Tuesday, June 20, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Episcopalians will continue consecrating homosexual bishops and allowing same-sex unions after its House of Deputies defeated a motion yesterday to stop both in the waning hours of their General Convention.

The 843 clergy and lay delegates defeated Resolution A161, a compromise that would have stopped same-sex “blessings” and the election of homosexual bishops for at least another three years. The resolution also would have apologized to those homosexual Episcopalians “hurt by these decisions.”

In votes cast by delegations, Episcopal laity voted 71-38 against A161, and the church’s clergy cast 67 “no” votes to 44 yes votes. The Diocese of Washington’s lay and clergy delegations, plus the Diocese of Virginia’s clergy delegation, all voted against A161. Both Diocese of Maryland delegations voted yes, as did the laity from Virginia.

“What we just had was the Boston Tea Party,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, head of the Anglican Communion Network, a conservative group. “We have clarity. It was extraordinary.”

But outgoing Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold is said to be distraught about the outcome, which places the Episcopal Church on the fast track to eventually being ejected from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Bishops agonized over a response last night, deciding to hold an emergency joint session this morning with deputies to try to persuade them to change their minds, although it was not clear they would succeed. The bishops said they felt pressured by the Windsor Report, a 2004 document by international Anglican leaders in response to the 2003 consecration of openly homosexual V. Gene Robinson as New Hampshire bishop, demanding that Episcopalians cease from allowing same-sex blessings and homosexual bishops.

Bishop Robinson begged deputies last night not to block men like him from the episcopate.

“I desperately want to preserve this communion,” he said, “but I cannot do so at the expense of my own integrity and those of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ, some of whom would make great bishops … . How can I vote no from any resolution that removes gay and lesbian people from the Episcopal gene pool?”

What killed A161 was a potent combination of liberal and conservative Episcopalians who either said the resolution was too strong or too weak. Both factions going into the nine-day convention said they desired “clarity” on where the 2.2-million-member church really stands on sexual-morality issues.

But Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee, a member of the subcommittee that drafted A161, pronounced himself “disappointed” with the resolution’s failure.

“I really think the bishops will want somehow to recover that some way,” he said, adding that bishops may cobble language from A161 into another resolution or, as a last resort, come up with a “mind of the House” of Bishops stating that they at least intend to comply with the Windsor Report.

“That would be a less-authoritative statement by the Episcopal Church,” he said, “but at least it would deal with the basic question of consent to [homosexual] bishops.”

Conservatives led by the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, tried floating a substitute resolution, which would have established firm moratoriums on same-sex unions and homosexual bishops for an indefinite period of time. But after a confusing web of questions, amendments, parliamentary maneuvers, points of order and clarifications, it was declared out of order.

The Episcopal Church is now on its way out of the worldwide Anglican Communion, predicted Canon David Anderson of the American Anglican Council, a conservative group.

“Clearly, the Episcopal Church has chosen to walk apart,” he said.

The Rev. Susan Russell, president of the Episcopal homosexual caucus Integrity, said she was encouraged by A161’s failure.

“Many people came here looking for clarity, and we got it on this vote,” she said. “It’s a sign of hope for this church.”

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