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Episcopal Church's Top Bishop Sidesteps Sex Debate

April 18, 1987|United Press International

WASHINGTON — The Rt. Rev. Edmond Browning, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will not take a stand at this time on the debate over issues of human sexuality raging among Episcopal bishops, church officials said.

The church this week released a letter Browning had written to bishops in the 2.8-million-member church in which he rejected bids to make him come down "on one side or the other" of the debate.

At issue in the renewed debate--simmering since the church's 1976 decision to ordain women to the priesthood--is a document produced earlier this year by the Diocese of Newark, N.J., under the leadership of Bishop John Spong.

Unions Outside Marriage

The statement says the church should consider giving its blessing to premarital, post-marital and homosexual unions.

Spong has also suggested that the church consider reviving the notion of "betrothals as a kind of trial marriage" for young people "who are in that period of life where bodies are mature but marriage is not yet wise or appropriate."

He has also argued that there is evidence that homosexuality is not a perversion but "a normal minority position, like being left-handed," and he is critical of churches for acting "as if gay people have some built-in ability to deny their sexual energy that heterosexual people do not have."

Spong's stance has brought a flood of angry letters and telephone calls to Episcopal Church headquarters in New York demanding that Browning and other bishops take a stand on the issue.

In his refusal, Browning reminded the bishops that the church's General Convention had asked its standing committee to bring it a report and proposed guidelines on the issues.

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