Diocesan debate about lesbian priest escalates

Published April 1, 2006

A controversy over Bishop Peter Coffin’s decision to grant a temporary licence in the diocese of Ottawa to an American lesbian priest who is in a relationship with a woman has continued, with a group of clergy calling for a rescinding of the decision saying it constitutes a “breach of the General Synod process in place in this country and puts our relationship with the world-wide Anglican Communion in jeopardy.”

The Anglican Gathering of Ottawa (AGO), a group that says it “seeks to follow the traditional teaching and beliefs of the Anglican church,” said the action has “set us on the course to fully embracing a new policy with regards to same-gendered blessings and issues surrounding Holy Orders.”

In an open letter posted on its Web site and on Ottawaa?’s diocesan e-mail discussion list, the group added: “Priests are supposed to be held to a high moral standard. That standard has always been faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman or abstinence. If a bishop sanctions same-sex ‘marriage’ in the priesthood, surely there can be no basis for refusing to marry any same-sex couple.”

The letter was signed by seven priests.

Bishop Coffin has stated that he would stand by his decision to grant Rev. Linda Fisher Privitera, a priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States, “temporary permission” to function as an associate priest at the parish of St. John the Evangelist, saying it does not reflect a change in diocesan policy.

Meanwhile, debate on the decision has continued on the diocese’s e-mail list, with Ms. Privitera’s partner, Melissa Haussman, urging an end to “this silliness.” She described statements that Ms. Privitera is the first gay priest in the diocese as “nonsense; she is not and I’m quite sure that many of you know that.”


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