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