Episcopal vote on gay clergy widens Anglican split

Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:14pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A global schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion looked set to widen on Tuesday after its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, approved a resolution to ordain gay and lesbian clergy.

The ordaining of gay clergy and related issues have already prompted some conservative congregations to leave the Episcopal fold, while a few traditional Anglican churches in regions like Africa have broken ties with their more liberal U.S. brethren.

The resolution was passed by wide margins by both of the church's main decision-making bodies, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, at its General Convention in Anaheim, California, south of Los Angeles.

The resolution affirmed that "God has called and may call such individuals (gay or lesbians), to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church."

It also recognized that "the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."

Nancy Davidge, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church, said the resolution did not address the issue of same-sex marriage at all and its wording should not be interpreted as such.

Adoption of the measure marked the latest chapter in a long-running saga that has threatened splits in the Anglican Communion, whose roughly 80 million members belong to congregations that are offshoots of the Church of England.

Divisions between liberals and conservatives already had undermined Episcopal Church unity by 2003, when it consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first bishop in Anglican history known to be in an openly gay relationship.