Episcopalians Consider Banning Gays From Clergy

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop said Wednesday that the church's top policymaking body should not heed a request from Anglicans worldwide to place a moratorium on electing gay or lesbian bishops.

The Episcopal General Convention, which runs through June 21 in Columbus, must vote on whether to stop electing gay bishops for now so that the embattled Anglican family — deeply divided over homosexuality — can stay together.

Joined by national gay rights activists, New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson urged the convention to reject the proposed moratorium and any discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"It's not our job to decide what the Anglican Communion will or will not do in response to our actions," he said at a news conference. "What we're called to do is to, as faithfully as we can, discern God's will and act on it in our context."

The head of a national coalition of gay Episcopalians said the church's membership in the communion doesn't mean it should give up its ability to make its own rules.

"If indeed there is some kind of split or schism over these issues I want to insist that the responsibility needs to lay firmly at the feet of those who are threatening to leave, not those of us who are threatening to stay," said the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity.

Robinson made it clear that he believes gay rights are consistent with Episcopal and Christian values.

"Jesus is the 'homosexual agenda' in the Episcopal church, I believe that with my whole heart," Robinson said. "My agenda is to speak the witness that I know of this living, loving God, who loves me for all I am and all that I was created to be."

The 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm of the Anglican Communion, the fellowship of churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England. The majority of Anglican archbishops believe gay relationships violate Scripture and have been pressuring the Americans to adhere to that teaching or leave the communion.

The main proposal before the convention does not contain the moratorium that Anglican leaders are seeking. Instead, the measure asks dioceses to "exercise very considerable caution" in electing leaders. Delegates can revise or reject the legislation.

Episcopal leaders have never apologized for confirming Robinson; those who support ordaining gays contend the Bible does not bar monogamous same-gender relationships. But the denomination's leaders have repeatedly expressed regret for the turmoil his 2003 election caused.