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US Episcopal church struggles with gay issues

Written by: Staff

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 17 (Reuters) A key committee trying to craft the US Episcopal Church's response to the anger and alienation caused by the consecration of an openly gay bishop wrestled with disagreements on Friday over how to apologize and what to promise for the future.

''I do not regret the decision we made,'' said committee co-chairman the Rev Frank Wade, referring to the church's consecration three years ago of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first bishop known to be in an openly gay relationship in more than 450 years of Anglican church history.

Another member of the panel said the group should state outright it ''regrets the offenses caused'' and offer an apology to the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, as the worldwide church is called, as well as promise not to consecrate more bishops who are ''living in a same-sex union.'' Robinson's elevation prompted some US churches to affiliate themselves with a network of fast-growing Anglican churches in Africa, where homosexuality is largely taboo.

The special committee is meeting at the US church's triennial convention. Its assignment is to come up with a resolution or a package of resolutions that the convention can vote on before adjourning next week.

The 2.3 million-member US branch of the Anglican Communion is under pressure to respond to the Windsor Report, a paper issued at the behest of the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, which demanded the US church apologise for the Robinson elevation, not do any more like it and make it plain that it is against the blessing of same-sex unions.

At the end of yesterday's meeting, the committee decided to break into three smaller groups to consider the issues, and try to come up with agreed-upon language sometime today. The church leadership had hoped to have the gay-related issue disposed of before tomorrow when the church elects a new presiding bishop, but it was not clear if that deadline could be met.

The panel is working with three principal resolutions crafted by a commission formed by the church leadership earlier this year. Some committee members were on that commission.

The resolutions include an admonishment that church congregations use ''very considerable caution'' in elevating gays to bishop; that clergy not authorize public blessings of same-sex unions until the broader church agrees on a policy; and that the entire convention reiterate a statement the Episcopal bishops made last year saying they regretted the pain the Robinson consecration caused.

''We definitely have to make a choice,'' said member Michael Howell, adding that if the panel did not put forth a statement that expressed regret many would find the response inadequate.

Wade, the retired rector of St. Alban's in Washington, said the committee needed to find a middle ground that reflected both the church's desire for autonomy yet recognized its interdependence with the broader Anglican community.


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