Tuesday, June 20, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Episcopalians passed a resolution expressing “regret” for consecrating a homosexual bishop in 2003, but not “repentance” as many of the world’s Anglican archbishops have urged.

The resolution that apologized to other Anglicans for not taking into account “the impact of our actions” was passed the same day as the newly elected presiding bishop played up the divisions within worldwide Anglicanism by saying homosexuality is not a sin.

Meanwhile yesterday, a key conservative bishop responded to the election of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori by asking the worldwide head of the Anglican Communion for “alternate oversight” under a foreign archbishop who holds the traditional church teaching on homosexuality and female ordination.

The resolution of regret, which passed the Episcopal House of Deputies 563-267, also must pass the House of Bishops, which will consider it today at the denomination’s triennial General Convention meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

It said Episcopalians expressed their “regret for straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and for the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church … and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion with one another.”

Deputies wrangled for hours over that resolution, which, in the minds of some, called into question the consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who left his wife and children and lives with a male lover.

“I don’t want to do any apologizing for the work of the Holy Spirit,” said one deputy, referring to the denomination’s selection of Bishop Robinson.

“I can cause harm even if my intentions are good,” said Diocese of Washington deputy Paul Abernathy. “I’ve learned by God’s grace to say ‘I’m sorry.’”

Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, which opposes women’s ordination, appealed to Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury for an alternative to Bishop Schori of Nevada, who was chosen Sunday as the denomination’s new presiding bishop.

Their request, for “immediate alternative primatial oversight and pastoral care,” asks Archbishop Williams to provide a substitute male archbishop for Fort Worth’s 18,000 Episcopalians. If granted, it would be unprecedented in the 70-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.

Fort Worth Bishop Jack Leo Iker said that Canterbury had acknowledged receiving his request and that he was confident it would be granted.

“If a congregation can get a substitute bishop if they have a substitute in the event of a dispute with their diocesan bishop, why can’t a diocese?” he said in an interview. The choice of Bishop Schori to head the U.S. church “was an in-your-face gesture to the entire Anglican Communion.”

Because Bishop Schori never worked as a parish priest and has been a bishop only since 2001, he said, “We were very much surprised” by her election.

“Of all the women bishops they could’ve elected, she was the least electable.”

There was no immediate response from Archbishop Williams. However, he said he had spoken to Bishop Schori by phone early yesterday “to assure her of prayers.”

In an interview yesterday, Bishop Schori added more fuel to tensions over homosexuality between the U.S. church and 37 other Anglican provinces. To date, 22 provinces have partially or totally broken ties with the Episcopal Church over the Robinson consecration.

Bishop Schori was asked on CNN whether it was a sin to be homosexual.

“I don’t believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us,” she said. “Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender, and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender.”

In fall 2004, an 18-member panel of Anglican leaders advised the 2.2-million-member Episcopal Church and its Canadian counterpart in a document known as the Windsor Report to cease ordaining homosexual bishops and blessing same-sex unions until a “greater consensus” arises in the Anglican Communion.

Another 18-member committee, co-chaired by Frank Wade of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, has spent the past seven days coming up with several resolutions that would satisfy other provinces yet not alienate the U.S. denomination’s mostly liberal membership.

Deputies also wrangled over Resolution A161, which urges dioceses to “refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.”

It did not mention the word “homosexual.”

An earlier version of the resolution, proposed by Virginia Bishop Peter Lee, asked for a “moratorium” on such future consecrations. It was voted down in subcommittee.

“The language of the resolution is totally unclear,” protested the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a South Carolina deputy. “We’re piling three verbs atop of each other: ‘obliged’ … ‘to urge,’ ‘to refrain.’ The water in this resolution is murky, mucky, turgid, and I can’t see.”

Members of Integrity, the church’s homosexual caucus, said the Episcopal Church will not back down from its advocacy of same-sex unions and homosexual bishops.

“I see no energy in this house to turn back the clock,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, Integrity president. “The vote [for Bishop Schori] yesterday is a sign the House wants to move forward.

“Offering a challenge to the Anglican Communion is not a negative thing. Hopefully, 30 years from now, I’ll be back here in my wheelchair to see them elect a gay and lesbian presiding bishop.”

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