While Pope Francis has been making headlines for his progressive views on homosexuality, local churches are also undergoing some big changes. The Episcopal Church in West Virginia announced on Saturday that it will start blessing same sex unions.
Several members of St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston attended the three-day convention in Flatwoods where Bishop Michie Klusmeyer made the announcement. Michael Jupin, who is the Interim Rector for St. John's, said he was elated by the decision.
"It brought a tear to my eye. It touched something very deep within me," he said.
The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia is following the example of three other Christian organizations in its decision. Others include the Evangelical Lutheran Church, United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterian Church.
"The bishop as part of his annual address to the convention talked about how he had given prayerful consideration over the last year and had consulted with four of five people to make this decision," said Jupin.
Several parameters have been set for the church's blessings for gay unions, which can begin as early as Dec. 1. The priest in charge and the congregation of individual churches must decide whether the church will bless the couple. Couples must also be baptized and active members of a particular congregation for a minimum of six months.
"If I can be married as a heterosexual person, then the least we can do is to bless a union that is as significant and loving," said Beth Marquart, the chair of communication of St. John's Episcopal Church.