June 19, 2006

New US church leader says homosexuality no sin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newly elected leader of the U.S.
Episcopal Church Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said on
Monday she believed homosexuality was no sin and homosexuals
were created by God to love people of the same gender.

Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, was
elected on Sunday as the first woman leader of the 2.3
million-member Episcopal Church. the U.S. branch of the
worldwide Anglican Communion. She will formally take office
later this year.

Interviewed on CNN, Jefferts Schori was asked if it was a
sin to be homosexual.

"I don't believe so. I believe that God creates us with
different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a
different collection of things that challenge us and things
that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us,"
she said.

"Some people come into this world with affections ordered
toward other people of the same gender and some people come
into this world with affections directed at people of the other

Jefferts Schori's election seemed certain to exacerbate
splits within a Episcopal Church that is already deeply divided
over homosexuality with several dioceses and parishes
threatening to break away.

It could also widen divisions with other Anglican
communities, including the Church of England, which do not
allow women bishops. In the worldwide Anglican church women are
bishops only in Canada, the United States and New Zealand.

Three years ago when the Church last met in convention, a
majority of U.S. bishops backed the consecration of Gene
Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in more
than 450 years of Anglican history.

The Robinson issue has been particularly criticized in
Africa where the church has a growing membership and where
homosexuality is often taboo.

Jefferts Schori, who was raised a Roman Catholic and
graduated in marine biology with a doctorate specialization in
squids and oysters, supported the consecration of Gene Robinson
of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in more than 450
years of Anglican history.

The 52-year-old bishop is married to Richard Schori, a
retired theoretical mathematician. They have one daughter,
Katharine Johanna, 24, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air
Force and a pilot like her mother.

Asked how she reconciled her position on homosexuality with
specific passages in the Bible declaring sexual relations
between men an abomination, Jefferts Schori said the Bible was
written in a very different historical context by people asking
different questions.

"The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live
as human beings. The Bible does not have so much to teach us
about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear
-- there are rules in the Bible about those that we don't
observe today," she said.

"The Bible tells us about how to treat other human beings,
and that's certainly the great message of Jesus -- to include
the unincluded."