Notebook > Religion

Sincerest regrets?

Religion | A statement by Episcopal bishops refuses to say that consecrating an openly gay bishop and approving blessings for same-sex unions was wrong

Issue: "Johnny Carson: In memoriam," Feb. 5, 2005

The majority of the nation's Episcopal bishops refuse to say that what they did last year in consecrating an openly gay bishop and approving blessings for same-sex unions was wrong.

Most other provinces in the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion have called on ECUSA to repent and reverse its actions. In an attempt to head off a breakup of the communion, Anglican leaders last autumn issued the so-called Windsor Report. Although it stopped short of disciplining the U.S. denomination, it called on ECUSA to express "regret" for departing from Anglican doctrinal standards and to declare a "moratorium" on further consecrations of gays.

During their first formal meeting since release of the report, ECUSA's bishops last month said they needed more time to discuss the moratorium request. They also said: "We as the House of Bishops express our sincere regret for the pain, the hurt, and the damage caused to [the Anglican Communion] by certain actions of our church." They did not say they regretted what they had done.

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Conservative bishop Robert Duncan said the statement is "a good start" but falls short of what was called for. He is a leader of 21 dissenting conservative and traditionalist ECUSA bishops who the same weekend signed a statement that affirms the international criticisms of the U.S. denomination and expresses "acceptance and submission" to the Anglican Communion.

Look away

Like many other mainline denominations, the 4.9-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is torn by controversy over homosexuality. Under current ELCA policy, ministers must refrain from sexual relations outside marriage, defined as "a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman." Also, the church's bishops in 1993 adopted a policy forbidding clergy from performing ceremonies to bless same-sex relationships.

But gay activists and their allies in the church are pressing the ELCA to loosen its standards. Ignoring the standards altogether, some congregations are ordaining noncelibate homosexuals, and some ELCA clergy are conducting rites to bless same-sex unions, much to the displeasure of many in the denomination.

To head off a threatened split, a 14-member ELCA advisory panel this month recommended an odd solution: The church's policies should remain in effect, but no disciplinary actions should be taken against clergy who for "conscience" reasons disobey them.

Traditionalists and gays alike condemned the proposal. Gays said it didn't go far enough in removing stigma from same-sex relationships. Conservatives said it was an attempt to "hoodwink" church members into thinking nothing had changed. Delegates to the ELCA churchwide assembly will vote on the proposal in August.

Bulletin Board

· Robert Sloan has agreed to step down as Baylor University president on June 1 following years of turmoil over his visionary goals and management style. Many faculty members and students had pressed him to quit. But he's not leaving. Instead, he will become chancellor of the Baptist school in Waco, Texas, majoring in fundraising, student recruitment, and public relations.

· The 400,000-member Presbyterian Church in America this month will discontinue health insurance coverage for its 858 employees. Administrators cited the rising costs of premiums that made the benefits plan no longer viable.

· A federal judge in Arizona banned the Bush administration from giving any more grants to Phoenix-based Mentorkids, a Christian organization mentoring the children of prisoners with a three-year federal grant. The government had already stopped the funding after it determined the group was using public money to fund religious activities along with its secular social-services work. The White House said it was the first time a grant under President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives had been struck down because of a program's religious content.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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