Episcopal Leaders Prepare for Homosexuality Debates

Episcopal Church leaders are scheduled to meet in a private session next week with the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

Members of the Episcopal House of Deputies are expected to address homosexuality issues and how LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) members are involved in The Episcopal Church during the meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, according to the Episcopal News Service.

The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe of the Diocese of California told the denomination's news service that the meeting will be set in the context of the "Listening Process," in which Anglicans worldwide are encouraged to listen to gay and lesbian persons and all sides of the homosexuality debate.

The meeting is taking place the same week of the 76th General Convention, The Episcopal Church's triennial legislative meeting.

Leaders at this year's convention, which takes place July 8-17 in Anaheim, Calif., will be considering resolutions that would allow the consecration of openly gay bishops. Some dioceses, or regional bodies, have asked the General Convention to repeal or retract resolution B033, which was approved in 2006.

B033 calls for restraint in ordaining bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church," mainly noncelibate homosexuals. It was passed amid calls by Anglican bishops overseas who were outraged after The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, in 2003.

The Diocese of Newark argues that B033 was never intended to be permanent and that it was only passed to prevent further fractioning of the global Anglican Communion.

Episcopal head Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, however, told the Episcopal News Service that the she doesn't think revisiting B033 will be helpful.

She said she'd rather focus on where they are now.

"Far more productive, I think, to have the hard conversations involved in claiming our current position and identity," said Jefferts Schori, who has expressed support for homosexual ordination as well as the blessing of same-sex unions.

The General Convention comes months after the Anglican Consultative Council, a decision-making body of bishops, clergy and laity, reaffirmed the moratoria on the consecration of partnered gay bishops and the authorization of public rites blessing same-sex unions.

The Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, warned the U.S. church against rescinding resolution B033 this year. Any pro-gay action, he said, would "imperil" the future of the Anglican Communion.

In addition to homosexual ordination, the Episcopal General Convention will also be considering resolutions calling for the development of rites for blessing same-gender relationships. The Diocese of Massachusetts is further calling on the legislative body to amend references in the national church's canon laws on marriage from "a man and a woman" to "two adults."