- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The worldwide Anglican Communion yesterday decided not to discipline the U.S. Episcopal Church for consecrating a homosexual bishop last year and for allowing same-sex “blessings” in some dioceses, instead suggesting the American church “express regrets” for its actions.

The Windsor Report, released in London by a 17-member commission overseen by Archbishop Robin Eames of Ireland, did say the U.S. Episcopal Church caused “deep offense” by electing Canon V. Gene Robinson, a divorced priest living with a male lover, as bishop of New Hampshire.

At that August 2003 meeting, U.S. bishops also approved a measure that allows Episcopalians to “explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”

The Windsor Report also criticized the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia, Canada, which in May last year began performing same-sex rites. Several months later, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada affirmed “the integrity and sanctity of committed same-sex relationships.”

The report called for a moratorium on future “blessings” in U.S. and Canadian churches, and on consecrating more homosexual bishops “until some new consensus” emerges among the world’s 70 million Anglicans.

The several dozen bishops who consecrated Bishop Robinson Nov. 2 in Durham, N.H., were also invited to “consider” whether they should withdraw from future Anglican summits.

Washington Bishop John Chane, one of the consecrators at the Durham ceremony, refused to say whether he would withdraw from the next regularly scheduled worldwide Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, in 2008.

“Lambeth is a long way off and a lot can happen between now and then,” he said. Bishop Chane did express “sorrow,” however, for how the Robinson consecration “engendered alienation and made others feel marginalized.”

The bishop also brought up a new diocesan rite for same-sex blessings, which he authorized a year ago.

“I have caused pain,” he said at a press conference. “I will say with all humility that was not my intent.”

Although he premiered the rite at a June 12 ceremony for two men at a Maryland parish, he promised a temporary moratorium, with the understanding that “there’s a time of beginning and a time of certain ending” to discussion on the issue.

When asked whether his clergy would obey the moratorium, he said, “It’s very important for the clergy of this diocese to understand what I’m saying.” But he said the “report doesn’t ask me to be a policeman.”

The document also recommended the adoption of an “Anglican covenant” by all 38 worldwide provinces of the 70-million-member Communion that would presumably enforce common doctrines.

Because the Episcopal Church acted alone in consecrating Bishop Robinson, it must explain “how a person living in a same-gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ,” the report said.

In response, Bishop Frank Griswold, the U.S. church’s presiding bishop, said Episcopal leaders “regret how difficult and painful actions of our church” have affected the Anglican world. Eighteen provinces of the Anglican Communion have either condemned the U.S. church or broken relations with it.

The Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, together representing more than 1 billion Christians, also condemned these actions.

But Bishop Griswold affirmed “the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons” to the church, adding, “I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are.”

Episcopal conservatives denounced the report, which criticized bishops who have performed confirmations and other church rites in liberal dioceses without the permission of their bishops.

Diane Knippers, president of the Institute of Religion and Democracy, called it “a misguided attempt at evenhandedness” between two different kinds of bishops.

“In this, the report implies equivalence between the arsonist who started the fire and the fireman who must take an ax to the door in order the save the innocents caught in the burning building,” she said.

A statement from the American Anglican Council said “that within minutes of the Windsor Report’s release, the presiding bishop has already rejected its core presupposition — that is, the church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality.

“We call upon Bishop Griswold to express godly sorrow, immediately implement a moratorium on ordinations and consecrations of practicing homosexuals as well as the blessing of same-sex unions, and we call on all bishops who have supported the consecration to withdraw from the councils of the church, as the report suggests.”

But Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town, South Africa, praised the report, saying Anglicans will eventually be of one mind on homosexuality.

“This is possible,” he said. “We did it before with the ordination of women,” which the Episcopal Church began doing in 1974 even though female priests were not allowed in the Anglican Communion.

At the 1998 Lambeth Conference, Anglican bishops overwhelmingly declared that homosexual practices were “incompatible with Scripture.”

U.S. bishops will meet in January to consider the document, and the world’s Anglican archbishops will discuss the report at a February meeting in Northern Ireland. The report also must be voted on at a June meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, England.

• Al Webb contributed to this report from London.

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