BY RACHEL ZOLL, AP RELIGION WRITER
Episcopalians approved a churchwide ceremony Tuesday to bless same-sex couples, the latest decisive step toward accepting homosexuality by a denomination that nine years ago elected the first openly gay bishop.
At the Episcopal General Convention, which is divided into two voting bodies, about 80 percent of the House of Deputies voted to authorize a provisional rite for same-sex unions for the next three years. A day earlier, the House of Bishops approved the rites 111-41 with three abstentions during the church meeting in Indianapolis.
Supporters of the same-sex blessings insisted it was not a marriage ceremony despite any similarities. Called "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant," the ceremony includes prayers and an exchange of vows and rings. Same-sex couples must complete counseling before having their unions or civil marriages blessed by the church.