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COLUMBUS, OH: Gay stance = 'icing on the cake of rejection'

COLUMBUS, OH: Gay stance = 'icing on the cake of rejection'

By Hans Zeiger
VirtueOnline Correspondent

COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/20/06)-Following the defeat on Tuesday by the House of Deputies of a moratorium on ordaining homosexual bishops and blessing homosexual unions, a leading conservative Episcopalian told VirtueOnline that the failure of the measure is "like icing on the cake of rejection."

Dr. Michael Howell, a professor at the University of South Florida and a member of the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, contends that reconciliation between the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church is uncertain, and that it is absolutely clear where the Episcopal Church now stands.

"We've made a statement about who we are as a church, that the new agenda of revisionism is far more important to us as a church than to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a branch of God's holy and Apostolic church," said Howell, who was the only consistently conservative vote on the Special Committee.

The defeat of Resolution A160 on the floor of the House of Deputies Tuesday was particularly clear because it the Special Committee had structured it as a compromise between the demands of the Anglican Communion and the Windsor Report on one hand, and the homosexual movement within the Episcopal Church on the other.

"I'm not surprised because the resolution did not really address the recommendations of the Windsor Report, despite the fact that it used some Windsor-like language. It was a compromise that a large portion of the church couldn't support," said Howell.

Indeed, conservatives were upset by the Resolution A160's apology to homosexuals for hurt that may be caused by the resolution itself, and the liberal majority opposed the resolution for its proposed moratoria on homosexual approvals.

But it was clear who held sway on the convention floor, Howell indicated. "The real story here is the rejection of a substitute motion, because it was clearly Windsor-compliant using Windsor-language."

The substitute resolution was offered by the Fort Worth deputation, and it stated:

"Resolved, the House of ___ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church 'effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until [and unless] some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (Windsor Report 134), and be it further Resolved, That the 75th General Convention effect a moratorium on the authorizing of all public rites of blessing of same-sex unions (Windsor Report 144), and be it further Resolved, That the 75th General Convention call on those bishops who have authorized public rites for blessing same-sex unions, 'because of the serious repercussions in the Communion...to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization' (Windsor Report 144)."

The President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. George Werner, overruled the Substitute resolution as unconstitutional. After an appeal, the House upheld Werner's decision.

Howell responded, "We are not willing to follow the recommendation of the Lambeth Commission in terms of the Windsor Report. I think that's where the decision was made. Rejection of A161 was like icing on the cake of rejection."

Other members of the committee interpreted the A161 vote differently.

"I think the house is still trying to figure out its mind," said the Rev. Sandye Wilson, rector of St. Andrew and Holy Communion in South Orange, New Jersey, a member of the Special Committee, as she headed off to her "first real dinner in eight days" since the committee began its work at the convention.

The Rev. Frank Wade of the Diocese of Washington, chairman of the Special Committee, told VirtueOnline, "I don't think the ballgame is over at this point," adding, "We are not the last word anywhere." Other channels, he said, will be available to reconcile differences with the Anglican Communion.

"I think our job is to help the church say what it wants to say," said Wade. But when VirtueOnline asked Wade why the convention had rejected the work of the committee, Wade replied, "I don't know." There is a tension in the church, he said. "The people stand by the decisions made in 2003...The commitment of this church to gay and lesbian persons in this church is strong." The idea of a moratorium was unwelcome to many in the church, Wade said.

But given the defeat of A161 and the substitute resolution that included language directly from the Windsor Report, Howell suggested that the road ahead for the Episcopal Church will be precarious. "By not adopting the recommendation of the Windsor Report, we have removed the one sure way that we would have been able to move forward in the process that would have allowed us to remain in the Anglican Communion. We have rejected the one sure path and we have now adopted the path of uncertainty," said Howell.

"There is only one way of certainty," Howell concluded. "But now we have to be willing to accept whatever ramifications there may be."


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