Gay bishop addresses hostile church conference

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Attention was turned to homosexuality at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church yesterday as delegates considered resolutions on the election of gay bishops, same sex blessings and an apology for the appointment of gay clergy.

Comments made by over 70 speakers at the Standing Committee showed how much of a rift the issue has caused since the appointment of gay bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

Bishop Robinson told the meeting, “Do we as a church recognise the light of Christ and the mark of the creator in the faces and lives of the gay and lesbian members of this Church, much as we have come to see, over the years, that light in the faces of people of colour, women and the differently-abled?

“Are we not in this debate now because we have seen the fruits of the spirit evidenced in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be gay?

“This debate is about one thing, do we see Christ, and are we courageous enough to acknowledge Christ, in the lives and relationships of our gay and lesbian members?

If we do, what then?

“This debate is not, principally, about saving the Anglican Communion. We cannot make decisions about what the rest of the Communion will or will not do, nor should we be unduly swayed by fear over what they might decide.

“Those are their decisions to make, at another time. Our job is to discern the will of God, as humbly and as best we can, and then to stand up and proclaim Christ where we see Him. If we see Christ in the faithful lives of our gay and lesbian members, then let us find the courage to say so.

“The fact is, we know such faithful gay and lesbian Christian people, our homosexual agenda is Jesus Christ, I say with my whole heart, I am loved by God beyond my wildest imagining, and by the living Christ who has acted in my life, I am convinced that I am not an abomination in the eyes of God, but rather a repentant sinner who has been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and made worthy, by his grace and sacrifice, to stand before him.

The Reverend Francis Wade of Washington, committee co-chair, said people need to listen, “All of us need to hear,

“The people doing the real work are those who will listen and open their hearts to hear.”

One resolution offers an “apology and repentance for having breached the bonds of affection in the Anglican Communion…” in reference to Bishop Robinson’s role.

The Most Reverend John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, praised the 2004 Windsor Report, which addressed Anglican disunity after Bishop Robinson’s appointment, he said it was acting like a doctor, “Anglicanism has always responded to the challenge … by scripture, reason and tradition.

“Maybe the committee should ask, do these resolutions help us ourselves to show the marks of our own crucifixion?”

But the Reverend Michael Hopkins, from the Diocese of Rochester, said the apology “needs to be much fuller and expressed by all.”

Another proposal suggested “very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

However The Reverend Canon Kendall Harmon, a deputy from the Diocese of South Carolina, questioned its seriousness, “The Windsor Report uses clear language. This resolution doesn’t take the specific language of Windsor seriously enough.

“We have been asked to place a moratorium, the timeframe is clear … yet the language we get is to exercise considerable caution a fudge. Let’s be honest, let’s be clear.”

Two more proposals pushed for a delay on a decision regarding same sex unions “until some broader consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges” and pastoral care for gays and lesbians in churches.