Episcopalians overwhelmingly favor tossing a previously approved resolution that bans ordaining openly gay bishops.
In discussions that began Thursday afternoon and continued Friday morning during The Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention, Episcopalians spoke frankly, testifying passionately either for throwing out the ban or against rescinding it.
"Gays and lesbians are asked to make sacrifices the rest of us are not asked to make," said the Rev. J. Frederick Barber of Fort Worth, according to the Episcopal News Service.
Debate centered on resolution B033, which was approved by the General Convention in 2006. It 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.
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, addressed the General Convention on Thursday, cautioning against making decisions that could "push us further apart."
But on Friday, some Episcopal leaders pondered whether "sacrificing" gays and lesbians is worth securing unity with the rest of the global communion.
"Will we continue to sacrifice a portion of God's people for a false sense of security with those who don't want to be with us?" the Rev. Liz Zavanov of Hawaii posed, as reported by the denomination's news service.
The majority of Episcopalians who were randomly selected to speak on the resolution rejected B033. Few asked to preserve the resolution.
With relationships with the rest of the Anglican Communion still fragile, the Rev. Dan Martins of Northern Indiana said keeping B033 intact is necessary.
The Rev. Charles Holt of Central Florida argued, "We are damaging the body of Christ by insisting on our own way. This is not a faithful witness of the Gospel."
The few speaking in support of B033 may be reflective of the smaller number of conservative Episcopalians present at this year's General Convention.
According to the Rev. J. Philip Ashey, Chief Operation Officer of the conservative American Anglican Council, says the number of orthodox "willing to stand against the tide of TEC's agenda is vastly reduced from previous conventions."
"With such a numerically diminished opposition, TEC leaders have a free hand to draft and pass virtually any legislation they like," Ashey said, reporting from the convention in Anaheim, Calif.
In addition to resolutions asking for the repeal of B033, the General Convention is considering proposals that would allow blessings of gay and lesbian unions in states where same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal.
Those in favor of blessing same-sex unions argued on Wednesday that it's a matter of simple justice and equality.
But others said it's not that simple.
If it were a matter of simple justice, it would be a "no-brainer," Sue Carmichael, a deputy of the committee on Social and Urban Affairs – which is considering the resolution – said.
"I just can't discount the Bible," she added, noting the struggle that many Episcopalians have with passages in the Bible that oppose homosexuality, as reported by the Episcopal News Service.
The General Convention opened on Wednesday and will conclude July 17.