Episcopalians Begin Considering Response to Moratorium

Episcopal leaders have begun considering a potential response to requests from Anglican leaders to not consecrate another openly gay bishop.

An appointed Executive Council work group convened for the first time early this month to begin discussion on a report responding to the communiqué that was issued by the Anglican Communion's Primates in February. The Episcopal Church was given a Sept. 30 deadline to respond to a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions.

According to the work group's chair, Bonnie Anderson – also president of the Episcopal House of Deputies – the group will have the report "in the form of a response" to the communiqué in June, when the Executive Council is scheduled to meet, according to the Episcopal News Service.

Consideration of the American denomination's response comes just after the Episcopal House of Bishops passed resolutions affirming gays and lesbians as "full and equal participants" in the church and rejecting the Primates' plan for leaders outside the U.S. Anglican body to oversee the conservative American dioceses that disagree with the Episcopal Church. The latter resolution would be "injurious to the church," stated the House of Bishops, adding that they cannot accept the Primates' plan even at the cost of losing members.

U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stressed that the March meeting was not a response to the communiqué in the area of homosexuality. Still, the Anglican spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, called the decision "discouraging."

And the quick response by the House of Bishops to some of the Primates' requests came as a surprise for the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, which may become the first diocese to leave the Episcopal Church. He had expected the House of Bishops to meet just prior to the Sept. 30 deadline.

The Episcopal body of bishops had also called for the development of a teaching guide for consideration of the communiqué. The guide is expected to be available in May for bishops and dioceses to use ahead of a September meeting where Episcopal bishops will respond to the moratorium.

The moratorium came after the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003, which was seen as a departure from Anglican tradition and scriptural authority. The consecration had placed the U.S. arm of Anglicanism at odds with the majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion which now seeks an unequivocal pledge from the Episcopal Church not to consecrate another openly homosexual bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples. Otherwise, the church could have a much-reduced role in the communion.