Episcopal Church moves to elect more gay bishops
Episcopal Church leaders in Los Angeles on Sunday nominated an openly gay priest and an openly lesbian priest as bishops in a move sure to ratchet up tensions in the global Anglican Communion.
The move follows an announcement on Saturday by the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota of three candidates identified to become the Bishop of Minnesota, including a partnered lesbian priest in Chicago.
The nominations come just weeks after the 2 million-member Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, lifted a de facto ban on the consecration of gay bishops that was seen as a “ceasefire” between liberal and conservative factions in the American church and the wider communion. You can see our story here.
Church unity has been strained since 2003, when the Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first bishop in Anglican history known to be in an openly gay relationship. None have been elected since then but the subsequent truce now seems to be over.
This whole saga has provoked huge divisions and break-aways within the Episcopal Church and the 80-million member global Anglican Communion, where provinces or churches in the developing world, especially Africa, take a dim view of same-sex relations.
It is also unfolding against the backdrop of the wider American cultural debate about gay rights and related issues.
Polls consistently show gays and lesbians enjoying growing acceptance in American society. But fast-growing faiths in the United States, such as many evangelical Protestant churches and the Mormon church, regard homosexual relations as sinful and proscribed by scripture.
What does all this mean for the Episcopal Church, which like many mainline Protestant denominations in the United States has been struggling with aging congregations and stagnant or declining membership? Will its liberal take on sexual orientation issues help attract some people to its flock, especially young people? Or are conservative Christians right when they say many social liberals are secular anyway and unlikely to go to a church regardless of its cultural views? And how does one explain the divergence between growing social acceptance of gays and lesbians in America with the fast pace of growth of conservative denominations which regard their lifestyle and orientation as sinful?
(Photo: Cleve Jones (L) looks on as Bishop Gene Robinson kisses screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (R) as Robinson accepts the Kolzak award at the 20th GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, California April 18, 2009. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation sponsors the awards which it says promote the accurate representation of gay and lesbian persons. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES ENTERTAINMENT)