April 6, 2006

Episcopal Church report to address gay issues

By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Episcopal Church may be asked
by a special internal commission to avoid electing more gay
bishops and repent for the turmoil caused by the one it chose
in 2003, according to published reports and remarks from church

A report likely to be issued later this week is designed to
address the divisions in the worldwide Anglican community
caused by the U.S. church's selection of the first openly gay
bishop in Anglican church history.

The Rev. Kirk Smith, bishop of Arizona, has disclosed what
he said were expected to be the main points in the report: high
caution about consecrating any more gays as bishops; an
expression of repentance for the problems caused by the 2003
consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire; and a
continued moratorium on blessing same-sex unions.

"All of us ... are concerned about not doing anything to
jeopardize further the (church's) standing in the (Anglican)
Communion," Smith also told "The Living Church," an
Episcopalian publication. He added that the church must
remember there are no "second-class citizens" -- a reference to
gays -- among its ranks.

While another bishop has offered an account similar to the
one Smith made in a letter to his flock, others in the church
have discouraged speculation about the report, which is being
prepared by a special commission of clergy and laypersons and
will be debated at the Episcopal Church triennial convention in
June in Ohio.

At that meeting, bishops and delegates may face a vote on
whether a gay member of the clergy from California is made a
bishop. Next month, church members in the San Francisco area
will choose among seven candidates for bishop, some of whom are

The Rev. David Anderson, president of the American Anglican
Council, a group of church conservatives, said centrists among
the church leadership are beginning to realize that there
really could be a schism.


"I think the gay and lesbian agenda is going to be parked
and left for a while," he said in an interview.

David Skidmore, spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of
Chicago, said of the current mood among the bishops: "Overall,
the House of Bishops is taking a cautious stand ... No one
wants to push the Communion to the brink right now and people
are open to ways to avert that."

The 77-million-member worldwide Anglican family is called
the Communion.

Skidmore said the bishops "also want to respect the
integrity of the 2003 General Convention decisions (that
approved Robinson's consecration), which were reached
prayerfully and through engagement of all perspectives in the

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, issued a
statement recently that some have interpreted as saying the
church's 1998 stand on homosexuality activity -- calling it
incompatible with Scripture -- will not be reconsidered at the
next Anglican worldwide meeting in 2008.

Episcopal bishops at their recent meeting were told by a
top emissary of Williams that Anglicans in the rest of the
world would see more gay bishops or blessings of same-sex
unions "as a declaration not to stay with the Communion."

But the Rev. John Kirkley, leader of a gay ministry group
in the San Francisco area, said, "I don't think there's been a
big shift among the bishops or lay members who approved
Robinson's elevation."

"There is enormous pressure being exerted by Canterbury,"
he added, "but all politics is local. The Episcopal Church is
one that was born of the American Revolution and I don't think
we're going to let anyone take away that autonomy."

A year ago, the bishops of the 2.3 million-member U.S.
church agreed not to consecrate any new bishops, gay or
straight, or allow the blessing of same-sex unions until June
at the earliest.