- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Four days into their triennial General Convention, Episcopalians are nowhere close to resolving the sexuality issues that have alienated the Episcopal Church from much of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Late yesterday afternoon, Episcopal bishops approved a nuanced resolution agreeing to take part in a “listening process” on homosexuality throughout the 70-million-member Anglican Communion. It was the first — and the tamest — of 11 resolutions that will be voted on in the next five days dealing with the denomination’s decision in 2003 to consecrate Canon V. Gene Robinson as Anglicanism’s first openly homosexual bishop.

Episcopal deputies will now consider the resolution. The Episcopal Church is a bicameral body structured like Congress, where both houses must pass a resolution before it takes effect.

The Rev. Richard Crocker, an assistant priest at Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, likened the convention so far to “watching paint dry.”

Some participants, such as former Sen. John C. Danforth, Missouri Republican, an Episcopal priest, don’t think the 2.4-million-member Episcopal Church should be devoting so much time to sexual issues.

“Is this the centerpiece of the Episcopal Church?” he asked Wednesday night in a speech.

Although homosexuality and its related topics are “the most divisive issue in American society today,” he conceded, “we’ve always seen ourselves as the middle way … where all kinds of people can come around the altar … with all kind of political and theological views.”

However, the chances of compromise are slim. Leaders of Integrity, the church’s homosexual caucus, have said they will fight against the denomination freezing the ordination of homosexual bishops.

The Rev. Kendall Harmon of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina said he and more than 800 fellow deputies are “anxious” about giving up their freedom to consecrate homosexuals or to allow same-sex unions to be performed in churches.

The Diocese of California nominated three homosexuals among seven candidates for bishop last month, although a heterosexual man won. And the Diocese of Newark. N.J., is expected to announce several homosexual candidates when it releases the names of its bishop nominees on June 28.

Three British bishops have informed Episcopalians in recent weeks that they must take a firmer position on halting the election of homosexual prelates and allowing same-sex blessing ceremonies to happen in their dioceses.

Episcopal bishops are “much more serious” than are the deputies about obeying Anglican prohibitions against both, Mr. Harmon said, because “the bishops are the ones taking the brunt of losing numbers.”

In fact, the number of people leaving the Episcopal Church was also an issue yesterday. Church spokesman Bob Williams said 8,000 people left the denomination in 2005. The American Anglican Council (AAC), a group that opposed Bishop Robinson’s consecration, said actual yearly loss is closer to 35,000 — or 700 persons a week — during the past 40 years.

“That’s three or so [churches] going out a week since 1965,” said the AAC president, Canon David Anderson, referring to an estimate of about 200 persons per church. “And you wonder why we are in trouble.”

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