Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Episcopal Church group defers on gay bishops

A second Reuters article

By Michael Conlon

Tue Jun 20, 6:31 PM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A proposal for the U.S. Episcopal Church to impose an unofficial moratorium on the ordination of more openly gay bishops was rejected in a key vote at the church's convention on Tuesday, a move that could further roil relations with fellow Anglicans worldwide.

The issue is not completely dead since the triennial convention of the 2.3-million-member U.S. church will not close until Wednesday evening and the matter could be revived.
But with time running out, the rejection by one of two legislative policy-making houses meeting in Columbus, Ohio, makes it less likely the church will impose a moratorium or some other hold on future gay bishops as the Anglican church's spiritual leadership had suggested.

The measure that was defeated by the House of Deputies -- composed of lay and clergy diocesan representatives -- asked local church communities who elect bishops to "refrain" from doing so if the person involved lived in a way that "presents a challenge to the wider church" and would strain Anglican relations.

The 77-million-member Anglican Communion, as the global church is known, has been in turmoil for three years since the last such convention of the U.S. church approved the consecration 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 church has spent much of its week-long convention trying to find a way to respond to the Windsor Report, a paper issued at the behest of the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. It advised the Episcopal church to apologize for the Robinson elevation, impose a moratorium on any more like it and make it plain it opposes the blessing of same-sex unions.


The exact vote by the more than 800 deputies was not announced but witnesses said it was not close. A second vote to reconsider the measure was also rejected.

For the measure to come up again, it would have to be approved by the 230-member House of Bishops. It would then come back to the House of Deputies, and needs approval there to become official. It was not clear whether the measure would be rewritten in an attempt to improve its chances of passing.

The Rev. Susan Russell, head of Integrity, the group representing gay and lesbian Episcopalians, said the vote is "a sign of encouragement that we will find a way to make clear our commitment to the (Anglican) communion and to the gay and lesbians baptized in it."

On Sunday the convention sent a shock through Anglican circles by choosing Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori the first woman to lead the U.S. church, a move unprecedented in the faith.

On another front, the largest U.S. Presbyterian Church body approved a measure on Tuesday that would open the way for the ordination of gays and lesbians in that church under certain circumstances.

The new policy was approved on a vote of 57-43 percent of church representatives of the 2.5-million-member Presbyterian Church U.S.A. meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. It gives local church organizations more leeway in deciding if gays can be ordained as lay deacons and elders as well as clergy, provided they are faithful to the church's core values.



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