Church makes indirect statement about gay bishops

Published June 21, 2006

Columbus, Ohio American Episcopalians decided on June 21 at their General Convention to ask their church “to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church” – an indirect way of addressing international Anglican concerns about the election of a gay bishop in 2003. On a second contentious issue, the convention rejected a resolution that would have directed that the church not “develop or authorize rites for the blessing of same-sex unions at this time.” The resolution would also have recognized a need “to maintain a breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians” and apologized “to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions.” The convention, therefore, made no statement on the blessing of same-sex unions and left standing a resolution from the 2003 convention that acknowledged blessing ceremonies are taking place in some dioceses. During its nine-day triennial meeting, June 13-21, the U.S. branch of the Anglican church wrestled with ways to respond to the Windsor Report, a document produced by an international Anglican panel that asked the U.S. and Canadian churches to declare moratoria on electing gays to the episcopate and authorizing rites for blessing gay couples. Reaction from liberals and conservatives to the convention decision on bishops was swift. Bishop John Chane, of the diocese of Washington (D.C.), said in a statement that “my understanding of my responsibility as a bishop is to live into the integrity of my office. I will defy this resolution (on bishops) by consenting after prayer and careful consideration of any person duly elected by a diocese in this church.” A minority group of conservative bishops issued a statement that said in part that the convention’s actions are “clearly and simply inadequate” as a response to the Windsor Report. “We therefore disassociate ourselves from those acts of this convention that do not fully comply” with the report. They also said they will not approve any episcopal candidates “living in same-gender relationships” and will not authorize “the blessing of sexual relationships outside Christian marriage.” Another group of liberal bishops disassociated themselves from the motion for different reasons, suggesting that it moves the church away from full inclusion of all members: “Our witness to justice has been prophetic in this nation and in the wider Anglican Communion on the issues of the full inclusion of people of color and persons who are differently-abled,” said the bishops. “This witness to full inclusion has borne the fruits of the Spirit and is incarnate in the faces and lives around these tables and throughout the church. The language of this resolution too much echoes past attempts by the church to limit participation of those perceived to be inadequate for full inclusion in the ordained ministry.” Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, a conservative group that believes homosexuality is contrary to Scripture, said the move “doesn’t bind anybody to anything. It means what anybody wants it to mean.” A Canadian group, Anglican Essentials Canada (members of which were attending the convention as observers), said the move means the U.S. church intends to “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion of churches in fellowship with the Church of England. It also said the actions “have increased greatly our concern for the Anglican Church of Canada, which has also been called to address and respond to the recommendations of the Windsor Report at our General Synod in 2007.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said in a statement that “it is not yet clear how far the resolutions passed this week and today represent the adoption by the Episcopal Church of all the proposals set out in the Windsor Report. The wider Communion will therefore need to reflect carefully on the significance of what has been decided before we respond more fully.” During the debate in the U.S. house of bishops, outgoing presiding (national) bishop Frank Griswold warned colleagues “if we do not have something substantial, it will be very hard for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite the bishops of the Episcopal Church to the Lambeth Conference (in 2008).” Every decade, the Archbishop of Canterbury invites all Anglican bishops to meet at the Lambeth Conference, held in Great Britain. At a news conference, Bishop Griswold said he felt that the final resolution means the “diverse centre has finally found its voice.” He also noted that deputies (clergy and lay delegates) in debate “said they no longer want to be tugged around by the right or by the left.” Before the vote, presiding bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead an Anglican province, addressed the deputies and said that she found the resolution “extremely challenging” but it was “the best we are going to do at this convention.” Bishop Schori voted in 2003 to confirm Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire and has approved same-sex blessings in her diocese of Nevada. Both deputies and bishops during debate said the church needed to make a response to Windsor in order to give Bishop Schori a message to take to her fellow primates (national bishops) at their meetings. Several delegates quoted from Bishop Schori’s sermon at the closing eucharist, in which she said that when “we know ourselves beloved of God we can … reach beyond the defences of others, lay down our fear and love the world.” Questions about the Windsor Report occupied the convention for its entire session, moving through committees, hearings and both legislative houses – bishops and deputies. On the second-last day, lay and clerical delegates rejected a same-sex blessings resolution, which also contained similar wording about bishops. A motion to reconsider the resolution also failed. The resolution that was approved by convention also committed the church to “receive and embrace the Windsor Report‘s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation.” Earlier, the convention had passed statements expressing regret for causing strain in the worldwide communion and commitment to the fellowship of churches loosely connected to the Church of England.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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