Back in July, we broke this story about how the Dallas Episcopal Diocese planned to prohibit same-sex marriages in its congregations, despite the nation’s church’s vote to allow clergy to perform them.
Since then, the new bishop of the Dallas diocese, George R. Sumner (above), has followed through with the ban, telling same-sex couples they must travel to Fort Worth for marriage ceremonies. But now, LGBT church members and their supporters are fighting back against what they’re calling the “I-30 plan” (Interstate 30 connects Dallas and Fort Worth).
According to Dallas Episcopalians for Unity, one-third of attendees wore rainbow armbands to Sumner’s enthronement in November to show their support for LGBT members, and the group has since met with the new bishop to discuss the policy. But so far, he’s not budging.
“The diocesan policy puts a burden on our friends in Fort Worth as well as Episcopalians here who are relegated to the ‘I-30 plan,’ which will cost time, money and frustration,” Dallas Episcopalians for Unity wrote in a Dec. 5 letter to Sumner. “These injustices are not imposed on any other couples in the Diocese. We believe they are only likely to cement the feelings of division — not unity, our purpose — within the Diocese. We see the point blank refusal to make any marriage accommodation, together with the failure once again to state a clear message of welcome to LGBT Christians in the same statement, as a rejection by the Diocese of Dallas and its conservative majority of any charitable purpose.”
Episcopalians for Unity also expressed concern about how same-sex couples will be treated once they return from Fort Worth, and whether their marriages will be recognized in Dallas.
“Sensitive areas where LGBT people in the Church already face discrimination and where being in a same-sex marriage could cause further problems are picture directories, service in key parish roles, and holy orders,” the group wrote. “Requiring faithful Episcopalians to go somewhere else is not making available the marriage right and it sends a loud, clear message to the larger Church — the Diocese of Dallas stands apart and has brazen disregard for many of its own flock.”
In July, the national church voted to allow same-sex marriages, but agreed to a compromise under which individual clergy members may refuse to perform them without penalty, and bishops can prohibit them in their dioceses. Nationally, it’s unclear how many dioceses are permitting same-sex marriages.
The Dallas Observer notes that Bishop Sumner once wrote an article endorsing “ex-gay” therapy. But the diocese isn’t commenting on the “I-30 plan” or Sumner’s views.
“Honestly I don’t even know if we will hear from him again,” Episcopalians for Unity member Daniel Robinson Donalson told the Observer. “I hope that we do. He asked us to be willing to work with him and have dialogue with him, and we expressed that we would be more than willing to do that. Since the breakfast, we have not heard anything from him. … At this point, I feel that what the group is planning to do is incorporate ourselves so that we can take on a more formal structure, so that we can really step up our game in opposition of this policy.”
Read the group’s full letter to Sumner below.