- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Episcopal leaders face the ecclesiastical Rubicon over homosexuality at their triennial General Convention, which starts today in Columbus, Ohio.

The next 10 days will show whether the more than 200 bishops and about 850 delegates will pull back from their 2003 resolutions allowing the consecration of homosexuals as bishops and church-blessed same-sex unions, as has been demanded by the worldwide Anglican Communion.

If they agree to “repent,” the fragile unity of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion — of which the Episcopal Church is one of 38 provinces — may hold. But some, including retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, are pessimistic.

“It is difficult to say in what way we are now a Communion. A ‘federation of churches’? Possibly. … Bitterness, hostility, misunderstanding and strife now separate provinces from one another and divide individual provinces,” Archbishop Carey said in a May 9 speech at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.

Twenty-two provinces have fully or partially severed relations with the Episcopal Church over its 2003 consecration of Canon V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the world’s first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop.

Episcopal leaders were warned in March by Exeter Bishop Michael Langrish that they may be disinvited from the worldwide 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in Canterbury unless the General Convention shows “repentance” for its actions. Expulsion from Lambeth, the closest thing Anglicans have to a policy-making assembly, is tantamount to being expelled from the Anglican Communion.

This year’s convention differs from the 2003 General Convention in Minneapolis by the number of bloggers monitoring the event.

Liberals are “sick unto death” of seeing “the mission and the ministry of the church we love … hijacked,” wrote the Rev. Susan Russell, president of the homosexual caucus Integrity, on Sunday on inchatatime.blogspot.com. She faulted “those determined to scapegoat [homosexual] vocations and relationships as expendable bargaining chips in the game of Anglican global politics.”

Deputies and bishops will consider 11 resolutions based on a 2004 document known as the Windsor Report. The document, crafted by a blue-ribbon panel of 17 Anglican leaders, asked the Episcopal Church to “express regrets” for selecting Bishop Robinson, put the freeze on any future such elections and cease from performing same-sex “blessings.”

One resolution urges the denomination to take “very considerable caution” in selecting a homosexual as a bishop but does not bar doing so outright.

Another resolution asks diocesan bishops to bar same-sex rites but does not forbid individual clergy from performing them. The Diocese of Washington has temporarily frozen its same-sex rite but allows parishes latitude on whether they wish to go along.

A third resolution apologizes not for consecrating Bishop Robinson but offers “our sincerest apology and repentance” for “any failure to consult adequately with our Anglican partners” beforehand.

That is not enough, said the Rev. Martyn Minns, the rector of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax who told his parish June 4 that he was looking for “repentance, reaffirmation and rollback” in Columbus.

“Now is the time to reaffirm the truths of classical Christianity,” he said in the June 11 parish bulletin. Episcopalians have “been challenged to repent (change direction, turn around) not merely express remorse for the consequences of their actions.”

Votes are slated for this weekend on the resolutions, which must be approved by both houses of bishops and deputies of General Convention before becoming official church policy.

Other resolutions range from proposing that the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall be made a saint to expressing regret for not having opposed slavery strongly enough before the Civil War.

On Sunday, Episcopalians will also vote in a new presiding bishop from a slate of seven liberal candidates for a nine-year term to replace outgoing Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

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