SAN FRANCISCO – Delegates representing Episcopal churches in the San Francisco Bay Area approved three sets of prayers that clergy can use to bless same-sex couples, a move taken in opposition to their faith’s leaders pledging not to authorize special rites for gay unions. During the annual convention of the Diocese of California, about 500 lay delegates and clergy members also approved a resolution challenging last month’s decision by U.S. bishops to refrain from approving any more gay bishops to preserve the global Anglican community. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the U.S. Two Canadian dioceses also have endorsed creating services for same-sex blessing ceremonies. The Bay Area diocese, comprised of 82 churches, is believed to be the first in the U.S. to make such rites available to its members, said Sean McConnell, a spokesman for the diocese. Before the delegates voted Saturday, Diocesan Bishop Marc Andrus spoke in favor of the special blessings, saying he did not think the local action ran counter to the U.S. bishops agreeing not to authorize such “public rites” as a group. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“I think the resolution properly augments my pastoral goal of caring alike for all of the people of the Diocese, not reinforcing damaging distinctions,” Andrus said. The three prayers will now be made available to Bay Area clergy who seek Andrus’ permission to preside at same-sex commitment ceremonies, which the diocese has allowed for many years, according to McConnell. “Basically, it normalizes this,” said Thomas Jackson, the president of OASIS, the diocese’s gay and lesbian ministry. The 77-million-member Episcopal fellowship has been divided over the role of gays in the church since 2003. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!