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TEXAS: Debate over gays ends diocesan convention

Debate over gays ends diocesan convention

Houston Chronicle Religion Editor

TYLER -- Delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas quietly concluded their annual council meeting Saturday after an hour of often impassioned debate over biblical authority and sexual morality.

More than 40 of the 1,000 delegates attending the concluding council session argued for and against the national church's action in approving the ordination of an openly gay priest as bishop last summer. The national church also approved the blessing of same-sex unions, further intensifying the dispute between denominational conservatives and liberals.

The American church and worldwide Anglican Communion are deeply divided over the ordination of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and the morality of homosexual unions. Several international churches, especially in Africa, have declared "impaired communion" with the American church in protest.

Bishop Don Wimberly, who voted against Robinson and same-sex blessings, scheduled the non-voting debate after successfully calling for the tabling of four resolutions that were critical of the action of General Convention, the church's legislative assembly. Wimberly said he preferred the debate rather than polarizing the church further through a vote.

But some delegates, like John McGarvey of Houston's Church of the Holy Spirit, were upset with Wimberly's action. The delegation from St. Paul's Church in Katy walked out in protest Friday.

"You have chosen to mute the voice of the Diocese of Texas on the matter," McGarvey told Wimberly.

Most of the delegates spoke against the actions of General Convention.

"The current issue of the church is not about the sin of homosexuality," said Andrea Widdows of St. Richard's Episcopal Church in Round Rock. "This is only a symptom of the bigger problem in our church. The issue is about the church condoning all kinds of sinful practices by allowing our leaders to continue in sin, instead of repenting and thus leading us to repentance as well."

Some delegates said the issue was not easy to decide in a vote.

The Rev. James Nutter, rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, said he was a delegate to the national assembly and voted against the approval for Robinson. He said he was opposed to the circumstances surrounding the vote including the lack of theological study of the issue. But Nutter said he was still conflicted about the issue.

"As I have looked at the five or six texts that are pertinent to this issue, the harder it is for me to discern whether or not there is a clear, absolute definitive ethic on homosexuality," Nutter said.

The Rev. Rick Benson, of St. Mark's Church in Rosenberg, defended the actions of the national church. Benson argued that scientific research supported the view that homosexuals did not freely choose their orientation.

"Science just doesn't support that," Benson said. He said Galileo and other scientists were condemned in their views by the church that cited the authority of Scriptures.

"We need to take Scripture seriously, but we also need to take the reality that science presents us within our deliberations," Benson said.


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