The Episcopal Church has appointed a panel of theologians to prepare a paper on same-sex relationships in the life of the church.
Names of the panel members have not been released, but the chair of the Theology Committee of the Episcopal House of Bishops says the group "very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons."
"It has always been the committee’s intention to publish the names of the panel when the work has reached the appropriate stage," said the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr., in a statement Wednesday. "We believe that for a season the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them."
The House of Bishops had requested that the theology committee study same-sex relationships to contribute to the listening process and discussions on homosexuality currently occurring worldwide across the Anglican Communion.
According to Parsley, the project is "designed to articulate theologically a full range of views on the matter of same-sex relationships in the church's life and to foster better understanding and respectful discernment among us."
The committee stated earlier that a "diverse and balanced panel of theologians" was appointed and has begun its work – which is slated for completion in 2011.
The project comes a month after Anglican leaders from the global Communion agreed to continue its "listening process," in which member churches are urged to listen to the experiences of homosexuals in an effort to dialogue and tackle the root controversies in the Anglican Communion, including the authority of Scripture, faithfulness to tradition and the respect for the dignity of all.
Controversy around the issue of homosexuality had heightened in 2003 when The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion – consecrated the first openly gay bishop.
Last month, Anglican leaders agreed to reaffirm moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions and consecration of partnered gay and lesbian persons.
The Episcopal Church was also given warning that if it passes any sexuality resolutions that go against the moratoria at its upcoming General Convention in July, it would "imperil" the work of the global communion to stay unified.