Episcopal Church House of Bishops’ response to directive on openly gay bishops and same-sex unions ‘a grave contradiction’

September 26, 2007

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
(Office) 646.358.1479
(Cell) 787.602.5954

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — National Religious Leadership Roundtable members today expressed deep disappointment at the Episcopal Church House of Bishops’ response to the directive issued by the leaders of the Anglican Communion to stop consecrating openly gay and lesbian bishops and to ban blessings of same-sex unions. The House of Bishops agreed to “exercise constraint by not consenting to the consecration” of gay bishops and they also pledged not to authorize public rites for same-sex blessings.

Response from the Rev. Jay E. Johnson, Ph.D. Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Pacific School of Religion and National Religious Leadership Roundtable member

“The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church meeting in New Orleans this week faced a daunting challenge: to remain in communion with Anglicans worldwide while also respecting the full dignity and participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“Anglican Christians have always been remarkably diverse, in both theology and the practice of ministry. From the beginning, staying in communion with each other has meant respecting differences and forging compromises. The recent statement from the House of Bishops is no different. While agreeing to ‘exercise restraint’ in any further elections of lesbian and gay people as bishops, the statement also decried the ‘unwanted incursions’ of bishops from other provinces of the Anglican Communion, which have served only to fuel the fires of schism.

“Like any compromise, the question now before us is whether this statement will satisfy those who believe the Episcopal Church made a fatal mistake in confirming Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire as well as those who fully support that confirmation. And at least two key issues remain unaddressed: Will Bishop Robinson participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference of worldwide bishops? How will individual bishops in this country deal with the acknowledged ‘pastoral concern’ for same-sex couples seeking a blessing of their relationship?

“Personally, as an openly gay Episcopal priest, I am both relieved and disappointed by the bishops’ statement. It presents a grave contradiction. The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to the full dignity and participation of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people in this church. Yet I fail to understand how exercising restraint in electing more lesbian or gay bishops and refusing to allow blessings of our relationships reflect that commitment.

“Like many other LGBT Episcopalians, I deeply value our participation in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Yet I worry that the burden of such unity is once again being shouldered by LGBT people and our relationships. In the end, I view this statement as a short-term compromise for the sake of respecting the polity of the Episcopal Church — bishops in our church cannot act alone but must deliberate with deacons, priests and laypeople in our general convention, the next meeting of which is not until 2009. Until then, my prayers and efforts will be directed toward the ‘listening process,’ also reaffirmed in this statement. And my hope is that Anglicans the world over will listen very carefully to the stories of their LGBT sisters and brothers and of their faithful and courageous ministry in this church.”

Rev. Jay E. Johnson is available for comment to the media.
To arrange, contact Pedro Julio Serrano at 646.358.1479.


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