May 6, 2006

Calif. Episcopals could elect gay bishop Saturday

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Episcopal Diocese of
California began voting on Saturday to elect a new bishop and
could widen the rift over homosexuality within the global
Anglican Communion of 77 million if it selected one of three
openly gay candidates.

No gay or lesbian cleric has been elected bishop since the
consecration of Eugene Robinson in 2003 as bishop of New
Hampshire threw the U.S. church and the worldwide family of
Anglican churches into turmoil.

Clergy and laypeople packed Grace Cathedral, the massive
church atop San Francisco's Nob Hill, one of San Francisco's
toniest neighborhoods.

The two openly gay men and one lesbian woman among the
seven candidates are all in long-term relationships.

Robinson is the first bishop known to be in an openly gay
relationship in more than 450 years of Anglican history.

The issue of homosexuality within Anglicanism has been
simmering since at least 1979, when the Episcopal Church's
General Convention resolved that the ordination of gays was

Robinson's eventual consecration has prompted some U.S.
churches to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate themselves
with a network of fast-growing churches in Africa, where
homosexuality is largely taboo.

Last month, the Special Commission of the Episcopal Church,
composed of clergy and laypeople and formed to address
divisions caused by Robinson's consecration, recommended that
the church be very cautious about installing another gay

The group's report said its members were divided over
whether to go further and instruct the 2.3 million-member
church to "refrain" from putting gays into the episcopate, but
settled on telling members to use "very considerable caution"
before doing so.