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Religious conflicts in the U.S.

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

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Quotations:

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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Overview:

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 are 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.

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"
bulletActions of biblical leaders -- not really applicable in this case.

bulletGeneral biblical themes -- justice, fairness, love...

bulletChurch traditions

bulletScientific findings

bulletPersonal 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 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:

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

bulletWhether a church ritual recognizing and blessing committed same-sex unions should be available.

During the 2003 General Convention, the answers to both questions in the Episcopal Church, USA appear to be a qualified "yes:"

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

bulletDelegates 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, hatred and discomfort of homosexuality appears to be so overwhelming that the Episcopal Church appears to have started a formal schism in 2007, which will probably intensify in subsequent years.

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Topics Covered in this section:

bulletIntroduction
 
bulletActivities prior to 1996:
bulletGeneral Conventions, 1976 to 1991
bulletThe Standing Commission on Human Affairs: 1992-1994
bullet General Convention, 1994 general assembly
bullet1996 activities:
bulletStatement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
bulletBishop Righter's Heresy Hearing and Trial
bulletEpiscopal Anti-Gay Movement
bulletStatement by Archbishop Robert Runcie
bulletStatement by Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning
bulletEndorsement of Same-Sex Relationships by Pennsylvania Diocese
bulletSecond National Consultation of Episcopalians on Same-Sex Unions

bullet1997 to 1999 activities:
bulletGeneral Convention, 1997
bulletConservative Reform/Renewal Groups:
bulletOrdination Protest in Kalamazoo, MI
bulletLos Angeles Diocese rejects Lambeth resolution
 
bulletYear 2000 activities: General Convention; Developments following the Convention.
 
bulletYear 2003 activities:
bulletLead-up to the 2003 General Convention
bulletStartup of the Convention
bulletActivities at the Convention
bulletEvents after the Convention
bulletConsecration of bishop-elect Robinson
 
bulletYear 2004 activities:
bulletDevelopments reported in the media Same-sex couples blessed; reactions.
bulletDelegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO)
 
bulletYear 2005 & 2006 activities:
bullet Partial ejection from the Anglican Communion; other activities during 2005-2006
bullet

The 2006 General Convention:  Part 1 Part 2
 

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

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Related sections:

bulletOn homosexuality:
bulletThe worldwide Anglican Communion
bulletThe Church of England
bulletThe Anglican Church of Canada
 
bulletOn the ordination of women:
bulletThe Episcopal Church, USA

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ENS Headlines:

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References:

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

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Christianity > Mainline Christian conflicts > here

or Home page > Conflict > Homosexuality > Churches > here

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Copyright © 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2011-JUL-01
Author: B.A. Robinson


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