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The Episcopal Church, USA and homosexuality

The future of the issue;
webmaster's personal opinion

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What does the future hold?

A partial schism has developed between the Episcopal Church, USA, and most of the remaining provinces of the Anglican Communion. On the surface, the cause of this split is a difference in belief and practice concerning homosexuality. But it is fundamentally a difference in the ways that Episcopalians develop and change their teachings and beliefs. On the matter of sexual orientation in general and homosexuality specifically:

bullet Some individual Anglicans and Anglican groups interpret the Bible literally and consider homosexuality to be sinful, no matter what the relationship is between the individuals involved. They have the support of almost 19 centuries of Christian tradition.

bullet Others interpret the Bible differently and accept current research into human sexuality. They conclude that homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality are morally neutral. Many believe that any sexual activity is sinful, if it is unsafe, manipulative, coercive, or is done in the absence of a committed relationship -- no mater what the genders of the people involved.

On another level it is a conflict between:

bullet The beliefs that God inspired the authors of the Bible, that they wrote inerrant text, perhaps that God has preserved the integrity of the text to the present time, and that the Bible is quite authoritative on sexual matters.

bullet The beliefs that the Bible was written between circa 950 BCE and 150 CE by authors who were severely limited by their tribal culture and lack of scientific knowledge. Their writings should not be considered authoritative on matters relating to human sexuality or in any other scientific or medical topic.

Many conflicts have strained Anglican unity in the past. Topics like the acceptance of human slavery, whether women had souls, whether anesthetics are allowed during childbirth, the role of women in society, whether contraception is morally acceptable, female ordination, female consecration to the rank of bishop, elevation of a female bishop to Primate, etc. The Communion has been able to weather each of these conflicts so far. However, the conflict over homosexuality threatens to split the Anglican Communion.

There is every likelihood that many conservative parishes in the U.S. will want to leave the Episcopal Church, USA denomination and yet remain part of the worldwide Communion. Some type of parallel structure may develop for the first time within Anglicanism in which there will be, in effect, two provinces -- one conservative and the other progressive -- occupying the same geographical area -- the United States.

Many in the Episcopal Church, USA, are suggesting that the drive within the denomination to accept gays lesbians and bisexuals as equals be slowed down in order to "serve the wider unity of the church" as Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia has stated. Others suggest that the denomination proceed to full acceptance sexual minorities. Indeed, many feel that change is inevitable. Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire, the denomination's first openly gay bishop said:

"I could get hit by a bus this afternoon and it wouldn't stop this. There are faithful gay and lesbian people who are going to be raised up by dioceses everywhere. It's not going to be an end to it. So we might as well decide that God's gay and lesbian children are every bit as fully God's children as anyone else." 1

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Personal opinion of the author:

I am the main author of most of the essays in this web site. I attempt to suppress my own beliefs and try to objectively describe all viewpoints. Occasionally, I want to break out of this mold and express my own opinions. This is one such case.

The Episcopal Church, USA, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the rest of the Anglican Communion suffer from the same problems as do most other conservative and mainline Christian faith groups:

bullet They have difficulty handling change. The Communion does not have an established mechanism to handle major differences of belief among and within provinces.

bullet Some groups within the church have changed at a different rate from the others. Some view the Gospel message as fixed, and feel a need to ...earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 1:3). Others feel that some of the church's past policies are profoundly immoral and unchristian and need to be changed with all deliberate speed.

bullet Differences exist over the nature of truth. Some feel that a traditional interpretation of the Bible itself and of the church's tradition should be the almost exclusive criteria for determining truth. Others feel that scientific findings and personal experience should have a major role in determining truth.

bullet Differences exist over the interpretation of the Bible:

bullet Some believe it to be it authoritative, infallible, inspired by God, and sufficient for all of our spiritual needs, while

bullet Others approach the Bible as the product of writers trying to promote their own spiritual beliefs, but limited by their pre-scientific and tribal culture.

My personal expectation is that a mechanism for handling change in the Anglican Communion will be initiated within North America. Perhaps by the mid-2010s, the Episcopal Church, USA and the Anglican Church of Canada will continue as they have in the past. But there will be one more province created which will teach traditional, conservative beliefs and cover both countries. All three will form part of the Anglican Communion. although only the new province will be recognized by some other provinces. The beliefs of all three provinces will change rapidly: the existing provinces will move to consecrate other gay or lesbian bishops, to create a ritual to recognize committed same-sex partnerships, marriages, civil unions, etc. The new conservative province will quickly revert to traditional teachings. They will firmly prohibit the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, work to criminalize almost all abortions, and cooperate closely with fundamentalist Protestants, other evangelicals, and Roman Catholics on many social concerns. Over many decades, either the present provinces or the new province will wither in membership. Eventually, merger talks will start to heal the wound.

End of personal opinion.

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References:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Preview of Episcopal Church Convention," Religion & Ethics Newsletter, 2009-JUN-09, Episode no. 941, at: http://www.pbs.org/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2012by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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