Sunday, June 18, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Episcopalians remained bogged down yesterday as they sought a compromise on ordaining homosexual bishops, an issue that has split the denomination.

However, an 18-member committee did come up with two resolutions to be voted on today.

One of the resolutions, A160, expresses “regret” for “the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003,” when the denomination ratified the election of Canon V. Gene Robinson as the church’s first openly homosexual bishop.

The resolution, which does not mention Bishop Robinson by name, offers the church’s “sincerest apology” for not having accorded “sufficient importance to the impact of our actions” on the 70-million-member Anglican Communion and asks “forgiveness as we seek … to live with each other.”

However, the resolution does not express “repentance,” an action requested by Anglican bishops of 22 provinces around the world that have fully or partially broken ties with the Episcopal Church over the Robinson consecration.

“It’s not heartfelt,” the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, said of the resolution. “I’m not sure this qualifies.”

Michael Howell, a member of the committee from St. Petersburg, Fla., said Episcopalians haven’t necessarily ruled out repenting.

“As part of an overall repentance, regret is the first step to admitting we were wrong” in consecrating Bishop Robinson, he said.

A second proposed resolution, A163, mandates that bishops provide pastoral care for dissenting congregations — typically conservative congregations in liberal dioceses that request the ministrations of a more like-minded prelate. Nearly a dozen congregations in the Diocese of Virginia — the nation’s largest at 90,000 members — are in this situation. To accommodate them, Virginia Bishop Peter Lee has allowed retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey to minister to them.

These congregations oppose Bishop Lee because of the vote he cast in favor of the Robinson consecration three years ago. He told the PBS show “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” several weeks ago that he would vote differently if given the chance. On Friday night, he said his change of heart was because of “the damage it’s done.”

However, the tenor of the triennial church convention, now in its sixth day, leans toward continuing to ordain homosexual bishops and allowing same-sex “marriages.”

On Friday, Episcopal bishops and deputies passed a resolution suggesting all future conventions be held in states that allow domestic partnerships. The only two states that outright prohibit them are Texas and Ohio.

The resolution, proposed by the Diocese of Newark, came about because of the experience of two homosexual Episcopalians at an unspecified previous Episcopal conclave when one member was suddenly admitted to the hospital, Western Massachusetts Bishop Gordon Scruton explained yesterday morning.

“Had it been serious,” he said, “they would not have been able to act as a partner.”

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