Episcopal Church votes to ‘exercise restraint’ in ordaining homosexual bishops

.- In an attempt to appease the worldwide Anglican Communion, the U.S. Episcopal Church Wednesday reversed an earlier decision and agreed to try to avoid the consecration of openly homosexual bishops, Reuters has reported.

The resolution, adopted at a convention, calls on those in authority "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any [episcopal] candidate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

The vote came after Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold warned the convention in its closing hours that "unless there is a clear perception on the part of our Anglican brothers and sisters that they have been taken seriously ... there will be no conversion and the bonds of affection which undergird communion will be further strained," reported Reuters.

The resolution, however, is non-binding. The election of bishops is a local matter within the church and any resolution is advisory. In other words, the future ordination of a homosexual bishop is not fully out of the question.

As a result, the resolution falls short of a recommendation from the Communion’s Windsor Report, which recommends a moratorium on homosexual bishops.

Archbishop Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said it was not clear how the U.S. church's actions responded to concerns raised by members of the worldwide church. He said the Communion will have to “reflect carefully on the significance of what has been decided” before it responds.

Further questions have also come about after the Church’s decisions earlier in the week.  Delegates on Sunday, elected Nevada Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, to succeed Bishop Griswold as the leader of the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church. She will be installed later this year as presiding bishop, making her the chief pastor of the 111 Episcopalian dioceses. She will become the first woman to head any branch in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion worldwide.

Her election has caused greater discontent within the already divided Anglican Communion.  Most other Anglican communities, do not recognize women bishops and many do not ordain women priests.

Her election has also widened divisions within the US Episcopal Church. Bishop Jefferts Schori supports the ordination of homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage. She also backed the 2003 episcopal consecration of openly homosexual Bishop, Gene Robinson - which caused the initial turmoil within the American church.

On Sunday night, the Standing Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth - which does not recognize female bishops - unanimously adopted a resolution asking to be placed under alternative leadership with in the Anglican Communion. The diocese would need the approval of Archbishop Williams to leave the US. Episcopal Church.

Although Fort Worth would be the first diocese to break with the Episcopal leadership, numerous individual parishes, mostly based in Africa and Southeast Asia, have transferred to other Anglican jurisdictions since 2003.

In addition, the response of the Anglican Communion to Jefferts Schori’s election and on the larger issue of the election of women to the episcopal office will also have an effect on ecumenism.  Two weeks ago Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity, told the Archbishop Williams that to validate the consecration of women as “bishops” in the worldwide Anglican Communion would make unity "unreachable" and shared communion with the Catholic Church impossible.  

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