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Episcopal Group Told Gay Issue Is Divisive

June 16, 2006|From the Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — John Danforth, an Episcopal priest and former U.S. senator, warned Thursday that the church risked irrelevancy by focusing on divisive matters such as gay clergy and same-sex couples.

Instead, Danforth said the denomination should turn away from the "inside baseball" of church politics and put its energy behind reconciling a world increasingly polarized by politics and religion.

"For 99%-plus of people, they really couldn't care less who the bishop of diocese 'X' or 'Z' is," Danforth said, during the church's national legislative meeting. "Nor could they care less whether a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions is available in a prayer book or over the Internet."

If the Episcopal Church breaks apart, "we'll be one more little splinter, one more tiny wedge in the world of wedges," he warned.

Danforth made the comments at the General Convention, where delegates are deciding whether they should stop electing gay bishops for now and put restrictions on same-sex blessing ceremonies to appease irate fellow Anglicans around the world.

Danforth said he knew almost nothing about how the convention operates and could not advise delegates on how they should vote.

Simmering disagreement on gay issues erupted over the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives with his longtime male partner.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm of the global Anglican Communion, and the majority of overseas Anglican leaders believe gay relations violate Scripture. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has expressed concern that the communion could break apart over the issue.

On Thursday, the House of Deputies, composed of lay people and clergy, approved a resolution on a voice vote affirming their commitment to remain within the communion. The measure now goes before the House of Bishops for consideration.

The outcome of the convention, which runs through Wednesday, will be a key factor in how the Anglican fellowship fares.

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