- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Episcopalians approved a last-minute resolution yesterday agreeing to “exercise restraint” in the selection of its bishops, but not mentioning homosexuality or same-sex unions, the issues that have brought the 2.2 million-member denomination into disrepute with worldwide Anglicanism.

“The diverse center has finally found its voice in the business of this convention,” said Bishop Frank Griswold, the denomination’s outgoing presiding bishop.

Crafted late Tuesday night, Resolution B033 urged Episcopal leaders “to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

The “manner of life” clause was a reference to individuals such as New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson whose consecration in 2003 as the church’s first openly homosexual prelate has split the 70 million-member Anglican Communion.

The House of Delegates vote, midway through the last day of the convention, showed 72 lay and 75 clergy delegations voting yes and 32 lay and 34 clergy delegations voting no.

Bishop Robinson criticized B033 as being unenforceable.

“No one can bind a standing committee or bishop from giving consent” to a homosexual candidate, he said. “This church knows what the right thing is; we’re just afraid to stand up for it.”

The vote came after a joint session of bishops and deputies called yesterday morning to hear a plea by Bishop Griswold to come up with a resolution upon which everyone could agree. It must also adhere to a set of guidelines from overseas Anglican bishops known as the Windsor Report.

“If we do not have something substantive by noon, we might as well forget it,” he told bishops in a separate meeting. “It will be very difficult for the archbishop of Canterbury to invite us to Lambeth 2008,” a meeting of the world’s Anglican bishops in England.

About 230 bishops rejected an amendment from Washington Bishop John B. Chane weakening the resolution and passed the overall “restraint” resolution.

“Our response to Windsor was placed on a calendar where we knew we’d deal with it at the eleventh hour,” Bishop Chane said in an interview afterward. “It will probably rot in the ground like fruit.”

Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Schori then was brought in to the deputies for a pep talk. Bishop Schori had preached that morning at a service about trusting in “our mother Jesus [who] gives birth to a new creation.” But the deputies greeted her remarks with silence.

“This resolution is far from adequate,” she said. “But it’s the best we’ll probably do today and at this General Convention.

“I am committed to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in this church. I do not consider this resolution as slamming the door.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams released a statement that he was “grateful” for the resolution but that “it is not yet clear how far the resolutions passed this week and today represent the adoption by the Episcopal Church of all the proposals set out in the Windsor Report.”

Within two hours of the final vote, feuding groups of liberal and conservative bishops released dissents, both saying they felt pressured to come up with a last-ditch compromise.

“The process used to arrive at [the resolution] raises serious concerns about the integrity of our decision-making process as a church,” according to a statement that Bishop Chane drafted, said to represent the views of 20 pro-homosexual bishops. His group will challenge the church, it said, “to honor the promise to include the voices of gays and lesbians in the conversations about the future of the Communion.”

Meanwhile, a group of conservatives, who said they represented 14 bishops, told reporters that the resolution is “inadequate.” They promised to withhold consent for any future homosexual bishops and said they would cross diocesan boundaries to help conservative parishes marooned in liberal dioceses.

“The diocesan boundaries are broken down,” Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan said. “When bishops are unfaithful, when they are not speaking the truth, those historic rules will not hold.”

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