Monday, March 1, 2004

The pastor of a Capitol Hill Episcopal parish has challenged the Diocese of Washington with a resolution rebuking same-sex “marriage,” and a debate scheduled in his church was canceled yesterday after documents were stolen and trashed.

A draft of the one-page statement, which was presented Saturday to members at Calvary Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, declares that “Holy Scripture does not support giving God’s blessing to a sexual relationship outside marriage, be that relationship homosexual or heterosexual” and that “councils of the Episcopal Church have, and sometimes will, err.”

The rebuke is aimed at the Episcopal General Convention, the denomination’s decision-making body who approved its first openly homosexual bishop, Canon V. Gene Robinson, Aug. 5 in Minneapolis. Bishop Robinson was consecrated in November and officially assumes the position on March 7.

Calvary’s rector, the Rev. Thomas W. Logan Jr., said the resolution is “an attempt to protect the congregation” from theological error.

On Saturday, Mr. Logan and All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase were hosts to a panel discussion at Calvary about same-sex unions and Scripture, attended by 181 persons.

The 40,000-member Washington diocese has about 30 openly homosexual clergy and has announced plans to develop its own same-sex “marriage” rite.

“If it’s not a marriage, what are we blessing — a union of two single persons?” asked Mr. Logan, 54, on Saturday. “Where do we find justification for that in Scripture?”

The 625-member Calvary Church was to debate the resolution during a closed meeting yesterday until several hundred copies of the resolution intended for parish distribution were stolen. The leaflets were found in a trash can on church grounds yesterday.

The church’s assistant pastor, the Rev. Vaughan Booker, said there were “intense feelings” on the topic.

Saturday’s panel included two priests from St. George’s Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale, Md., which has sponsored eight same-sex blessings in the past decade, the Rev. J. Carleton Hayden, and the Rev. Michael Hopkins, who is openly homosexual. They were joined by Louie Crew, a New Jersey activist who founded the homosexual Episcopal caucus Integrity.

Opposing them were two clergy from Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax: the Revs. Martyn Minns and Richard Crocker. They were joined by the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina, who termed same-sex blessings as “unions searching for a theology.” The Episcopal Church is not willing to admit it made a mistake at the general convention, he said.

Mr. Hopkins then took the podium to say, “We don’t all agree homosexuality is a sin,” at which point Calvary member Kevin Franklin shot back, “So we don’t agree with the Bible?”

“I am a baptized Christian person,” Mr. Hopkins responded.

He was joined by Mr. Crew, who said, “If I felt my monogamous commitment of 30 years was a sin, I’d leave it.”

Calvary is the largest of several mostly minority churches — those with large Hispanic, black or West African immigrant congregations — in the diocese that are troubled by the Robinson consecration.

The Rev. Edmund V. Olifiers, a retired priest who has filled in at several such parishes, recalls a tempestuous meeting between Bishop John B. Chane of Washington and parishioners at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Adelphi several months ago.

They gave Bishop Chane, who voted for Bishop Robinson, “a real earful” of unhappy comments, Mr. Olifiers said. “There’s a feeling of betrayal, but what’s a powerless parish going to do?

“I am surprised at the amount of conservatism among the Latinos. Neither the Hispanics nor the blacks are completely in the left pocket.”

Calvary is the largest minority church to break ranks, but for the most part, conservative black Episcopalians “have not spoken out,” Mr. Logan said. “There’s only one or two congregations of color I’ve heard have negative reactions to Gene Robinson. In one of them, the priest said he didn’t want to be involved in any public discussion or debate.”

Anyone disagreeing with the Robinson consecration is taking on Bishop Chane, who has told a diocesan liturgy committee to come up with an official same-sex rite.

Mr. Logan, a committee member, resigned in protest. He pulled his choir out of its performance slot at diocese’s annual January convention and sponsored a resolution at the convention — which was tabled — urging the diocese to affirm certain historic Christian doctrines.

“It was a heavy-handed and clearly political maneuver to quash any statement about the historic faith,” Mr. Logan said of the tabling maneuver.

He does not blame Bishop Chane, who, he says, has handled disagreements on the matter “in a very pastoral way.”

Calvary says it has no intention of departing from the Episcopal Church for a more theologically orthodox denomination. However, Mr. Logan has joined forces with the American Anglican Council, the lead conservative group opposing Bishop Robinson.

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