A church split on gay inclusion
Episcopalians vote in coming days over blessing same-sex unions.
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Those in favor of the proposal see it, Ms. Privitera says, as finally acting on the church's 1976 statement that "homosexual persons as the children of God have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, pastoral care and concern of the Church." But some on the other side call the proposal "an end run" around the debate.Skip to next paragraph
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Those wanting to postpone any changes got a jolt, however, with last month's decisive election of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson to serve as the next bishop of the New Hampshire diocese. Canon Robinson, who lives with a gay partner, has served 16 years as the bishop's assistant. The convention must vote to confirm the choice. Approval is expected, but not certain.
Dr. Harmon, who is in the international group opposing the changes, says support for Robinson would be greater if the church had solved the theological issue. "It's important to remember you're electing a bishop not just for one diocese, but a bishop for the church."
While conservatives are a minority in the US church, they are a majority in the global Communion, and voted at the 1998 Lambeth Conference to reaffirm that homosexuality was not compatible with Scripture.
In another case last month, a gay priest in the Church of England was appointed (not elected) bishop in the Oxford diocese. It created such a storm in the United Kingdom and elsewhere that he withdrew for the sake "of the unity of the church."
Some African leaders - led by prominent Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the Communion's largest province - have publicly severed ties with a diocese in western Canada that last year voted to permit same-sex unions.
Archbishop Akinola is a leader of the group that met last week in Virginia to declare that action either to establish the rite or to approve Robinson's selection would result in "an extraordinary meeting" of the global group to act on a response.
The Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, has worked to shore up unity. Yet he says cultural context is a crucial reality, with churches in Canada, Britain, and the US living amid an open societal discussion on gay rights that other societies don't yet confront.
"I have continually reminded our church ... that what we do locally has ramifications both positive and negative in other parts of the world," he said in a letter last week. "At the same time, I am mindful that each of us has to interpret the gospel in our own context and within the particular reality of our own Province."
Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, may confront the greatest challenge. While he has no authority over Anglican churches in other countries, he is leader of the Communion. If the US church acts, and conservatives mount a challenge, all eyes will turn to him.
Dr. Williams's own appointment as archbishop last year was roundly criticized because of his known sympathy for the gay cause. But he promised then not to impose his views on the Communion. As the atmosphere heated up last week, he urged others to deeply consider "what it means to be a Communion."