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

Date: 
September 27, 2007

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 — 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.

Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members

“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, Ph.D.
Pacific School of Religion
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry

“It is a profound indictment of the current state of Christianity when bishops from any denomination, especially those who have already consecrated an openly gay bishop, choose to betray him, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families for the sake of the illusion of the unity of an institution. The church is already divided. LGBT people and their families are the ones again forced to the side by this decision. My heart aches for our LGBT siblings in the Episcopal Church. Their bishops are treating them like yo-yos instead of as members of the body of Christ. To pull close and then later to cast aside as unloved and unworthy is frankly to abuse. We call on the bishops of the Episcopal Church to reverse course, to right this wrong and quickly.”

— Emily Eastwood
Executive Director
Lutherans Concerned/North America

“DignityUSA continues to support our LGBT sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church and throughout the Anglican Communion through the difficult days of this continuing debate. As LGBT Roman Catholics, we in DignityUSA continue to watch this struggle in the Episcopal Church and pray for the day when Jesus Christ’s love and inclusiveness is fully realized in all Christian churches.”

— Sam Sinnett
President
DignityUSA

“This so-called compromise devalues the experience and potential service of gay and lesbian Episcopal priests and gay and lesbian persons seeking to live in a family sanctified by their church. Once again, a church body is asking gay and lesbian persons to take a pew at the back of the church in order to mollify those who do not understand that sexual diversity is also part of God’s blessing.”

— Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Director
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing

“This decision is a profound disappointment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people everywhere. The bishops are in danger of succumbing to the temptation to bow before an idol called church unity when God demands justice.

“We stand solidly behind the efforts of Integrity to overturn the moratorium at General Convention 2009 and pledge ourselves to redouble our supportive efforts. We will not go away; we will not be silent. Our faith and our lives depend on it.”

— Harry Knox
Director
Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program

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