COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 18 (Reuters) A key committee of the US Episcopal Church, responding to criticism from fellow Anglicans worldwide for the consecration of an openly gay bishop, approved yesterday an expanded and more strongly worded apology for the action.
The same panel has yet to decide how to respond to two related issues dominating the triennial convention of the 2.3 million-member U.S. church -- the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration of other gay bishops in the future.
The special committee passed the apology resolution and sent it to two legislative bodies at the convention that must approve final policy. One consists of 230 bishops, the other of more than 800 diocesan representatives, both lay and clergy.
It was at the last such convention in 2003 that the church approved the consecration of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first bishop in more than 450 years of Anglican history known to be in an openly gay relationship.
Issues such as the apology have divided the U.S. branch the Anglican Communion, as the 77 million-member worldwide church is called.
Many who supported the Robinson elevation say they are not sorry for what they did. But conservatives are still upset by it, and some US churches have placed themselves under the jurisdiction of bishops elsewhere in the world in protest.
The approved statement says the US church expresses its ''regret for breaching the proper restraints of the bonds of affection'' with the events surrounding the 2003 convention and ''the consequences which followed.'' It offers the church's ''sincerest apology'' to those ''who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance ...
to the impact on our church'' and asks ''forgiveness as we seek to live in deeper levels of communion one with another.'' An earlier proposal basically repeated an apology the bishops had issued in 2005 expressing regret ''for the pain that others have suffered'' by Robinson's elevation.
The apology is subject to possible revision by the convention's two houses before the meeting ends next Wednesday.
Robinson's consecration triggered dissent not only within the US church but also from Anglicans in other parts of the world, specially Africa, where homosexuality is often taboo.
The committee was charged with responding to the Windsor Report, a paper issued at the behest of the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. It advised the Episcopal Church to apologize for the Robinson elevation, not do any more like it and make it plain it opposes the blessing of same-sex unions.
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