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june 21, 2006

Episcopal Leaders Want to Have it Both Ways -- While Presbyterians (USA) Approve Homosexual Ordination

It's a sign of times in which we live where a smorgasbord of religious thought exists -- and millions who call themselves Christians pick and choose which biblical doctrines they choose to believe or to reject based on their own personal view of life.

It seems the leaders of the Episcopalian Church want to embrace the practice of ordaining openly homosexual bishops and ministers, but they also want to stay within the Anglican fellowship -- the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, with roots that trace back to the Church of England.

The majority of overseas Anglican leaders oppose actively gay clergy and they have pressured Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the communion's spiritual leader, to take some action against Episcopalians if they fail to adhere to that view.

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called a special session of the two policymaking bodies of the Episcopal General Convention -- the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops -- to find a last-minute way to address the issue before delegates go home.

Top Anglican officials had asked the Episcopalians for a temporary ban to calm the outrage in other Anglican churches worldwide over the election three years ago of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who lives with his longtime male partner.

In an emotional speech to bishops Tuesday night, Robinson said he had been awake since 4 a.m., praying about how to resolve the conflict between his deep commitment to unity and to full inclusion for gays and lesbians. "I desperately want to preserve this communion," Robinson said. "But I can't do so at the expense of my own integrity and that of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ."

In a final vote, a majority of Episcopal deputies decided against legislation that would have urged dioceses to refrain from electing gay bishops.

The House of Deputies, comprised of more than 800 clergy and lay people, took up the measure Tuesday just hours before the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at a separate meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, approved a plan to let local congregations install gay ministers if they wish.

The measure approved 298-221 by a Presbyterian national assembly keeps in place a church law that says clergy and lay elders and deacons must limit sexual relations to man-woman marriage. But the new legislation says local congregations and regional presbyteries can exercise some flexibility when choosing clergy and lay officers of local congregations.

Many Anglican churches have already broken ties with the U.S. church over Robinson's elevation. And if overseas leaders dislike the outcome of this week's meeting, it greatly increases the chances that the association of 38 national churches will break apart.

What do you think?: What are your thoughts on the ordination of openly gay ministers in the Episcopal and Presbyterian (USA) denominations in America?

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