- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The nation’s Episcopal leaders, at the urging of the church’s first openly homosexual bishop, have slapped a one-year moratorium on consecrating all bishops, saying such a refusal was preferable to discriminating against “our gay brothers and lesbian sisters.”

The moratorium was proposed by New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson during a semiannual meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops meeting in Navasota, Texas, which ended yesterday.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, head of the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church, told the Associated Press yesterday church leaders approved the moratorium because they did not want “our gay brothers and lesbian sisters demeaned.”

The Rev. Jan Nunley, spokeswoman for the denomination, said she was not aware of any homosexual candidates in the pipeline for the episcopate.

However, the majority of 140 bishops at the meeting “didn’t want to single out any one group and say, ‘We can’t do that,’” she said.

“So we’ll put a hold on it all.”

Six dioceses will be affected by the decision, she added.

The moratorium will last until the next Episcopal General Convention, in June 2006 in Columbus, Ohio, where the church likely will revisit its policies on homosexual clergy and “blessings” of same-sex unions, the issues that threaten the U.S. church with expulsion from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The moratorium was part of a larger document, “A Covenant Statement of the House of Bishops,” which was passed by a “nearly unanimous” vote of the bishops, according to Episcopal News Service.

The statement also said bishops will not authorize any rites for same-sex “blessings” in churches nor bless such unions until General Convention. However, it left a loophole for priests to conduct such “blessings” on their own authority.

The covenant, which was drawn up by an 18-member group of bishops including Washington’s John B. Chane, put the Episcopal Church’s leadership technically in compliance with an order last month from the world’s Anglican archbishops to stop ordaining homosexual bishops and conducting same-sex blessings.

According to the Living Church, an Episcopal publication, Bishop Griswold told his fellow prelates at the Navasota meeting that the archbishops were “out for blood” at the Northern Ireland meeting and likened six conservative Episcopalians to the devil.

The six, all of whom were in Northern Ireland during the meeting, were Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan; Canon Bill Atwood, general secretary of the Ekklesia Society in Texas; the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax; the Rev. David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council in Atlanta; the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina; and Diane Knippers, president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy in the District and a member of Truro.

When Bishop Duncan protested Bishop Griswold’s characterization of him, the magazine said, Bishop Robinson responded: “I don’t believe a word of what you said. I just can’t believe you.”

Attempts to reach Bishop Robinson for comment were unsuccessful.

In an interview, Bishop Duncan said he was shocked at the exchange.

“As a pastor, when I hear someone say everything I’m doing is evil or ‘I don’t believe anything you say,’ this marriage is probably beyond repair,” he said. “I think our House of Bishops is finally talking about that.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, called the Episcopal covenant a “constructive” response.

But Mr. Harmon called U.S. bishops’ actions the mere minimal compliance.

“You have apostolic leaders acting as lawyers,” he said. The bishops “were asked to do nothing until a new consensus in the Anglican Communion had emerged. Instead, they made a time-specific commitment and added to it their own conditions. That’s what lawyers do.”

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