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Bishops boycott Episcopal event over moral issues

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 27, 2004

An assistant bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced that he is boycotting a business meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops this week because the "moral inconsistency" of the nation's Episcopal leaders has forced him to mount a "public and prophetic protest."

In a Sept. 21 letter, Bishop Francis Gray joined several other bishops in skipping the meeting in Spokane, Wash., because of what he called a "disregard for unity and discipline [that] makes governance impossible" among the leaders of the 2.3-million-member denomination.

"The House of Bishops lacks the discipline to govern itself with any degree of authenticity," he wrote, citing the lack of any punishment for homosexual "marriages" performed by the bishops of Los Angeles and Washington and the lack of sanctions against other bishops who are divorced.

"We have disciplined bishops for extramarital affairs, but we fail to address the divorce and remarriage of bishops," he said. "We have never addressed the moral implications of homosexuality as it pertains to members of the House [of Bishops]. The future seems clear. There will be sporadic and unfocused discipline for selected heterosexual issues, but silence on homosexual issues, and silence on issues of divorce and remarriage for members. This moral inconsistency is quite disturbing."

Since the denomination last year allowed the ordination of its first openly homosexual bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, conservative bishops increasingly have snubbed gatherings of their fellow bishops.

Inquiries made yesterday to several dioceses aligned with the conservative Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes revealed several other no-shows, including the bishops of Albany, N.Y., Fort Worth, Texas, and Quincy, Ill.

"I think [Bishop Gray] reflects the concerns of many of us," said Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman. "He said it in a humble and loving way. Bishop Gray would never be seen as a right-wing rabble-rouser."

Bishop Gray was the only one of Virginia's three bishops to openly oppose the election of Bishop Robinson last year. Diocesan Bishop Peter Lee, who voted in favor of the election, was in Spokane this week along with Virginia Suffragan Bishop David Jones.

Episcopal News Service reported 132 bishops at the Spokane meeting, which ends today. At the House of Bishops' spring meeting in Navasota, Texas, 160 bishops attended, although a number of conservatives left early, according to Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan.

"Six diocesan [bishops] either refused to participate or left in distress within hours of arrival," he told a June meeting of the Lambeth Commission, an international group of scholars examining the aftermath of the election of Bishop Robinson. "Others of us could not make our Communions or, in some cases, even bring ourselves to be present at worship or at meals or to stay under the same roof."

The boycott, Bishop Ackerman said, was not an organized effort "but it's the reality of a number of circumstances," including the expense of airfare and hotel accommodations and conservatives' increasing frustration with liberal leadership in the denomination.

He said, "I don't really feel at home in my own church a lot of the times."