The Episcopal Church's 77th General Convention concluded Thursday with the adoption of a long list of resolutions, from one that calls on the U.S. Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act to another providing rites for pet funerals.
Episcopal leaders, who met in Indianapolis for over a week, considered dozens of resolutions – the most controversial being the approval of transgender ordination and rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.
In protest, leaders from the Diocese of South Carolina, including its bishop, left the convention early after expressing clearly their belief that the decisions mark a departure from Scripture and Anglican tradition.
"These resolutions in my opinion are disconcerting changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church – to which every bishop, priest and deacon is asked to conform," said S.C. Bishop the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence. "More importantly they mark a departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, therein making it necessary for me to strongly differentiate myself from such actions."
Twelve other bishops also released a report to record their dissent.
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, bishop of North Dakota, stated that the approved resolution on same-sex blessings makes it much harder for them to persuade theological conservatives to remain in The Episcopal Church.
"We struggle to hold together the evangelical faith of the Church, from which we see this Convention as departing, and the catholic order of the Church, which causes us, for the sake of the unity for which Jesus prayed, to resist the temptation to leave this fellowship," he said Wednesday, according to the Episcopal News Service.
Other resolutions passed during the convention include:
• A call to halt the use of racial profiling and the practice of detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally
• A call to Congress to repeal federal laws (including DOMA) that have a discriminatory effect on same-gender civilly married couples
• Creating a task force to "re-imagine" its structures, governance and administration
• A reaffirmation of baptism as the normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion
• Making available liturgical materials to provide pastoral responses to people with animals, including at the time of their death
• Challenging every congregation to use social media
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. body of Anglicanism. Its membership has been in decline for decades and is currently at under 2 million. The General Convention is its governing body and meets every three years.