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Episcopal Church leaders vote to give bishops latitude in same-sex blessings

July 17, 2009 |  3:15 pm

Capping a 10-day convention in Anaheim, leaders of the Episcopal Church agreed today to consider marriage liturgies for same-sex unions and to give bishops greater latitude in meeting the needs of gay and lesbian couples.

The new policy marked a second triumph for liberals after the church gave final approval Tuesday to a measure ending a de facto ban on the ordination of gay bishops. 

Debate over liberalizing the rules revealed deep theological differences within the church of 2.1-million members, and raised new concerns over tensions with the global Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the communion.

On Friday, the U.S. church’s top two officials sought to calm fellow Anglicans, including the communion’s spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

In a letter hand-delivered to Williams, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the president of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, described the resolution on gay bishops as "more descriptive than prescriptive in nature." 

They explained that it does not repeal a prior de facto ban on ordinations but instead only reaffirms commitments made by the church’s constitution and canons (which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation).

"In adopting this resolution, it is not our desire to give offense," they wrote. "We remain keenly aware of the concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other churches across the communion. We believe also that the honesty reflected in this resolution is essential if indeed we are to live into the deep communion that we all profess and earnestly desire."


-- Duke Helfand in Anaheim