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Schism in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality

Events from 2007-SEP to 2010-MAY.
Flip-flop on consecrating new gay bishops.

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2007-SEP-25: Bishops move to meet primates' request:

At the conclusion of their meeting in New Orleans, bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA pledged to "exercise restraint" in approving additional gay bishops, and pledged to not approve an official prayer for blessing same-sex relationships. Presumably, the clergy will be able to continue blessing the house, car, yacht, etc. of same-sex couples; they are only forbidden to recognize same-sex relationships, even if the couple has already been civilly married. 1

2007-SEP-25: Conservative Episcopal bishops meet to organize a formal schism:

Fifty conservative bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA started a four-day meeting in Pittsburgh, PA to discuss splitting the American church into two separate denominations: one conservative and the other liberal.

Two observers from the Anglican Network in Canada, Rev. Canon Charlie Masters and retired eastern Newfoundland bishop Donald Harvey attended as observers. The Network is attempting to become an alternative to the Anglican church of Canada and become a denomination within the Anglican Communion .

Bob Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh, said: "Anglicanism seems to be failing in the west. Would each one of us become a missionary bishop?" He said that the Episcopal Church, USA is becoming increasing inhospitable for religious conservatives. He said: "Many Anglicans have become disheartened." Three dioceses plan to hold votes in the next few months on whether to split from the main denomination. He predicted that as many as five dioceses in the U.S. would initially follow this path, including his own diocese.

The diocese of Pittsburgh has actively promoted its independence from the national body:
bulletIn 2003, his diocese voted to ask the primates of the Anglican Communion:

"... to recognize conservatives who uphold traditional biblical sexual morality as the true Anglican church in the United States; ... [They decided] ... that the Pittsburgh diocese will no longer send money to the national church; and [that they would] give permission for parishes that wish to leave the diocese or denomination to keep their property." 2

bulletIn 2004, the diocese approved a measure that allows them to reject any decisions by the denomination that the diocese feels are "contrary to the historic faith and order of the Anglican Communion." 3

Bishop Duncan said that the recent decision by the American bishops in New Orleans to "exercise restraint" in approving another gay bishop and to not approve an official prayer for blessing same-sex couples indicated that the New Orleans meeting had "failed." 1

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2009-JUL: Moratorium on new LGBT bishops revoked:

General Assemblies in the Episcopal Church, USA (TEC) are held every three years. At the 2006 assembly, the laity, clergy and bishops of the church approved resolution BO33 which declared a moratorium on the consecration of new lesbian or gay bishops.

At the 2009 General Assembly, numerous resolutions had been proposed to terminate that moratorium.

On 2009-JUL-12, all three sets of delegates to the Assembly approved resolution DO-25 by impressive majorities. It affirmed membership by the Episcopal Church, USA in the worldwide Anglican Communion, while also declaring that all orders of the ministry, including the episcopate, are open to lesbians, gay, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBTs) as well as heterosexuals. The resolution stated that: "God has called and may call ...[gays in committed relationships to] any ordained ministry."

The vote by the House of Bishops was 99 to 45 in favor. The vote among the laity was 78 to 21. Among the clergy, the vote 77 to 19. A tradition within the Anglican Communion is to require that the majority of all three groups to vote in the affirmative before a resolution is passed.

The Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity USA, said: "We were reminded today of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent words to us that 'there is no unity without truth.' Today the clergy and laity of The Episcopal Church voted for both truth and unity by a wide margin." 4,5 We suspect that many Anglicans elsewhere in the world would strongly disagree with this statement.

Reverend Kendall Harmon, canon theologian from the Diocese of South Carolina, said that Reverend Glasspool's election “... represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching.”

John Cheek, a delegate from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts said: "I personally believe we had to do this. It's the way we see the Gospel." 4,5

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2010-MAY-15: Episcopal Church consecrates first openly lesbian bishop:

The Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool, 55 or 56, became the 17th woman and the second openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA) when she was consecrated in the Los Angeles diocese. (The first was Gene Robinson in 2003-NOV.) She is the daughter of a priest, has been a priest herself for 28 years, and has been in a 22 year loving committed relationship with her partner, Becki Sander, for the past 19 years. Ms. Sander holds a doctorate in social work.

Another female priest, the Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, became the first female bishop to be consecrated in the diocese a few hours before the Rev. Glasspool. The two became the 16th and 17th women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church.

According to the Episcopal News Service:

"Los Angeles' rich diversity was represented in song and dance, amid a mosaic of varying races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and sexual orientations -- none of which mattered, said Bishop Jon Bruno, a co-consecrator and homilist, 'because we are all people of God'. ..."

"Retired Massachusetts suffragan bishop Barbara Harris, who in 1988 became the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and worldwide Anglican Communion, served as one of seven co-consecrating bishops. She received sustained applause and a standing ovation when Bruno paid tribute to her in his sermon."

" 'It's a joy to participate in her consecration,' Harris later said of Glasspool, who in 1988 nominated Harris for bishop. 'We're great friends. Little did either of us know that both of us would be sitting in the House of Bishops'."

" 'She is going to make a very good bishop,' Harris added. 'She's a wonderful, caring, loving, pastoral person'."

"New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly gay, partnered bishop in the Episcopal Church, was among the bishops attending the service." 6

Reverend Canon Glasspool said, “I am very excited about the future of the whole Episcopal Church, and I see the Diocese of Los Angeles leading the way into that future.”

Bishop Bruno of the diocese of Los Angeles commented that she would bring decades of valuable experience to her new role. He said, “She is not afraid of conflict and she is a reconciler” He said that she and her long-term partner, Becki Sander, were examples of loving service and ministry.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion said that the consecration "... raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole."

The Church of Ireland, which is a separate province of the Anglican Communion, issued a statement saying: "We wish to express sorrow that Mary Glasspool, a person who is living in a same-sex relationship, is to be consecrated. The elevation to senior church leadership of a person whose lifestyle is contrary to the will of God revealed in scripture is both wrong and disappointing." 7,8

Reactions to the CNN article are varied and predictable. (Grammar, punctuation and spelling corrected):

  • Tippitytop1 wrote: "Now sits the abomination that sits at the alter [sic] of God."

  • Surthurfurd wrote: "Seems like the Episcopal church in the US has shown more Christian values than the Catholic one (where one group has rejected teaching the child of a homosexual couple). It is very hard to extract religion from cultural bias and in this case it seems the US Episcopal church is showing growth." (Received 34 "likes")

  • GeorgeMason9 wrote: "Really suthurfurd. What Christian Values would that be. It is one thing to have outreach to all sorts of Groups and that is biblical but it is a whole other thing to have a pastor who meets none of the criteria to be a pastor that the Bible clearly outlines and also this person is living opposite of what the Bible says to do and not only lives a sinful lifestyle but embraces it and says it is good." (Received 19 "likes.")

  • twincam72 wrote: "Yes, and when the Episcopal church starts appointing NAMBLA members to its hierarchy, you can come back here and beat your chest again! Then, a few years later, we'll read about the Episcopalian's appointment of the first-ever brother/sister incest duo to perform a joint service -- all in the name of ever-expanding Christian values."

  • hgrayowl wrote: "We believe that Jesus wants us to serve the marginalized in our society. We are more interested in following Jesus and serving his people, all of them, than in the niceties of some Christian Churches. ... She may be a sinner in your eyes, but she is not in ours. She has been a great priest and servant of God and will continue to be such as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles."
  • drumsticks wrote: "my lord, the Episcopal church is such a tiny organization in this country, less than 1% of the American population! Even within Protestantism, it is tiny. Why such a fuss over her ordination? But I say, Good for her!!! I am sure she will do a good job (like Methodist women bishops and women bishops in other denominations.)"

The core problem is that conservatives and liberals within the Episcopal Church interpret the six biblical "clobber passages" concerning same-sex sexual activity very differently. The disagreement is exacerbated by two factors:

  • Most persons from both sides are absolutely certain of the correctness of their interpretation of the Bible; they have zero room for doubt.

  • There is little debate between the two sides, and essentially no dialogue. They have formed two solitudes.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Stuart Laidlaw, "Anglican split gains ground," Toronto Star, 2007-SEP-26, Page AA4.
  2. Ann Rodgers-Melnick, "Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese asks leaders to recognize conservative stance. Votes follow summer decision on gay bishop." Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA, 2003-SEP-28, at: http://www.post-gazette.com/
  3. "The Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh ..." Christian Century, 2004-DEC-28, at: http://findarticles.com/
  4. Episcopal Church House of Deputies overwhelming [sic] overrides ban on gay bishops," 2009-JUL-12, Integrity, 2009-JUL-12, at: http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com
  5. "Gay clergy eligible for all Episcopal ministry," Associated Press, 2009-JUL-15, at: http://www.usatoday.com
  6. Pat McCaughan, "Diane Bruce, Mary Glasspool consecrated bishops in joyous celebration in Los Angeles diocese," Episcopal News Service, 2010-MAY-15, at: http://ecusa.anglican.org
  7. Episcopal Church consecrates first openly lesbian bishop," CNN News, 2010-MAY-15, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  8. Narayan Lakshman. "U.S. church to have lesbian bishop," The Hindu, 2010-MAY-16, at: http://beta.thehindu.com/

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Copyright © 2007 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-MAY-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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