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EPISCOPAL CHURCH Priests respond to report



Published: Sat, October 23, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The report asked that the church not appoint any more gay bishops.

By JULIE A. WAGNER

VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- A report released this week by an Anglican commission was a good example of how the church has historically taken the middle ground, local Episcopal priests say.

Via media, Latin for "the middle way," is one of the deepest traditions of the church, said the Rev. John S. Horner, rector of St. John Episcopal Church, 323 Wick Ave. "[The report] is a very good example of how we operate."

"The report has called people on both extremes back to the middle. I think that's a reasonable stance," said the Rev. Kelly Marshall, rector of both St. Augustine Episcopal Church, 614 Parmalee Ave., and St. James Episcopal Church, 7640 Glenwood Ave., Boardman.

The Anglican Communion, a worldwide federation of churches including the Episcopal Church in the United States, created the Lambeth Commission last year after Episcopalians elected the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The bishop is gay and openly lives with his longtime partner.

The 93-page report did not call for Bishop Robinson's removal but asked that the church refrain from appointing any more gay bishops. It also called on conservative bishops in Africa to stop interfering with the U.S. church. They had been talking with conservative Episcopalians who did not agree with Bishop Robinson's election.

Previous issues

Father Horner said that from the beginning the church has dealt with disagreement. Four hundred years ago, Queen Elizabeth held the church together as it blended Catholic and Protestant traditions.

"She wanted people to leave those disagreements and not make too much of it," he said.

During the U.S. Civil War, the Episcopal church was the only one that did not split along North and South lines.

"People were killing each other," Father Horner said. "The church was holding together."

Father Marshall also cited Episcopal unity during the Civil War, saying that the issue of slavery divided most other churches. He said the issue of a gay bishop may be the most serious the church has ever faced, but "time will tell."

"We all need to give this some time to let this thing play out," Father Marshall said.

He said he plans to have a discussion group about the report at his churches at a later date.

"In neither of these churches has this been a divisive issue," he said. "When someone needs to talk about it, we talk about it."

Moral issues

Father Marshall said the church has changed its mind on moral issues such as allowing priests to marry and allowing divorced people to remarry in the church.

Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of Cleveland, who leads the Ohio Diocese, which covers the northern part of the state, including the Mahoning Valley, issued a statement this week.

"The report invites us into a deeper humility and patience with one another, with ourselves and with God, and it invites all of us into a deeper accountability to one another as Christians committed to the reconciling mission of Christ Jesus," he said.

Hollingsworth and other bishops from Province V, which includes Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, will meet just before Thanksgiving to talk about the report. On the national level, the House of Bishops will meet in January.




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