, the crane was immediatley topppled, with no injuries. So Gods wrath, or is God still not real?Repent, come to Jesus.

  • unit32

    LBGT?? REALLY??People in this world need to wake up and come to God before it is too late. I, for one, am tired of gays always being the ones trying to force their views on everyone by acting as if they are so oppressed. Where I work we were given a 50 minute class lecture on sensitivity towards the LBGT movement…mandatory. What a waste of my time. A child growing up with two women or two men for parents? Are you people for real? Get a grip. Stop acting as if you are the victim all the time. Any church that condones these actions should be ASHAMED !

  • cricket44

    Happily, much of the upcoming generation has not been brought up with the same biases we see on display below. This is swiftly becoming a non-issue to rational people.

  • Catken1

    ” I, for one, am tired of gays always being the ones trying to force their views on everyone by acting as if they are so oppressed.”

    Poor dear, were you forced into a gay marriage? Were you told you couldn’t have the spouse you wanted, because they were of the opposing sex? Such hardship, to be forced to recognize that other Americans are full citizens entitled to make decisions for themselves that you did not approve!

    “A child growing up with two women or two men for parents? ”

    Better that than a child growing up with parents who teach them about a god who will burn them in agony forever and ever if they believe the wrong things or fall in love with the wrong person.

    As for the lecture, maybe if people like you didn’t abuse and bully classmates and co-workers for their sexual orientation, you wouldn’t need to be lectured on basic courtesy and respect for others’ right to not be just like you.

  • Secular1

    Cat I love your sarcasm. Stick it to them, stick it hard, & stick it often

  • Rick Hall

    I can’t believe someone from the 21th century still thinks with medievial thought-processes. Really?

  • Rick Hall

    That was for ” Who is Jesus.”

  • CKstA

    Exactly. The next generation does not have those bigotries. Or the bizarre medieval superstitions displayed below.

    Further, for those like me who are Christian, there is an incredibly strong position that homophobia is not compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “love your neighbor,” and “don’t judge.” He hung out with the outcasts and his harshest words were for the Establishment when they used the law to exclude people. There is nothing in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ to justify hate and injustice in any form.

  • willin46

    All I have to say regarding the decision of the National Cathedral is, AMEN!

  • CuriousOnlooker

    As a recently minted Episcopalian, I am more deeply committed that I did the right thing to join this particular community of faith. Let us hope that soon all churches will welcome and embrace all of God’s children.

  • Who Is Jesus?

    I’m asking if you believe God does exist? Also if He is happy with the National Catherderal and Washington in general these days? And if that possibly could have been a sign? I remember in the bible where Jesus was very angered at the way the temple of God was being used by moneychangers, etc. and flew into His only rage reported in the bible. I believe homosexuality is a sin, but one you are born with. All sin is the same. Therefore my repentance stance. Maybe Jesus wouldnt mind His Church being used by two commited people in a relationship getting married. Society doesnt have a problem marrying adulterers in Churches for the most part. Jesus taught that the children of this wold are given and taken in marriage, but are like unto angels upon their deaths and ascension into heaven. So repent, follow Him.

  • Who Is Jesus?

    @Rick Hall, it is a modern belief believed by billions of people in every country.

  • Who Is Jesus?

    I am the next generation, not some old fogey @CKsta, and not a bigot, but a Christian.

  • IntellectOne

    Why the National Cathedral’s decision to perform same-sex marriages?
    Is it because they are ‘Objectively Disordered?
    Who gave them the “Authority” to Redefine marriage?

  • Catken1

    If you want to “define” marriage as a union of genitalia first and foremost, with the real human beings and their real relationship secondary, that’s your business. But good luck convincing others that that is a moral, humane, or decent philosophy, or trying to persuade them to hold a flexible human institution rigid in your preferred form, at great cost to others, because you’re more comfortable following authority blindly than actually thinking about the consequences of your “morality” for others.

  • IntellectOne

    Nature dictates marriage. A marriage has to be consummated, to be called a marriage. Without conjugal Love there is no marriage. You nor the National Cathedral has the ‘Right’ to ‘Redefine ‘ marriage. Marriage is between one man and one woman to make a ‘Perfect Union’. Any other definition is absurd and even evil, for a church to promote such garbage , as same sex marriage, to the children of a nation is criminal. It is clearly ‘Objectively Disordered’ and the National Cathedral has no ‘Authority’ to change the Law of the Land, The Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA). It was absurd that Congress even had to make a Law to define marriage because even an imbecile would know that you cannot make a ‘Perfect Union’ with two males or with two females.(to complement each other) Try and plug a male electrical plug into another male electrical plug or an electrical female socket into an other female socket and what do you get? Nothing, No light and No Life.! It is self evident that the ‘Word’ Marriage cannot be ‘Redefined’ , by you, nor anyone else.. This is not just an opinion, but a fact..