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Topics covered in this essay:

bullet1997 Activities:
bulletGeneral Convention
bulletConservative Reform/Renewal Groups:
bullet1998 Activities:
bulletOrdination Protest in Kalamazoo, MI
bulletLos Angeles Diocese rejects Lambeth resolution

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General Convention, 1997:

This was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, starting 1997-JUL-16. On JUL-19, the delegates voted on a resolution to ask the church's liturgical commission to develop "a rite or rites for the blessing of committed relationships between persons of the same sex.". The measure affirmed "the sacredness of Christian marriage between one man and one woman." A supporter of the resolution, Rev. Jane N. Garrett of Vermont, said: "We are not attempting to subvert the sanctity of marriage...Far from it. We are asking to join in the sanctity of marriage through full participation in it." Some of those opposed believed, incorrectly, that this would make them the first church in the world to bless same-sex union rituals. Rev. Richard C. Crocker of Iowa said: "The passage of this resolution will put us permanently out of step with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, conservative Protestants and many mainline Protestants as well. The vast majority reject this practice as sin." the Rev. Gerry L. Schnackenberg of Colorado said that the laity is opposed to such rituals: "It will have been done against the convictions of a majority of those who sit in our pews...It will be done in response to a pressure group which has taken the novel approach of raising experience to normative authority over Scripture."

57 or more of both the lay delegates and the priests within the House of Deputies had to vote in favor of the resolution in order to pass it on to the House of Bishops. The vote among the laity was 56 in favor and 41 against; among the priests it was 56 in favor and 37 against. A majority was in favor but not a large enough number to approve the measure. Supporters of the measure are expected to reintroduce the measure at the next convention, to be held in the year 2000. Rev. M W. Hopkins is a member of Integrity, the Episcopal gay and lesbian support organization. He commented: "To us, this vote is an affirmation. We're pleased with this vote. It means it's coming back." He predicted that some priests would continue to bless same-sex unions. "They've been going on for years and they will continue to go on."

The convention approved a resolution that authorized individual dioceses to offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners of clergy and church employees, both heterosexual and homosexual. The Anglican Church of Canada had passed a similar resolution in 1996.

On a related matter, the House of Bishops approved a measure addressed to four bishops who refuse on principle to ordain women. The denomination has had female priests since 1976. These bishops now have to develop plans to ordain women by 1999 or face the possibility of a church trial.

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Conservative reform/renewal groups -- 1997:

The Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) is a conservative reform/renewal organization of Anglicans. 1 It  changed its name to Forward in Faith - North America (FiFNA) in 1999. They held their 9th annual meeting shortly after the General Convention. On 1997-JUL-27, Donald P. Moriarty, II, President of the ESA, gave an address 2 to the ESA Legislative Body during the annual meeting. He announced a remarkable development. Four Bishops and their dioceses will declare themselves to be independent of the Episcopal Church. "Those dioceses will continue to Be [sic] the Church." They invite other parishes to join them. They suggest that some individuals may wish to form congregations and unite with the ESA. They invite Episcopal "orthodox associations and ministries" to join as well. Apparently 9 bishops from outside the United States have agreed to recognize the new Province. In effect, there will now be two Episcopal church organizations covering the United States, each regarding itself to be the legitimate Anglican organization.

The ESA issued a statement 2 which states in part:

"[The] General Convention...refused to uphold orthodox doctrine and restore godly discipline, while acting to persecute the faithful. The Convention has thereby created substantial impediments to the practice and advance of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Their main concerns are that the General Convention "refused to affirm the biblical standards of sexual morality." Specific complaints included the continued study of the blessing of gay and lesbian partnerships, and allowing dioceses to extend insurance coverage to domestic partners of its employees.

The American Anglican Council (AAC) is a conservative network of "individuals, parishes, specialized ministries, and a council of Episcopal Bishops who affirm Biblical authority and Anglican orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church." 3 They believe that salvation is reserved for only those who believe in Jesus Christ; they are pro-life; they encourage a lessening of separation between church and state; they believe that sexual activity must be restricted to marriage between one man and one woman.

Another conservative group, the Concerned Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church (CCLEC) 9 have distributed a letter by their president, William Cheney. It is titled "A Call to the Abandoned Faithful in the Episcopal Church from the CCLEC."4 They support "a congress of those faithful persons, parishes, and dioceses that hold to the Biblical Faith within the Anglican Tradition, and now find themselves homeless in the United States because of the apostasy of the Episcopal Church, be called for the purpose of prayerful, deliberate action towards their reorganization as an Anglican Province of North America."

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Ordination protest in Kalamazoo, MI -- 1998:

Thirty people protested at the ordination of three priests, two of which are openly homosexual. 5 This occurred at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Kalamazoo, MI on 1998-JAN-17. Susan Shau, of St. Luke's, Kalamazoo, said to the presider, Bishop Edward Lee of Western Michigan: "We believe the Standing Committee of the diocese and you have erred in approving these [two] ordinations. You are acting contrary to the Holy Scriptures, the church's historic teaching, and the present official position of the Episcopal Church, all of which you have a sacred duty to uphold." Bishop Lee responded, during the service, that all three candidates had fulfilled all canonical requirements and had been recommended for ordination. He acknowledge that the denomination had not reached a consensus on this issue, and that continued dialogue was needed. Bishop Lee continued: "The liturgy allows for such a statement...I ask the congregation to respect those making the protest and to refrain from any sign either of support or disapproval." He also asked persons on both sides of the issue to respect each other's "baptismal integrity."

One of the ordinands, the Rev. Valerie Ambrose, has openly acknowledge that she lives in a long-term, monogamous lesbian relationship. She serves at St. Martin of Tours in Kalamazoo. The Rev. Thomas Brown is open about his gay committed relationship. He served an internship in Traverse City, and has returned to work in San Francisco, where he serves a congregation and directs alumni relations for the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, CA. A group, Clergy and Laity Bearing Witness, had protested his Brown's ordination as transitional deacon in 1997. The third ordinand, the Rev. Nancy Hotra, is  married; her ordination was not protested. She serves a congregation in Battle Creek, MI.

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Los Angeles Diocese rejects Lambeth Declaration:

1998-DEC-7: Religion Today reported:

Episcopalians in California say they won't condemn homosexuality. The Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese voted 203-105 against a resolution by the world's Anglican bishops that says homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture, the Associated Press said. The bishops "need to gain considerably more pastoral experience and engage in more thoughtful study and Christian conversations before I could regard them as well-informed and wholly guided by the Holy Spirit on this issue," Los Angeles Bishop Frederick H. Borsch said of the Canterbury resolution. About 700 Anglican bishops passed the resolution at the Lambeth Conference in London this summer. Episcopal priests in Los Angeles have performed same-sex unions since 1998 and ordain non-celibate homosexuals and lesbians. 6

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Concerned Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church (CCLEC):

1998-DEC-11: The CCLEC issued a statement prepared by members of the First Promise Round Table, a coalition of conservative Anglicans, which includes clergy, lay leaders, seminary professors, theologians and the heads of a number of conservative parachurch ministries. Some oppose the ordination of women; all oppose equal treatment for gays and lesbians in committed relationships. They support two petitions issued by the Association of Anglican Congregations in Mission. One requests the primates of the Anglican Communion to make an emergency intervention in the running of the Evangelical Church, USA. The other is a petition to the conservative bishops of the Anglican Communion to protect conservative Anglicans in the U.S. until the Evangelical Church, USA is either reformed or replaced. They statement said, in part: "We believe that the petitions express the concerns and desires of the vast majority of orthodox Anglicans in America. We consider ourselves to be among the orthodox believers upon whose behalf the petitions are made. We will be taking the petitions to our respective Boards and urging that they also support them." 7

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  1. Forward in Faith- North America has a home page at: http://www.forwardinfaith.com/
  2. An ESA news page contains their president's speech and the organization's 1997-AUG statement. See: http://www.iminet.com/synod/news.html
  3. The American Anglican Council has its official home page at: http://www.episcopalian.org/aac/
  4. The CCLEC "Call to the Faithful" is available at: http://www.episcopalian.org/cclec/paper-abandoned-faithful.htm
  5. News item, Episcopal News Service, 1998-FEB-10
  6. Religion Today's website is at: http://www.ReligionToday.com
  7. "A Declaration of Unity in Support of Petitions to Preserve the Anglican Faith in the United States of America," Concerned Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church, 1998-DEC-11, at: http://www.episcopalian.org/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUN-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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