Citing a "growing awareness of holiness in same-sex relationships," a report released today by the Episcopal Church (USA) at the Anglican Consultative Council explained the reasoning behind a controversial move that has threatened to split the Anglican Communion.
Although the ECUSA had voluntarily chosen not to participate in gatherings until 2008 - when a major decision on the homosexual debate will take place in the decennial Lambeth Conference in England its participation in this years triennial gathering of worldwide Anglicans in Nottingham, England was the result of an invitation.
According to the Episcopal News Service, the ECUSA's report came at the request of the Anglican Communion leadership, which had asked the U.S. church to give an explanation of how it could consecrate an openly homosexual man as bishop, as it did for Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
While acknowledging that there is not a "common mind" about the debate on homosexuality in the church, the authors of the paper a group of theologians called together by the head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Frank Griswold attempted to answer the question of why.
"A majority of the representatives of the wider church bishops, clergy and lay persons have felt guided by the Holy Spirit, a gain in light of prayer and discernment to consent to the election and consecration," the report states.
The theologians asked if Christ might be "opening our eyes" to something not previously understood, adding that homosexual and heterosexual desire may be just a biological or cultural difference "overtaken by our common Baptism into his crucified and risen Body."
The paper argues for an understanding of holiness in all human relationships characterized by various factors, including fidelity, monogamy, honest communication and "holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."
Bishop Frederick H. Borsch, one of seven theologians who contributed to the report states that not all will agree, however he says the report offers a well-reasoned biblical, theological and ethical case for allowing homosexuals to take part in "faithful relationships while seeking to follow the Lord Jesus."
In February of this year, a communiqué to Bishops said Anglican teaching on homosexuality had "been seriously undermined by the recent developments in North America." A 1998 resolution by all Anglican bishops declared that homosexuality was "incompatible with Scripture" as well as opposing gay ordinations and blessings of same-sex unions.
The recently released report, titled "To Set Our Hope on Christ," is currently available online in its entirety at www.anglicanlistening.net. Instructions are also available on how to order a print copy.