Episcopal Leaders Act to Avert a Schism

September 26, 2007

Author: Michael Paulson

Source: The Boston Globe


The Episcopal bishops of the United States, attempting to head off a schism over gay rights and biblical interpretation, yesterday promised to "exercise restraint" by not approving more gay bishops and not authorizing a formal ritual for blessing same-sex couples.

The statement is expected to have little practical impact in the United States. Priests in many dioceses around the country, including Massachusetts, are already blessing same-sex unions without a nationally authorized rite, and that practice will not stop. And even before yesterday's statement, several bishops had said the Episcopal Church was unlikely to approve another gay bishop anytime soon because of the uproar that greeted the 2003 approval of an openly gay priest, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.

The pledge, part of an eight-point statement issued in the final minutes of a six-day meeting in New Orleans, reduces the likelihood that the Episcopal Church will be ousted from the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion, according to many US church officials. Only one of the approximately 160 bishops in attendance could be heard voting against the measure, although several of the most conservative bishops had left the meeting Friday.

"I think it lessens the possibility of schism," said Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts. "I think this is going to meet the needs of the archbishop of Canterbury, and it shows how much we want to be part of the Anglican Communion."