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Will Episcopal Church move draw in -- or drive out-- believers?

Will Episcopal Church move draw in -- or drive out-- believers?

July 14, 2009

The Episcopal Church is opening the role of bishops to gays and lesbians -- and maybe widening the gap between the U.S. church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In a packed hall at their governing meeting in Anaheim Monday, the House of Bishops echoed the House of Deputies (priests and lay leaders) in a lopsided vote in favor of the move to allow "any ordained ministry" in the Church to any qualified person, according to Episcopal News Service.

(For the roll call vote, and observations of the post-vote press conference, check Episcopal Cafe for Jim Naughton's posts.)

This is expected to lift a self-imposed "restraint" on the Church confirming any more gay bishops since it accepted openly gay New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

Whether that "restraint" was a formal block or simply appeared like one, no other openly gay candidates have been elected since Robinson's confirmation ignited open warfare with traditionalists in the 2.1 million member denomination, the U.S. branch of the Communion.

Traditionalists had been unhappy for decades with changes in the prayer book, the acceptance of women bishops and other theological disputes. Last month, a breakaway umbrella group of Anglican traditionalists -- which will exclude women and gay bishops but allow discretion on whether women can be ordained as priests --Â started a rival national church, the Anglican Church in North America.

Technically, there's one more round of votes: Deputies, who approved the resolution Sunday, must vote again on some of the bishops' modifications.

But, Rev. Susan Russell, president of the gay Episcopal group Integrity, cheered the bishops' vote in a press release. She called it "a great day for all who support the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ" and

... another step in the Episcopal Church's "coming out" process -- and it sends a strong "come and see" message to anyone looking for a faith community where God's inclusive love is not just proclaimed but practiced.

Other voices decried the action.

Traditionalist blogger David Virtue sees the move as an "abandonment" of the Anglican Communion, which largely disapproves. His team coverage today includes a quote from Bishop of Albany Bill Love who spoke before last night's vote. According to Virtueonline, Love said:

"If this resolution passes, The Episcopal Church will cease to be what it's always been."For him, passing (it) would "totally shred" the Communion... a loss to us and the wider Church."

DO YOU THINK... more people who leave -- or who join --the Episcopal Church because of this?


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