Catholic bishop calls gay decisions in Episcopal Church a problem

By Jerry Filteau Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An ecumenical spokesman for the U.S. Catholic bishops said Aug. 11 that the U.S. Episcopal Church's recent decisions to confirm an openly gay bishop and recognize that some Episcopal communities bless same-sex unions present "new ecumenical challenges" to Catholic-Anglican relations.

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Catholic bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the Catholic Church remains committed "to prayerful and honest dialogue, however difficult," despite those challenges.

He said the Episcopal decisions "reflect a departure from the common understanding of the meaning and purpose of human sexuality and the morality of homosexual activity as found in sacred Scripture and the Christian tradition."

"As such, they have serious implications in the search for Christian unity and for the work of our bilateral Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in the United States," he said.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The church's triennial convention, held in Minneapolis in early August, confirmed the election of Canon V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, who in June had been elected by New Hampshire Episcopalians as bishop of their diocese.

The convention also approved a compromise resolution on same-sex unions that called on the church to continue study and discernment of its pastoral care of gay and lesbian persons.

An amendment introduced in the convention's House of Bishops dropped language in the resolution that would have called for the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music to develop rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

However, the amended resolution that was adopted included the statement, "We recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions."

The confirmation of Bishop-elect Robinson has divided members and leaders of the U.S. church and of the Anglican Communion around the world.

The primate of the communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, warned of a possible schism the day of the confirmation vote and urged church leaders to "consider this development before significant and irrevocable decisions are made."

In mid-July, shortly before the Episcopal Church's general convention, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission met in Florida to discuss devotion to Mary and the invocation of saints in the teaching and life of the Catholic and Anglican churches. It said it hopes to complete a statement on the topic in 2004.

Two Americans are co-chairmen of the commission: Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett of Seattle on the Catholic side and Bishop Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church on the Anglican side.

The international commission also heard an extensive report on the work of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which recently met in Northern Ireland. That commission was formed in 2000, following a special summit of world Catholic and Anglican leaders in Canada, to spread the word of the level of Catholic-Anglican doctrinal agreement already achieved and to give a new impetus to the drive for Catholic-Anglican unity.

08/12/2003 10:56 AM ET

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