Saturday, June 10, 2006

Episcopal Church Convention Will be Searching for a Comfort Zone

The Cleveland Plain Dealer Reported Today that:

Saturday, June 10, 2006
Frank Bentayou
Plain Dealer Reporter

The early wave of 10,000 or more Episcopal clergy, laity, staff and exhibitors arrives today in Columbus to prepare for the denomination's nine-day general convention, which starts Tuesday.

Some say the Episcopalians, who appointed their first openly gay bishop in 2003, want to ease toward the theological, ideological and social center. Meanwhile, America might be striving for that same comfort zone.

"Absolutely," said the Rev. William Sachs, a vice president at the Episcopal Church Foundation in New York. "I think there's an analogy between what the church is confronting and what we see in broader national politics, a move toward the middle."
Sachs and others also believe the church and nation are veering toward the center from opposite sides of the divide, especially regarding the hottest issue: sex.

In Washington this week, the U.S. Senate rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Conservative Christian and family-values groups have supported the amendment, but Wednesday's vote, in effect, killed it for the year.

And area members of the church's house of deputies, one of two legislative bodies, expect it and the house of bishops (the other body) will use this 75th triennial convention to rein in the controversy that grew out of the previous convention in Minneapolis.

For the United States and the church, the driving force is acceptance of homosexuals in roles they might never have felt welcomed to fill before and of same-sex couples' proclamation of commitment through marriage or other ceremony, Sachs believes.

How the 110-member house of bishops and 880-member house of deputies position the church over the next week and a half could determine if the recent rift over homosexuality widens.

Already, the issue has driven some 20 formerly Episcopal churches (including four in Northeast Ohio) to align with foreign and more conservative dioceses of the Anglican Communion, parent church to the Episcopalians.

The legislative bodies' actions will show how a 400-year-old mainline Protestant denomination of 2.2 million Americans (2.4 million worldwide) navigates between its principles and its loyalty to the Anglicans (70 million strong worldwide), some of whose provinces hold to more cautious doctrine than the Episcopal Church.

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