June 21, 2006

Episcopal Church votes to avoid gay bishops

By Jim Leckrone

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The U.S. Episcopal Church,
trying to appease an angry and alienated worldwide Anglican
community, reversed itself on Wednesday and agreed to try to
avoid the consecration of more openly gay bishops.

The action came 24 hours after one of two legislative
bodies at the 2.3 million member U.S. church's convention had
rejected a similar idea.

The non-binding resolution adopted at the convention calls
on those in authority "to exercise restraint by not consenting
to the consecration of any candidate (for bishop) whose manner
of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead
to further strains on communion."

Debate during the weeklong convention made it clear that
the "manner of life" caution applied to openly homosexual
candidates for the episcopate. The church has been in turmoil
since its consecration three years ago of Gene Robinson of New
Hampshire, the first bishop known to be in an openly gay
relationship in more than 450 years of Anglican history.

The "exercise caution" wording falls short of a
recommendation from the Windsor Report, a paper issued at the
behest of the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, which
suggested a moratorium on any more gay bishops.

But the advice to avoid consecrations that was finally
chosen was stronger than earlier wording proposed by a special
commission within the U.S. church that called for exercising
"very considerable caution" in elevating gays in open
relationships to the episcopate.


However, the election of bishops is a local matter within
the church and any resolution in whatever form is advisory.

The vote came after Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold warned
the convention in its closing hours that "unless there is a
clear perception on the part of our Anglican brothers and
sisters that they have been taken seriously ... there will be
no conversion and the bonds of affection which undergird
communion will be further strained."

Griswold is leaving the church's top post after nearly nine
years. His successor, voted in last Sunday at the convention,
is Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who will be
installed later this year and become the first woman to head
any branch in the 77 million-member Anglican community

"This church, the body of Christ, is not wholly one and not
wholly two," she said during the debate. "The resolution which
is before you is far from adequate. The language is exceedingly
challenging but it is the best we can do at this convention."

Jefferts Schori, who backed the Robinson consecration three
years ago and favors gay rights generally, said the resolution
did not amount to "slamming the door" on the issue.

"We need to keep working ... to find the common body in
this church. This is the best we are going to manage at this
point in the church's history," she said.