Episcopal bishop apologizes to gays

Bishop Ted Gulick of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky yesterday apologized to gay and lesbian church members for the “pain and alienation” they feel following his vote last year not to consent to the further ordination of homosexual bishops.

Gulick, in his annual report at the diocese’s convention yesterday in Anchorage, said he’s doing what he can to keep the Episcopal Church together and to maintain ties with its overseas partners amid controversies over homosexuality.

Gulick, who generally supports greater church roles for homosexuals, said this has led him to apologize to both sides in the controversy.

In 2004, he apologized to conservatives upset over his vote the previous year for the appointment of an openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson.

But last year he voted with other bishops at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention not to support further ordinations of homosexual bishops for the time being.

“I hereby publicly and deliberately apologize to our devoted gay and lesbian men and woman in our diocese for whom this (latest) vote causes pain and alienation,” Gulick said yesterday.

“I know you to be my sisters and brothers in Christ,” Gulick said, urging them to continue serving in the church in other ways. “I thank you for your patience and forbearance with the church in this season.”

Last week, leaders of the Anglican Communion — the Episcopal Church’s global partners — issued a stern warning to the American church at a summit in Tanzania. Among other things, Anglican leaders sought greater clarity on the Episcopal Church’s stances on homosexual bishops and same-sex unions. All eyes will be on the response of a meeting of American bishops next month, which Gulick will attend.

The diocese — which includes 36 congregations in Louisville and Central and Western Kentucky — wrapped up its two-day annual meeting yesterday at Epiphany Catholic Church.

No major controversies were aired yesterday, and Gulick applauded conservatives, liberals and moderates for staying together.

“I am deeply moved by the level of communion we have maintained in this diocese, despite differences on human sexuality, differences on the Iraq war €¦ and differences on funding,” Gulick told hundreds of worshippers at a morning service. He was alluding to some conservative parishioners’ refusal to send money to the predominantly liberal diocese.

Gulick cited a litany of social outreaches that the church is united on, among them missions to Kenya, El Salvador and hurricane-stricken New Orleans; local Habitat for Humanity Projects; and a vacation Bible school for autistic children.

Gulick acknowledged the diocese has lagged in evangelism, but he said its picture is improving in other areas. More congregations are growing than decreasing, he said, and overall financial pledges are up 3.5 percent.

“I really think we have made great progress,” added Treasurer Don Kohler.

People on various sides applauded Gulick’s address.

“The bishop certainly reached out to the gay and lesbian people in the diocese,” said Sam Dorr, director of operations at Christ Church Cathedral and a homosexual. “He was as conciliatory as he could be at this point in the conversation, but the conversation is not over.”

Some wondered, however, how Gulick would carry out the specifics of his pledge for continued unity.

“We’re going to take the bishop at his word as far as holding the unity of the church,” said the Rev. Robin Jennings, pastor of the predominantly conservative St. Francis in the Fields Church. He said the question remains “how this is going to work.”

“He’s asked for our prayers, and he’s got them,” Jennings said.

The Rev. Lucinda Laird, pastor of the predominantly liberal St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, voiced similar thoughts, saying Gulick’s talk “was upbeat and effective” though it “did not get into the specifics.”

“But he talked about reconciliation and I was pleased that he did that both ways,” reaching out to supporters and opponents of the ordination of homosexuals, she said.

Yesterday also saw the first baptism of a new member at a convention — intended to emphasize evangelistic efforts — and a vote to support United Nations-supported Millennium Development Goals aimed at eradicating global poverty. The diocese allocated $10,265 toward those goals.

The diocese also elevated St. John Church in Murray — which has been subsidized as a mission for 51 years — to status as a free-standing parish.

“This is a situation where mission funding works,” said the Rev. David Simmons, pastor of St. John.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday February 26, 2007.
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