Religious conflicts in the U.S.
The Episcopal Church & lesbians, gays, bisexuals,
transgendered persons and transsexuals (LGBTs)
One reality; two viewpoints:
"Today, there are two religions in the Episcopal Church. One
remains faithful to the biblical truth and received teachings of the
Church, while the other rejects them." Concerned Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church 1
"There are a growing number of places in the church were lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are welcomed, affirmed in
their ministries and blessed in their committed relationships. They are,
however, many more places where they are still not fully included in the
life of the church." Julie Wortman, et al. 2
The Episcopal Church, USA is one province in 38 provinces in the world-wide
Anglican Communion. Other provinces are the Anglican Church of Canada and the
Church of England.
Episcopal Church (USA), along with the Presbyterian Church (USA),
and the United
Methodist Church have probably
experiencing the greatest amount of conflict over equal rights for their gay and
lesbian members. More liberal Christian denominations have already largely
accepted homosexuality as simply another normal, natural, and morally neutral sexual orientation.
More conservative denominations have retained the historical Christian belief; they condemn all same-sex behavior, regardless of the nature of the
relationship. As a logical extension of this belief, they also condemn same-sex marriages (a.k.a. gay marriages).
The core problem is a disagreement over religious truth. In general,
Anglicans consider six factors when they develop and
change their religious beliefs and policies:
Specific biblical references, often literally interpreted. In the case of same-gender sexual behavior, these are often called the six "clobber
||Actions of biblical leaders -- not really applicable in this case, since gay marriages were not a prominent topic during biblical times.
||General biblical themes -- justice, fairness, love...
Conservatives within the denomination tend to stress the factors near the top of the list. Most
conclude that same sex behavior is among the most serious of sins. Liberals tend
to stress the bottom factors, and conclude that the three sexual orientations --
heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality -- are all morally neutral. They regard the
real sins to be homophobia, and sexual acts which are
unsafe, non-consensual, manipulative and/or without a long-term committment.
Two sexually related topics are currently placing extreme stress on the Episcopal
Church, USA, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the rest of the Anglican Communion:
||Whether qualified gays and lesbians in committed relationships should be
eligible for ordination as priests and consecration as bishops,
||Whether a church ritual recognizing and blessing committed same-sex unions should be
available to the membership.
During the 2003 General Convention, the answers to both questions in the
Episcopal Church, USA appear to be a qualified "yes:"
||Delegates confirmed the consecration
of Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. He is in a long
term, committed relationship with another man.
||Delegates to the same convention overwhelmingly approved a
compromise resolution which, in effect, has introduced a local option
into the church: It recognized that some priests had already been performing blessings of
gay and lesbian couples in some dioceses in the U.S.
During the 2006 General Convention, the tensions heightened.
These actions strained the Anglican Communion to a point near fracture.
Provinces in Africa and elsewhere have taken a very conservative view towards
the authority of the Bible and the interpretation of specific biblical passages
which discuss same-sex behavior. Influenced by their culture, they regard all
same-sex behavior as criminal and profoundly sinful. Other provinces, notably in
the U.S., Canada and Australia, have taken a more liberal approach towards
biblical authority, and have developed beliefs about homosexuality which are
based on the Bible's general themes of justice and love, and the findings of human sexuality researchers. They regard loving
committed same-sex relationships on a par with similar heterosexual
In the past, the Episcopal Church, USA and the rest of the Anglican Communion has successfully survived conflicts
over human slavery, contraception, female ordination to the priesthood, female consecrations to the status of bishop, and the elevation of a female bishop to primate of the province. However, feelings of hatred and discomfort torards homosexuality
and same-sex marriage appears to be overwhelming.
Topics Covered in this section:
||On the ordination of women:|
Home page of the Concerned Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church,
Julie Wortman, et al., "Claim the Blessing," Beyond Inclusion,
Statement on the theology of blessing, at:
Copyright © 1997 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2018-AUG-04
Author: B.A. Robinson