Episcopalians Reject Ban on Gay Bishops

Columbus, Ohio (AP) — In the final hours of a national church meeting, the top Episcopal leader is trying to preserve world Anglican unity after Episcopal delegates rejected an Anglican demand that they stop electing openly gay bishops for now.

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called a special session Wednesday of the two policymaking bodies of the Episcopal General Convention — the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops — to find a last-minute way to address the issue before delegates go home.

Top Anglican officials had asked the Episcopalians for a temporary ban to calm the outrage among conservatives over the election three years ago of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who lives with his longtime male partner.

The House of Deputies, comprised of more than 800 clergy and lay people, took up the measure Tuesday just hours before the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at a separate meeting in Birmingham, Ala., approved a plan to let local congregations install gay ministers if they wish.

The measure approved 298-221 by a Presbyterian national assembly keeps in place a church law that says clergy and lay elders and deacons must limit sexual relations to man-woman marriage. But the new legislation says local congregations and regional presbyteries can exercise some flexibility when choosing clergy and lay officers of local congregations.

In a complex balloting system, a majority of Episcopal deputies voted against legislation that would have urged dioceses to refrain from electing gay bishops. Conservatives complained that the legislation stopped short of a moratorium, but supporters argued it would have set a moral standard for the church and would have signaled that the American denomination understood the concerns of Anglican leaders.

In an emotional speech to bishops Tuesday night, Robinson said he had been awake since 4 a.m., praying about how to resolve the conflict between his deep commitment to unity and to full inclusion for gays and lesbians.

“I desperately want to preserve this communion,” Robinson said. “But I can’t do so at the expense of my own integrity and that of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ.”

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, the fellowship of churches with roots that trace back to the Church of England.

While conservatives are a minority within the American denomination, the majority of overseas Anglican leaders oppose actively gay clergy. They have pressured Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the communion’s spiritual leader, to take some action against Episcopalians if they fail to adhere to that view.

Many Anglican churches have already broken ties with the U.S. church over Robinson’s elevation. And if overseas leaders dislike the outcome of this week’s meeting, it greatly increases the chances that the association of 38 national churches will break apart.

Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via SFGate.com, USA
June 21, 2006
Rachel Zoll, AP religion writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday June 21, 2006.
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