Church rejects gay clergy ban

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The Episcopal Church controversially rejected a resolution calling for a ban on gay clergy last night.

Resolution A161 would have urged bishops and dioceses to refrain from electing bishops “whose manner of life presents a wider challenge to the wider church.”

It would also have directed the church not to develop rites for blessing same-sex unions and affirmed the need to provide pastoral care for gay and lesbian, while apologising to gays and lesbians for those decisions.

Speaking to the Times, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, compared the decision to the American revolt against British colonial rule. “We got a Boston Tea Party.

“It leaves the Episcopal Church as having walked apart, we all thought we would get a fudge. What we got was a clear rejection. It’s extraordinary. It gives the worldwide communion a clear message that the American Church is going to do its own thing.”

“It’s an encouraging vote because I think people came to this convention asking for clarity,” the Reverend Susan Russell, president of the gay rights church group Integrity, said.

“The convention has been clear we are committed to being an interdependent part of the Anglican communion but we are also committed to including all the baptised in the body of Christ.”

The resolution was a response to The 2004 Windsor Report which invited the Episcopal Church “to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same-gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges,” in reaction to the appointment of gay Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson.

Bishop Robinson said: “I think that you know that I am a team player and over the last three years have done my very best to be a full member of this House.”

Robinson told the bishops that he desperately wants to preserve the communion but not “at the expense of my own integrity.

“What I know is that I can’t vote for any resolution that by category excludes parts of our church. I simply cannot do it in good conscience.”

The Reverend Michael Russell of the Diocese of San Diego was against the resolution, “We have no need to apologise for our actions in ’03, for this House to flinch an inch away from full inclusion of gay and lesbian people, even for a short period of time, would be an insufferable injustice.”

Rebecca Snow of the Diocese of Alaska said: “There is much of this resolution that is hard to swallow … I believe our willingness to stand down from our call for justice, for a time, will help create the space in which we will be able to continue our, the Episcopal Church’s and gays’ and lesbians’, witness to the wider church.”

An attempt to substitute language to “effect a moratorium” on electing and consenting to bishops living in same-gender unions as well as all public rites of blessing on same-sex unions, was ruled out of order by Deputies President George Werner, saying moratoriums can only be effected by canons.

Other bishops, including Bishop Gary Lillibridge of West Texas, said Convention needs to say something strong about Windsor because “if we don’t give Katharine Jefferts Schori a chance at the table, we’re not going to have any more conversations with the Communion. It means that some hard decisions are going to have to be made.”

Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida told the House that “God is asking us to make hard decisions, to be as faithful as possible. For God’s sake, let’s care for one another, bear one another’s burdens. Brothers and sisters, it’s time we quit debating and get on with the work of the Gospel.”

Bishop Lipscomb moved that the House adopt the Windsor Report, and to send a message to the House of Deputies but later withdrew the motion to honour the Presiding Bishop’s request for the joint session.

Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy said “we’re dealing with a relative impasse. It’s extraordinarily painful, but I believe that’s what’s occurred.”

Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana said the Church should “shift the anxiety back to those who gave it to us, put it back where it belongs. I believe what we have is one church with two minds. To say that is to say something very plain to the Anglican Communion.”

Bishop William Gregg of Eastern Oregon pointed out that the Windsor Report invites the Episcopal Church on a journey and calls all its members to conversation. “Not that we have answers. We’re going to explore. We’re going to ask the questions, we’re going to get it wrong, we’re going to fall down, but we’re going to do it together.

Building upon comments by Jenkins, Pierre Whalon, bishop in charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, said, “it is one church of several minds.”

After an hour’s discussion, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold asked for the bishops and deputies on the Special Committee to meet to prepare a resolution for the joint session.

The motion was defeated by 71 votes to 38.