Bishops’ backtrack on gay rights

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Episcopal bishops in the United States, if voting secretly now, would turn away from two critical votes in 2003 which championed a pro-homosexual agenda, according to a survey by Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC).

The convention votes divided their church and caused the worldwide Anglican Communion to put about 2 million Americans in limbo.

In a third question, bishops split about evenly on whether they would leave the American church or stay with the communion if the Americans remained outside of the international communion.

LEAC, which is a national advocacy organisation faithful to the authority of Christian scripture and the Anglican Communion, announced that 57.5% of respondents would oppose, in secret ballot, provisions for church blessing of same-sex partnerships, and 56.25% would oppose consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who was promoted despite having left his wife and family for his present homosexual lover. Those votes, in a confidential and secret blind-research environment, reversed tallies in open voting at the 2003 General Convention.

The survey made news last month when the denomination’s U.S. presiding bishop sent a derogatory letter about the research to his bishops, during the survey’s response period. James Ince, coordinator of the research, said “Bishop (Frank) Griswold’s negative and inaccurate letter suppressed response, but we are pleased to have a good sample to tabulate out of 298 which we believe were delivered to bishops.

“Bishop Griswold wrote that the research was anonymous, although the covering letter was on LEAC’s letterhead, with our name and address, and the reply envelope also identified us.

“I suppose he will say he was looking for personal names. Personal names would have raised more questions than they answered,” Ince said. “LEAC’s name informed all recipients, in an instant, where we stand, but the research was objective.”

LEAC said it undertook the research after learning that some bishops who voted for the gay-backed resolutions had declared privately that they regretted their votes, tallying outcome and worldwide reaction.

The study was aided by pro-bono opinion research professionals. The purpose was “to gain realistic insight into today’s House of Bishops thinking, after years of internecine warfare,” a LEAC press release said.

“The work studied key elements in reconciliation versus continuing revisionism and schism fostered by some bishops and egged on by a ‘shadow’ gay-lesbian hierarchy of priests and lay people. So the widest participation by the most senior and experienced tier of Episcopal clergy was desired. We got a feel for today’s dynamics among this distinctive group,” the release explained. “We appreciate contact with any bishop, and some have been in touch.”

Respondents split 46.25% to 45% in favouring sticking with the liberalised American Church in the event of a complete split with the worldwide communion. Nearly 9% did not answer that question. The division could be a political concern for Bishop Griswold as he leads the denomination into a critical period through mid-June’s triennial convention.

Most observers believe the American church (ECUSA) shortly will be out of the worldwide communion. Because of the resolutions on sexuality in 2003, ECUSA and its affiliated dioceses and churches across the nation are now suspended from the Anglican Consultative Council, operating arm of the Communion, and are in varying states of broken or impaired communion with foreign primates whose communicants comprise about 75% of the 78 million in the church.

Survey Coordinator, Mr Ince, said hopes for reconciliation were reduced by Mr Griswold’s “heavy-handed attempt to control even blind, anonymous communications with the bishops. LEAC’s watchwords are ‘Truth + Clarity + Courage.’ I wish they were contagious.”

The Washington-based organisation of traditionalists said 27% of about 300 bishops responded to the study.

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