Episcopal Convention Sees Painstaking Work on Sexuality Issues
- Episcopal convention sees painstaking work on sexuality issues
Anglican Journal News
SOLANGE DE SANTIS, STAFF WRITER
June 17, 2006 - Columbus, Ohio
Issues concerning homosexuality will not be resolved at the Episcopal
Church's General Convention before the election of a new presiding
bishop, or national leader, on June 18, since members of a special
committee wrestling with the issues have not yet agreed on the
wording of key resolutions.
Church leaders had said earlier that they hoped to have the
controversial issues decided before the election.
In a special 90-minute session on June 17, the committee passed two
resolutions on the issues, sending them to the full convention, but
two more key resolutions are still in the domain of the committee.
The public deliberation session provided a window into the
painstaking work being done by the 18-member panel, which is
scheduling extra early-morning, midday and evening meetings.
Of the two resolutions that were approved, the first concerned the
language of "an expression of regret" that the American church's
consecration of a gay bishop and acceptance of blessing ceremonies
for gay couples caused pain to other Anglican churches in the world
where homosexuality is not readily accepted.
Members wrangled over whether the resolution should express regret
for not having "adequately explained" the moves, then wondered
whether that wording expressed a sense of American arrogance. "It
could be misinterpreted as being heavy handed," said committee member
Rev. Ian Douglas of Massachusetts.
Other members suggested saying that the U.S. church "had not entered
into a mutual discernment process" with the rest of the worldwide
Anglican Communion and others said the wording should perhaps read
"not sought the collective wisdom" of the communion.
The committee chair, Bishop Dorsey Henderson of the diocese of Upper
South Carolina, urged his colleagues to move things along. "I'm
terrified we will get jammed up on the last day," he said. The
triennial governing convention runs from June 13 to June 21.
The second resolution asks the convention to endorse a plan for
"designated Episcopal oversight" developed by the church's bishops in
2004 that would allow bishops to cross diocesan boundaries to
minister to congregations that disagree with their diocesan bishops.
The situation has arisen generally where a bishop has liberal views
on homosexuality and clashes with conservative congregations, some of
whom have joined breakaway groups or sought the leadership of a
bishop from outside the country. Ten of the church's 110 dioceses
have formed a dissenting group, the Anglican Communion Network. An
organization called the American Anglican Council (AAC), based in
Atlanta, acts as a sounding board and source of advice for
congregations wanting to break away from the national church.
The committee added wording to the resolution that asked the
convention to "urge continued maintenance of historic diocesan
boundaries, the authority of the diocesan bishop and respect for the
historical relationships of the separate and autonomous provinces of
the Anglican Communion."
Many Episcopalians have expressed resentment at pressure by other
Anglican churches since each church in the worldwide communion is
self-governing and not subject to a central authority such as the
Roman Catholic pope.
Bishop Robert O'Neill of Colorado noted that the committee needed to
get the resolutions "into the system" because they could undergo
further revisions in either of the convention's two legislative
bodies, the house of bishops and the house of deputies (laity and
Both were approved and the panel scheduled an early-morning meeting
for June 18 to deal with resolutions that would address the fallout
from the consecration of the openly-gay Bishop Gene Robinson and from
a 2003 decision recognizing that gay blessing ceremonies occur in
In a brief interview outside the committee room, Rev. Susan Russell,
president of Integrity, a support group for gay Anglicans, said the
lengthy deliberations show that "these are people of deep faith and
commitment to the Anglican Communion, with wide differences. They are
giving their best effort."
Conservatives, however, say they do not believe the committee, or the
convention, will give them what they want ï¿½ a ban on any further
election of gay candidates to the episcopate, an strong expression of
repentance for the 2003 actions and a ban on same-sex blessing
ceremonies. Those moves are called for in an international Anglican
statement called the Windsor Report.
"If their resolutions are worded in Windsor words and convey the
content Windsor is looking for, it would be unacceptable to the house
of deputies and the house of bishops," said Canon David Anderson,
president of AAC. "If they pass what is acceptable to them, it will
not be acceptable to the primates (national archbishops)."
As to whether the unresolved nature of several of the issues will
affect the election of the presiding bishop, Rev. Sandye Wilson said
she thought "people put too much stock in how it's going to affect
the outcome of the election." Conservatives have already said that
none of the seven candidates are acceptable to them.