JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Trinity Episcopal Church is a part of history. Built in 1821, it's the oldest Protestant church in Florida. But the St. Augustine landmark won't be taking part in history made this week.
The Episcopal Church is now the largest U.S. denomination to officially sanction same-sex relationships. At the church's national convention, House of Bishops approved the policy in overwhelming fashion, 111-41 with three abstentions Monday. The vote allows priests to conduct services blessing same-sex relationships.
"It's asking God's blessing of those who are engaged in relationships of same-sex unions. But it is not seen as a marriage. It's so that they may have a life long covenant with another," said Reverend David Weidner of Trinity Episcopal Church.
Reverend Weidner says he's not surprised by the new policy. But what might come as a shock to local same-sex couples, they'll have to move out of north Florida to get the blessing.
Despite being backed by the National Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Florida is turning its back on the policy. Action News obtained a letter from The Bishop of Florida. The Right Reverend Samuel Johnson Howard states "I will not grant permission to bless sexual relationships that fall outside of the traditional understanding of marriage."
The Diocese of Florida oversees about 70 churches locally. Rev. Weidner said local same-sex couples attending his church understand the Bishop's decision. They held a number of discussion forums before the vote took place at the national convention in Indianapolis.
The policy is provisional and will be voted on again in three years. It does give local bishops the right to decide if they want to allow the blessings in their diocese.