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THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, USA AND HOMOSEXUALITY

ACTIVITIES FOLLOWING THE 2003 GENERAL CONVENTION

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Events following the General Convention:

bullet2003-AUG-11: Inclusive petition circulating: The webmaster at InclusiveChurch.net is circulating a petition which states:

"We affirm that the Church's mission, in obedience to Holy Scripture, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every generation. We acknowledge that this is Good News for people regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation. We believe that, in order to strengthen the Gospel's proclamation of justice to the world, and for the greater glory of God, the Church's own common life must be justly ordered. To that end, we call on our Church to live out the promise of the Gospel; to celebrate the diverse gifts of all members of the body of Christ; and in the ordering of our common life to open the ministries of deacon, priest and bishop to those so called to serve by God, regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation."

He invites individuals, parish councils and other organizations to register their support. 1

bullet2003-AUG-13: Washington Post poll: They polled 1,003 randomly selected American adults, asking the question: "As you may know, the Episcopal church has given its bishops the option of allowing clergy to bless the committed relationships of gay or lesbian couples. Do you approve or disapprove of this decision?" They found that 33% approved, 60% disapproved and 7% had no opinion.

They asked those subjects who has a religion and attends religious services at least a few times a year the question: "If the church you regularly attend decided to allow blessings of gay or lesbian couples, would you continue to attend that church, or would you look for another church to attend?" They found that 48% would continue to attend; 47% would look for another church; 5% had no opinion. Margin of error is 3 percentage points.
2
bullet2003-AUG-15: Priest rejects church: The Massachusetts Family Institute reported that: "Rev. Steven Randall, of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Catonsville, Maryland, denounced the decision to confirm Bishop Robinson from the pulpit and announced he would no longer obey his bishop." He said that: "I can no longer personally, as a priest, submit to the doctrine and the discipline of the Episcopal Church and that means I will not be able to allow myself to be under the direct authority not only of an ungodly church but really a bishop who has shown that he will not follow scriptures." He aslo said that he would no longer direct his congregation to continue funding the Episcopal Church. The congregation gave him a rousing standing ovation. 3
bullet2003-SEP-8: AAC conference moves to larger site: The American Anglican Council planned to hold its October meeting at Christ Church in Plano, TX. But, after only two weeks of registration, they were forced to change the location of the meeting to a larger convention center in Dallas, TX. Rev. David Roseberry, rector (senior pastor) of Christ Church said: "We're changing venues. We can no longer house it at our church." AAC president Rev. Canon David Anderson said that the conference will draft a request to the leaders of the Anglican Communion  asking "for their immediate and direct intervention into the affairs of the Episcopal Church....But (the conference is) also to prepare the people there for what will be a coming separation." 4
bullet2003-OCT-10: AAC Conference: According to Focus on the Family, over 4,000 people attended the AAC conference which was held in Dallas, TX from OCT-7 to 9. Included were about 800 clergy. 5 The AAC website states that "over 2000 attendees" were present. 6 The theme was "A Place to Stand, Declaring , Preparing." The main topic of discussion was the conservative-liberal split in the denomination. One reflection of this was the opposition to the confirmation of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. David Kennedy, a retired Anglican priest from Florida said that it's "...a sea change for Anglicanism in this country...I think something new will come out of this." The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, a church theologian from the Diocese of South Carolina, said, in his speech: "My dear brothers and sisters, I am so proud this afternoon to say to you that we are people who believe in the authority of the Bible." Teaching an exclusivist position, he said: "The overwhelming conviction of historic Christianity is: If you don't have Christ, you're lost."

The conference attendees drafted a document which will be presented to the leaders of the Anglican Communion who are meeting in London during the week of OCT-13. In it, they:
bulletRepudiated the majority decision by the representatives at the 2003 General Convention to confirm Gene Robinson, a non-celibate homosexual as bishop. They also repudiated the decision to introduce a local option in the blessing of same-sex relationships.
bulletProclaimed "God's transforming power for everyone seeking sexual purity and wholeness." This presumably means that God will empower those with a homosexual orientation to remain celibate.
bulletCommitted to withhold donations to "those structures that support the unrighteous actions of the General convention."
bulletAppealed to the Primates of the worldwide Anglican Communion to:
bullet"Discipline those bishops in the Episcopal Church who, by
their actions, have departed from biblical faith and order;
bulletGuide the realignment of Anglicanism in North America;
bulletEncourage orthodox bishops as they extend episcopal oversight, pastoral care, and apostolic mission across current diocesan boundaries; and
bulletSupport isolated and beleaguered congregations and individuals in their life and witness as faithful Anglican Christians."

It is unclear how the Primates can discipline bishops in the Episcopal Church. The organization of the Anglican Communion has no provision for that. The reference to extending "eipscopal oversight" apparently implies that conservative Bishops will attempt to impose their authority over members in adjacent liberal dioceses. This is an interesting concept: to have one diocese ruled by two bishops. To our knowledge, this is the first time that this has been proposed in the past 18 centuries of Christian history. Their reference to "isolated and beleaguered congregations and individuals" appears to be a recognition that they represent a small conservative minority within the Episcopal Church.

bullet2003-OCT-16: Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion: Thirty-seven of the world's 38 Anglican primates met in London, UK, to discuss:
bulletThe confirmation of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, and
bulletThe vote by the diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada to allow the blessing of same-sex unions.

The primate from the Philippines was unable to attend. They issued a statement stating, in part, that: "These actions threaten the unity of our own communion...If his (Robinson's) consecration proceeds, we recognize that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the communion itself will be put in jeopardy." Robinson's consecration is scheduled for NOV-2. The primates decided to established a commission to duty how this and future crises should be handled. It is to complete its work within 12 months.

Some comments:
bulletArchbishop Michael Peers, primate of Canada, said: "We are still in communion but there are dark, dark clouds on the horizon, particularly around the consecration of the bishop of New Hampshire."
bulletRev. Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA, said: "I stand fully behind the careful process used by the diocese of New Hampshire to discern who it wishes to have as its next bishop....different points of view can be held...without the issue of sexuality becoming church dividing."
bulletRowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, said that the Communion had grown closer as a result of the meeting which produced "no winners of losers." He also commented: "Undoubtedly there is a huge crisis looming....I think what we have achieved this week, though, is at least to find some way of talking through the crisis without instantly jumping into what appear to be quick solutions....When and if the ordination of Canon Robinson goes ahead in the U.S., we shall immediately have some responses from around the world, I am sure. But what we have done is to give ourselves a sort of 12 month-plus thinking time, inviting provinces to reflect on their reactions and also having a central commission in the Anglican church which will look at the possible implications of a split because there are constitutional, legal questions for all the churches involved." He expressed concern for the effect that the North American decisions will have on Anglican churches in the Middle East, etc. He said: "Minority churches which exist in places like Pakistan and elsewhere depend quite a lot for their status and their public voice on being associated with a ... worldwide body. When parts of that worldwide body make decision which may be thought to commit or involve those small local churches, they can be placed in appallingly difficult positions."
bulletRev. Colin Coward of Britain's pro-gay group Changing Attitudes said: "The dream of a church that was open and welcoming to gay and lesbian people was realistically never ever going to happen. The relief is that for the moment the communion stays together because that means the conversations can continue, that is certainly good news."
bulletArchbishop Gregory Venables, leader of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America, representing the church in Latin America predicted: "There will be a split, because there is no option."
bulletCanadian Bishop Michael Ingham acknowledged the pain caused by the decision of his diocese of New Westminster. He said: "We would say as well for our part that the act of rejecting and discriminating against homosexual people around the world causes pain and distress around the world too. Nobody has a monopoly on pain." 7,8

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References used:

  1. The petition of the Inclusive Church is at http://www.inclusivechurch.net. Any questions can be directed to info@inclusivechurch.net
  2. "Washington Post Poll: Gay Unions," Washington Post, 2003-AUG-13, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  3. "Continued backlash against homosexual unions, Episcopal Church," Massachusetts Family Institute, MFE E-Alert, 2003-AUG-15.
  4. Citizenlink, Focus on the Family, 2003-SEP-8.
  5. Stuart Shepard, "Episcopalians Gather to Consider Future," Family News in Focus, 2003-OCT-9, at: http://www.family.org/
  6. "Sign the call to action!," American Anglican Council, 2003-OCT-9, at: http://www.americananglican.org/
  7. "Anglican clerics warn of crisis in church. Row ignited by same-sex unions in Canada, U.S. gay bishop. 'Actions threaten unity of our own communion,' leaders say," The Toronto Star, 2003-OCT-17, Page A15.
  8. "U.S. Episcopalians, divided over gays, welcome outcome of emergency summit," Associated Press, 2003-OCT-17, at: http://www.azcentral.com/

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Copyright 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-OCT-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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