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Religious conflicts in the U.S.


The Episcopal Church & lesbians, gays, bisexuals,
transgendered persons and transsexuals (LGBTs)

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One reality; two viewpoints:

bullet "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

bullet "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

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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.

The 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:

bullet Specific biblical references, often literally interpreted. In the case of same-gender sexual behavior, these are often called the six "clobber passages"

bullet Actions of biblical leaders -- not really applicable in this case, since gay marriages were not a prominent topic during biblical times.

bullet General biblical themes -- justice, fairness, love...

bullet Church traditions

bullet Scientific findings

bullet Personal experience.

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:

bullet Whether qualified gays and lesbians in committed relationships should be eligible for ordination as priests and consecration as bishops, and

bullet 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:"

bullet Delegates confirmed the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. He is in a long term, committed relationship with another man.

bullet 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 relationships.

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.

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Topics Covered in this section:

bullet Introduction
bullet Activities prior to 1996:
bullet General Conventions, 1976 to 1991
bullet The Standing Commission on Human Affairs: 1992-1994
bullet General Convention, 1994 general assembly
bullet 1996 activities:
bullet Statement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
bullet Bishop Righter's Heresy Hearing and Trial
bullet Episcopal Anti-Gay Movement
bullet Statement by Archbishop Robert Runcie
bullet Statement by Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning
bullet Endorsement of Same-Sex Relationships by Pennsylvania Diocese
bullet Second National Consultation of Episcopalians on Same-Sex Unions

bullet 1997 to 1999 activities:
bullet General Convention, 1997
bullet Conservative Reform/Renewal Groups:
bullet Ordination Protest in Kalamazoo, MI
bullet Los Angeles Diocese rejects Lambeth resolution
bullet Year 2000 activities: General Convention; Developments following the Convention.
bullet Year 2003 activities:
bullet Lead-up to the 2003 General Convention
bullet Startup of the Convention
bullet Activities at the Convention
bullet Events after the Convention
bullet Consecration of bishop-elect Robinson
bullet Year 2004 activities:
bullet Developments reported in the media Same-sex couples blessed; reactions.
bullet Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO)
bullet Year 2005 & 2006 activities:
bullet Partial ejection from the Anglican Communion; other activities during 2005-2006

The 2006 General Convention:  Part 1 Part 2

bullet Crafting a schism in the Anglican Communion & Episcopal Church 2006-2007
bullet Matters relating to the year 2008 Lambeth Conference are located elsewhere.
bullet The 2009 General Convention
bullet The 2012 General Convention
bullet The 2015 General Convention
bullet The 2018 General Convention
bullet The future? -- webmaster's personal opinion
bullet Within mainline denominations, is compromise possible, or is schism inevitable? An examination of the homosexual conflict in various Christian denominations
bullet An essay donated by Clyde Glandon: "Contemporary Anglican Episcopal Perspectives"

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Related sections:

bullet On homosexuality:
bullet The worldwide Anglican Communion
bullet The Church of England
bullet The Anglican Church of Canada
bullet On the ordination of women:
bullet The Episcopal Church, USA

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ENS Headlines:

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  1. Home page of the Concerned Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church, at:
  2. Julie Wortman, et al., "Claim the Blessing," Beyond Inclusion, Statement on the theology of blessing, at:

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 Home page > Christianity > Mainline Christian conflicts > here

or Home page > Conflict > Homosexuality > Churches > here

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Copyright 1997 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2018-AUG-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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