Press turning eye to General Convention

The Los Angeles Times links the California Proposition 8 battles to Episcopal Church General Convention 2009 resolutions and Evangelical Lutheran decisions later this summer regarding the full inclusion of gay, lesbian,bisexual and transgender members.

California’s Supreme Court is expected to rule today on the constitutionality of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. For the faithful in a number of American churches, the hard-fought legal battle over civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples runs parallel to religious struggles that are strikingly similar and often just as heated.

One of the most visible denominational skirmishes will occur in July, when leaders of the 2.2-million-member Episcopal Church consider proposals at their national convention in Anaheim to sanction a religious rite for blessing same-sex unions and ease restrictions on the ordination of gay and lesbian bishops.

The country’s largest Lutheran denomination, meanwhile, is scheduled in August to consider a long-anticipated statement on human sexuality that, among various elements, says that Christian tradition recognizes marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.

Even as they acknowledge deep divisions over homosexuality, members of the 4.7-million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will decide at their meeting in Minneapolis whether they should enable local congregations to recognize same-sex unions and allow “practicing homosexuals” in committed relationships to serve in the ministry.

Reporting on the possible outcomes of General Convention, Duke Helfand, reporter for the LA Times writes:

Now, as Episcopalians approach their July convention, dioceses around the country are submitting resolutions to ease restrictions on gay bishops and to authorize same-sex marriage blessings. The issue of blessings is now left up to local Episcopal authorities.

The convention’s host, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, has tried to send a message by approving a policy at its December convention that gives local priests permission to officiate at rites of blessing for same-sex couples.

“I think it’s about time we get about the business of having marriage equality in the church,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese. “I am waiting with bated breath to see what happens” at the Anaheim meeting.

Conservative Episcopalians argue that liberalized policies will not only alienate U.S. parishes but will also add further strain to the church’s troubled relationship with church leaders in Africa and elsewhere in the global Anglican Communion.

This month, one of the communion’s worldwide leadership bodies affirmed its support for moratoriums (sic) on consecrating non-celibate gay bishops and on blessings for same-sex couples. The group was led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the communion’s spiritual leader, who is scheduled to attend the Anaheim convention.

Resisting those mandates will “turn up the flame,” said the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana and a leader in a group of clergy trying to strengthen Episcopal ties to the Anglican Communion. “If we take a step at General Convention that takes us down the road, we will lose more people,” he said.

Still, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, said she believes the U.S. church and its global partners can co-exist even if they disagree on the rights of gay men and lesbians in the church. She also said she did not expect this year’s convention, at which bishops, clergy and lay leaders are allowed to vote, to reach a decision on the issue of same-sex blessing rites.

Reading the tea leaves of General Convention:

Will the bishops favor the Lambeth blend?

Will the Deputies stick with a “fair trade” brew and stand for equality in the church?

When the leaves settle will we see that the Presiding Bishop only means that a resolution enabling rites would be passed but could not be enacted until the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music brings an actual rite to 2012 GC?

Or will there be a surprise as in 2006 when no one thought we would elect a woman as Presiding Bishop.

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