- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

The new Episcopal bishop of Washington laid out an activist and anti-war agenda for his diocese yesterday and said he hoped his "cordial" relations with traditionalists would soften the local church debate about homosexuality.
"This diocese must step up to the plate and be a leader," said Bishop John B. Chane at his first diocesan convention since taking the leadership position eight months ago. The convention was at the Washington National Cathedral.
"War no longer has a place on this shrinking planet," he said. "The real 'axis of evil' is poverty, illiteracy and disease, and we have got to get it right."
The most contentious topic at the convention was an attempt by conservatives to pass a policy allowing them to register disagreement with the church's more liberal teachings on sexual morality.
"Either change is likely to create a crisis for many Episcopalians," said David Bickel of All Saints Church.
He presented the registry proposal, saying church members who disagree with the teachings could sign a national register so they don't feel compelled to leave the denomination.
Delegates overwhelmingly rejected the registry and called instead for a study of how "sharply divergent views" can abide in the same faith.
The General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which meets in August in Minneapolis, could officially approve same-sex union ceremonies and ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.
"The minority view in the Diocese of Washington [against homosexuality] is the majority view in the Anglican Communion," said the Rev. Frank Wade of St. Alban's Church.
The Anglican Communion, of which the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church is the American branch, has 70 million members.
"There have not been any winners or losers on the floor of the convention today," Bishop Chane said after the vote.
He has met with leaders of the American Anglican Council, a group based in Washington that opposes homosexual clergy and said he believes cordial relations create a mood respectful of disagreement.
"When I came to the diocese, I was very clear where I was coming from," Bishop Chane said in an interview, referring to his liberal views.
Presiding at the 108th diocesan convention with about 800 attending, he takes over when at least six traditional parishes have finally accepted visits by female bishops, either under ecclesiastical pressure or, in one case, a court order.
In his address, Bishop Chane described the diocese of 41,000 members in 94 parishes as having "an energy level that begged to be engaged" with new initiatives.
"We will continue to battle each other over issues of sexuality and spiritual authority," he said, but it should not distract from ministry and building healthy congregations. "We have decisions to make and not a lot of time to make them," he said.
Also in recent days, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral, a separate entity from the diocese, announced his resignation Friday.
The Rev. Nathan Baxter told diocesan delegates he had boosted the cathedral's annual budget to $17 million from $6 million during his 12-year tenure.
"I'm pleased to say there is no scandal in my resignation," Mr. Baxter, the first black dean of the cathedral, said at the convention. "Unfortunately, my life is very boring along such lines. Nor is the cathedral in any kind of trouble."


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