Episcopal Diocese Approves Commission to Support Gays

Episcopalians from a diocese that divided partly over homosexuality overwhelmingly approved a proposal to create a new commission that would support gays and lesbians.

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin gave the thumbs up to an "equality commission" during its annual convention, which concluded Sunday.

Delegates voted to create a commission that would include lay and clergy members to support, engage and affirm marginalized communities within the diocese, according to The Episcopal News Service. In this case, the marginalized are identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender persons, as well as women and various ethnic communities, among a few others.

The vote came after conservative Anglicans within the diocese in 2007 became the first diocese to break ties with The Episcopal Church, contending that the national church was departing from Christian orthodoxy and Anglican tradition.

The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – widened rifts in 2003 when it consecrated openly gay bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

While the breakaway group, which calls itself the Diocese of San Joaquin, realigned with the more conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America, some voted against disaffiliation and remained with the national church. That group calls itself the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Last week, Bonnie Anderson, president of The Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, said the executive council is "ready to help" members of San Joaquin Diocese's remaining members. The council agreed to make up to $700,000 available in 2009 for expenses in San Joaquin and other dioceses facing similar challenges.

The conservative Diocese of San Joaquin, meanwhile, held a convention the same weekend to celebrate and develop a new approach to "being together as God's people."