ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to open the door to consecrate more bishops who are openly gay, a move that is likely to send shock waves throughout the Anglican Communion, the global network of churches to which the Episcopal Church belongs.
By voting to affirm that “any ordained ministry” is open to gay men and lesbians, the Episcopal Church effectively ended what many regarded as a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops, which the church passed at its last convention three years ago.
The moratorium was adopted in what proved to be a largely unsuccessful effort to calm conservatives in the Anglican Communion, which has torn itself apart in the last six years since the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire first elected the communion’s first and only openly gay bishop, Bishop V. Gene Robinson. The battle over homosexuality in the Episcopal Church has been watched closely by other mainline Protestant churches. They are looking to the Episcopal Church as a bellwether that could foretell whether their denominations can survive the storm over homosexuality intact.
Many delegates to the church’s convention here characterized the action not as an overturning of the moratorium, but as simply an honest assertion of “who we are.” They note that the church, which claims about two million members, has hundreds of openly gay laypeople, priests and deacons, and that its democratic decision-making structures are charged with deciding who merits ordination.
“It’s not an attempt to fly in the face of the Anglican Communion,” said Bonnie Anderson, who as president of the House of Deputies, which represents laypeople and clergy members, is one of the church’s two top officers. “It’s an attempt to deepen relationships with the rest of the communion, because real relationships are built on authenticity.”
But some at the convention warned that the Episcopal Church could pay a price for snubbing its global partners.
Bishop Shannon S. Johnston, coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, who will take office on Oct. 1, said in an interview that he voted against it because “I thought we would be seen as uncooperative and not a team player in the Anglican Communion.”
Zack Brown, a youth delegate from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, begged the House of Deputies just before their final vote, “Please don’t vote in a way that makes more conservatives feel the way I do now: like I’m the only one left.”
The vote in both houses was more than two-thirds in favor and one-third opposed or abstaining.
The House of Bishops also took up a measure that would create a liturgy to bless same-sex couples. Such blessings are already being done in many dioceses, without official sanction. “It is time for our church to be liberated from the hypocrisy under which it has been laboring,” Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Ky., told his fellow bishops on Tuesday.
The Episcopal Church acted despite a personal address at the start of the convention from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who as head of the Church of England is considered “first among equals” among the communion’s archbishops. “Along with many in the communion,” the archbishop said, “I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart.”
The resolution passed Tuesday was written in a way that would allow dioceses to consider gay candidates to the episcopacy, but does not mandate that all dioceses do so. It also emphasizes that the Episcopal Church has “an abiding commitment” to the Anglican Communion.
It says that many gay men and lesbians are already ministering in the church and that, “God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, and that God’s call to the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church is a mystery which the church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church.”
Pamela Reamer Williams, a spokeswoman for Integrity USA, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the church, said: “The church has stated very clearly that all levels of the ministry in the Episcopal Church are open to the L.G.B.T. baptized. It is a change in the sense that it supersedes the effective moratorium.”
Conservative provinces in the Anglican Communion, especially some in Africa, broke their ties with the Episcopal Church after it consecrated Bishop Robinson.
The moratorium adopted three years ago urged Episcopal dioceses to restrain from consecrating bishops whose “manner of life” posed a challenge to the rest of the Anglican Communion. In fact, a few openly gay candidates were considered for election in the last three years, but none won sufficient support, and the moratorium was never tested.
In the end, the moratorium pleased no one: neither conservatives who observed that some in the church did not really intend to abide by it, nor liberals who saw it as a codification of discrimination and injustice to gay clergy members who otherwise were qualified to be considered as bishops. The moratorium also did little to forestall the fracturing both within the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion. Conservatives in both bodies have formed their own alliances in the last three years, asserting that they represent the true Anglican tradition.
In the United States, four dioceses — Fort Worth; Pittsburgh; Quincy, Ill.; and San Joaquin, Calif. — have voted to split from the Episcopal Church (although some parishes within those dioceses elected to remain).
Last year, they joined with other disaffected parishes and groups that had splintered from the Episcopal Church over many years to form the “Anglican Church in North America.” That group held its first convention, in Texas, last month. They claim 100,000 members.
The new group says that Scripture clearly prohibits homosexual relationships. Church liberals, meanwhile, insist that the Anglican tent is large enough to tolerate multiple approaches.
The debates at the convention in Anaheim over the last few days have made it clear that the liberals increasingly have the upper hand within the Episcopal Church. At a debate over whether to develop formal rites for same-sex weddings, 50 people testified in favor and 6 against.
“It’s a clean sweep for the liberal agenda in the Episcopal Church,” said David Virtue, editor of VirtueOnline.org, a conservative Web site. “The orthodox are finished.”
Read it all here.
I would modify David Virtues's comment to read that the orthodox are finished IN TEC.
They are alive and well elsewhere.
Amen. I agree with Ralph.
And I say to Zack, sweetheart, it is time to come home.
NYTimes doesn't have it quite right, do they? It was my understanding that they sanctioned ANY sexual orientation for the Episcopate, not just gays and lesbians, because, after all, we know that what the Leftists are after is not just the approval and inclusion of gays and lesbians -- that's just the proverbial nose of the proverbial camel.
Since this is from 'hell's bible' it's no wonder the merest fact is deftly mis-represented: for example, in "...the Episcopal Church effectively ended what many regarded as a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops....." 'What many regarded' as a moratorium; not an actual moratorium agreed democratically by GenCon '06, just some statement that 'many regarded as a moratorium' - and others evidently regarded as whatever they chose to!
The Washington Times report is clearer on this: "In Tuesday’s actions, the U.S. church reversed a promise made to the rest of the communion by agreeing to end the church’s gay-bishop ban, which the church imposed in 2006 at its last triennial convention after the worldwide furor over the 2003 consecration"....
'Reversed a promise'; that says it quite a bit more honestly than 'ended what many regarded as a moratorium....", don't you think?
>>'Reversed a promise'; that says it quite a bit more honestly than 'ended what many regarded as a moratorium....",
No, it describes the same thing. TEC is famous for many things, and one is hiding what it is doing, or going to do, behind quibbles. One thing is does not indulge in is honesty.
Why is it that the N.Y. Times, the ABC, N.T. Wright, and Susan Russell get it but important voices within the institutional progressives do not. If you read comments by Fr. Dan Martins or Rev. Professor Christopher Seitz one would think that the results of GenCon09 present the the bottle as half full. Dr. Seitz was happy for 45 "no" votes and Fr. Dan on his blog site was pummeled by responders for his equivocal take on the results.
What is interesting about the three years since B033 advised restraint is that we saw restraint. Whether B033 was a promise or a moratorium, no partnered gay or lesbian priests became bishops during the past three years. Besides that, the GC took no action in 2003 to begin consideration of rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships. And what was the response of the "orthodox" to these signs of restraint? The ordination of bishops for mission work in the US. Votes by vestries and diocesan conventions to leave the Episcopal Church. The recognition bu some member churches of the WWAC of ACNA. Who, I aks, show restraint these past three years?
How would you describe the situation now? Do the votes suggest continued restraint? I would contend that TEC is expressing a different, dynamic and unfolding view of God than the rest of the Anglican Communion in general. I have no problem with this as a member of an ACNA Diocese. Think of it as irreconcilable differences. Paul and Barnabas walked apart.
As you know, your Presiding Bishop has claimed the title of Primate, has trampled the canons, injected TEC into court cases where she has no canonical authority and otherwise behaved as a despot.
Given that the bishops have, by their inaction, ceded her such authority, could she not also have issued a decree of no same-sex blessings if that were truly TEC's policy? The absence of rites of same sex blessings has little to do with what is happening on the ground. The resolutions passed at GC 09 only confirm what has been happening for at least six years.
Walks like + talks like = duck
Ralph's comments are nothing new and I have no intention of repeating all of my reasons for supporting the attempts to protect the property rights of ECUSA in the courts. I think the decision of the General Convention to refer to the Presiding Bishop as Primate may have been unfortunate, but it was made such a long time ago that I think it should no longer be an issue.
Well, I certainly hope the liberal progressives will enjoy TEC "services" with largely empty pews in large beautiful buildings wiuth minimal finances fior up keep and repair. That should be jolly.
The orthodox Anglicans in TEC and other places are doing just fine. The diocese of SC is the ONLY dioeces in TEC that is growing.
Meanwhile TEC membership continues to shrink at an alarming rate. As Dr. Phil would say "How is it working for ya?". From this vantage point, I would say- not so well.
Is this really a shock wave? I mean come on... apostasy has been around as long as the serpent?
I have not been around, but had to stop in the cafe to catch the buzz on whatever the TEC is up to now.
Have been very happy since joining the Orthodox Church, and worship with many ex-TEC folks. Working on being ordained and starting a Western Rite mission.
May God's peace and understanding grace all of you.
As an member of a Episcopal Church that was hit hard by a group leaving after 2003, I have to disagree about empty pews. The group that left to form an Anglican church has all but fallen apart, while we continue to grow and thrive.
I hate that people feel that have to leave over this issue. One of the great things about TEC has always been the ability to come together and worship God despite our differences of opinion.
Sin isn't just an "issue", it is death. Ordination means not marrying afterwards. If you decide to marry, you step down. How does anyone even dream up the idea that same sex unions are not included? This is a very shallow subject by those forcing it on the church. How about the support of abortion by the TEC?
Robinson claims he's been "lonely" as the only Gay clergy? The TEC is loaded with Gay clergy, and some living together as in the female priest and deacon in New Jersey. How can someone serving as an apostle of Christ's church claim to be lonely unless around other same sex attracted men?
May the Holy Spirit wake you up...
I guess that means that you feel homosexuality is a "sin". I do not, but that is beside the point.
Aren't we all sinners? Don't we come to God for forgiveness of those sins every day? Aren't we forgiven for our sins by Jesus Christ?
I just refuse to believe in a God that condemns instead of a God who loves. Jesus is/was/will always be about love, not hate/condemnation.
Again, why do people feel that they have to leave the church? Why can we not continue this debate and still share Communion with God?
Jessie, OKC, I'm sincerely curious: you say, "One of the great things about TEC has always been the ability to come together and worship God despite our differences of opinion."
In your mind, is that, and should it be, true for any difference of opinion? If the church officially declared Jesus to not be the Christ, well, that might not be your opinion, but would that be a difference too great? Are there any bridges too far for you?
Phil, please. That is ridiculous. I am serious and trying to have a serious discussion, not to be slammed.
Jessie - I'm not slamming you. I set up an extreme to demonstrate that we all have boundaries. So to say, "why not continue this debate" seems to miss the point that these actions cross the boundaries of others. You seem to be disputing the validity of that, but I think it's now clear you have some red lines of your own. The discussion might be more fruitful if it focused on why certain sexual behaviors are over some people's lines but not yours.
To say that the church would ever say that Jesus was not Christ would be ridiculous in my mind. But I understand your perspective as well.
My main problem here is the idea that homosexuals are not Christian. The man who led my parents back to the church, and TEC in particular, was gay. There are two wonderful gentlemen in my current church who are gay. For my experience they are people just like heterosexuals are, and deserve the chance to worship and serve openly just as heterosexuals do.
Why is homosexuality across your "red line"? I appreciate that you wish to discuss this instead of just shouting me down.
I apologize if I don't write more for a while. I have to head to pick up my son and start dinner, etc.
I don't "feel" that homosexuality is a sin. "Feeling" being the basis of judgement is part of the problem with the people running TEC.
Along with clever euphemisms masking evil, there has been an ongoing dialog going on that repeats ad nauseum the lie of homosexuals not being "invited to the table". The simple truth is that all people who refuse to recognize and confess their sin are lost. Trying to wrap sin in a false covering of tolerance and clever euphemisms does not change the biblical fact that it is sin and offends the holy and mighty God. Acting upon sexual attraction towards something outside of marriage is no worse than any other sin, but it is still sin. Marriage is defined by God between a man and women. To try and claim otherwise by elected Bishops is heresy.
God loves all sinners, but asks we sinners to avoid sin and live our lives towards holiness. The TEC leadership has abandoned that truth .
One last thing....people like myself have left TEC because the truth that Christ is the only way to the Father has been abandoned by the current leadership. This opens the gates to all the other false theology. How can anyone that truly wishes to serve Christ and honer His Bride towards the new age find the Spirit in a house of sin?
Christ never tolerated sin. He forgave those that repented and told them to sin no more. He also suffered the cross in payment of this behavior.
I’ve not ever said they aren’t Christian, or even wonderful people. I do think that’s beside the point. I think the judgment of the entire Church, across all time, on this issue counts for something – counts for a lot, actually. The Scripture has to be read with and in the Church, and its message is not only from the negative side. The entire sweep of it, from Old Testament to New and on through the imagery adopted by Christ’s Church, says that God’s order for matrimony is the union of a man and a wife.
The Church has always taught that it is our job to subdue our passions through humility and ascetic labor. This is the meaning of Christ when He said that, “the Kingdom is taken by force.” He also taught us to “deny ourselves.” There is no warrant, therefore, to the idea that, because I am driven to do something, justice demands I be allowed to do it, still less that I be blessed in doing it, yet this is the argument we’re given.
Further, delegates at GC are now saying openly what many of us have always accused them of saying implicitly: that they have a duty to conform to secular society. Again, we are taught in many ways and places that we are to be, “in the world and not of it.”
The rationale for ECUSA’s actions are not consistent with the Christian Tradition and, worse, will lead to worse things in the years ahead if taken seriously. Therefore, I am compelled to view those actions as communion-dividing.
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