The U.S. Episcopal Bishops continue to deal with internal disagreement and face the possibility of a total division of their church as they meet in Ohio this week for their triennial convention. Bishops who support and those who oppose the ordination of openly homosexual Bishops are finding an increasingly growing chasm between their respective beliefs.
"We've reached a moment where it is very difficult, indeed I think we've reached an impossible moment, in holding it together," Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan told a group of 1500 gathered at the convention.
The current climate of confusion and dissent was ignited in 2003 when the conference of bishops approved the elevation of Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual Episcopal pastor to the episcopate.
Following the decision, the U.S. Episcopal Church is now facing the possibility of disunion with the worldwide Anglican Communion as well a splintering of the church in America.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is the head of the Anglican Communion recently released a paper known as the Windsor Report, which demanded an apology from the U.S. Episcopal church for the election of Bishop Robinson. The report also insisted that the U.S. bishops not elevate any other openly homosexual men and spoke against their continued support of homosexual unions.
Due to the structure of the Anglican Communion, however, the U.S. church can choose to accept the Archbishop’s suggestions or risk the possibility of disunity. Wednesday’s meeting was to consider resolutions proposed by a special committee that was formed by the Episcopal Church in response to the Windsor Report.
According to Reuters, The committee will consider the testimony, perhaps reword the resolutions and send a report to the two legislative houses at the convention. One consists of bishops and the other is made up of diocesan representatives. Final votes on the resolutions may not come until Saturday.
The resolutions being debated 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. The resolutions are seen by many as a temporary attempt to remain in communion the larger Anglican community.
However, several bishops think the resolutions are too harsh and are unhappy with the threat of a ban on same sex-unions and the ordination of openly homosexual bishops. Robinson, clearly the most visible opponent, asked during a hearing Wednesday, “are we courageous enough to recognize Christ in the lives of our gay and lesbian neighbors?" Robinson continued, “Please, I beg you, let's say our prayers and stand up for right."
Other bishops, however, think the resolutions are too weak and will result in total division. Bishop Duncan, who led a group of Episcopal dioceses in opposing Robinson's 2003 consecration, told delegates the progressive and conservative wings of the church should acknowledge their differences and part, the Associated Press reported.
Duncan’s statements seem to speak directly to the concerns of the larger Anglican Church. In a message to the General Convention, Archbishop Williams wrote, “We cannot survive as a communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ.”