- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

Episcopalians in the Diocese of Washington will vote today for their next bishop in an election conservatives say is "basically unfair" because it does not include a candidate with their views.
In a Jan. 22 letter to outgoing Washington Bishop Jane Dixon, the American Anglican Council of Washington said the very process of setting up requirements for a future bishop is flawed because it screens out alternative candidates.
The point of contention was a sentence added at the last minute to the diocesan profile of its ideal bishop before it was published in June. The new sentence stressed that all candidates must be "firmly committed to the full inclusion of women and gay and lesbian people in the life of the church," language conservatives said was code for ordination of women and homosexuals.
All conservative Episcopal groups oppose the ordination of homosexuals. Some oppose ordination of women as well. An ad hoc committee formed last summer tried to find two centrist candidates who reflected their views more closely but, because of the language on homosexuality, they withdrew, says Brad Hutt, AAC vice president.
"They felt there would be a hostile environment against them if they ran," he says.
One of the leading candidates for the spot, the Rev. Mark Anschutz, found it necessary to clarify his position on homosexuality last fall.
Mr. Anschutz, who pastors the 6,700-member St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, was originally against ordination of homosexuals when the parish hired him back in 1992, said Whitey Lingerfelt, who was on the original calling committee.
"When I asked him what his position on human sexuality in the church was, he said, 'I can find no scriptural basis or the ordination of practicing gays or the blessings of same-sex unions,'" Mr. Lingerfelt remembers. "Mark is a good guy. He is a very personable and a good preacher, but we conservatives could tell over the years there was a difference in his thinking.
"Then when the diocese rewrote the qualifications, we thought he would withdraw his name. It was very clear they were looking for someone who is very liberal and who would support the gay/lesbian issues.
"So he called a special meeting in November and said that he apologized to the gays and lesbians for his 'homophobic' ideas on them and that St. Paul was wrong in his theology. That is, if you are born with those genes, God should love you and all. I hardly thought our rector was a better authority on Scripture than St. Paul."
Mr. Anschutz could not be reached yesterday for a response. The Rev. Michael Hopkins, a member of the diocesan search committee and president of the 2,800-member Episcopal homosexual caucus Integrity, said the profile change had "overwhelming" support throughout the diocese.
Today's election is expected to last through several ballots, culminating tomorrow. A majority of both clergy and lay delegates must approve the new bishop.

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