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TEXAS: Episcopal Bishop Requests Shelving of 4 Resolutions

Episcopal bishop requests shelving of 4 resolutions

By RICHARD VARA
Houston Chronicle Religion Editor

Bishop Don Wimberly will ask delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of
Texas' annual meeting next week to shelve four resolutions that concern
biblical sexual morality and the national church's approval of an openly
gay bishop.

In his address to the council, Wimberly also plans to declare out of
order a proposed amendment to the diocesan constitution and canons that
would nullify any national church assembly action that was "contrary to
Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Teaching of the Church."

More than 1,100 clerical and lay delegates will begin meeting in Tyler
Thursday to act on diocesan business and policy matters. It will be
their first meeting since the national church's General Convention voted
in August to approve the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay
priest, as bishop of New Hampshire.

Not everyone is happy about Wimberly's request on the resolutions.

"There is an elephant in the room, and I wonder if we as a church have
to have courage to address it," said the Rev. Lanny Geib, who is among
the clergy who submitted the resolutions for council consideration.

"There is a great exodus out of this church right now because people are
so disgusted because we don't have the courage of our convictions," said
Geib, who has lost 10 families from his 300-member congregation at St.
Paul's Episcopal Church in Katy over the Robinson issue. Another four
families are ready to leave, he said.

"They are sick and tired of it," Geib said.

Nonetheless, Geib said he would not bolt the Episcopal Church.

"I am not leaving the church," Geib said. "Never. I will stand and fight
this thing until I can't preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and him
crucified. Period."

Robinson's consecration provoked a firestorm of controversy in the 2.3
million-member Episcopal Church in this country and the worldwide
Anglican Communion. Several national Anglican churches have broken ties
with the American church and have threatened to leave the worldwide
communion if Robinson is not ousted.

In his pre-published council address, Wimberly, who voted against
Robinson's consecration, asks delegates not to bring to the floor
resolutions that:

Call for affirmation of sexual intimacy between a man and a woman only
in marriage.

Repudiate the General Convention's approval of Robinson and acceptance
of the blessing of same-sex unions.

Commend the August vote of Diocese of Texas delegates who opposed
Robinson and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Affirm historic Anglican doctrines and policies that state Scriptures
trump actions of human councils.

"If we learned anything at General Convention, it is that voting against
one another will only divide this house further instead of allowing us
to name our concerns, fears and opinions in a healthy forum," Wimberly
says in the address.

"Bringing them to the floor of Council will only mire us in
parliamentary maneuvering rather than addressing the state and welfare
of the church as a whole," he states.

The bishop asks delegates to air their differences instead in a special
hour-long "conversation."

"We must engage one another in a loving, respectful and honest manner,"
the address says.

The Rev. Susan Bear, rector of St. George's and St. Patrick's Episcopal
Church in Houston, is one of the 30 clergy endorsers of the resolutions.
But she said she was willing to heed Wimberly's call to lay them aside.

"Part of my ordination vows is that I will be obedient to my bishop, and
I trust Bishop Wimberly's judgment," Bear said. "I may have my own ideas
in mind, but he is my bishop and I will listen to what he has to say at
this council.

"As long as there will be room for some dialogue and some discussion,
and it is my understanding that is what we will have," Bear said.

The Rev. Laurens "Larry" Hall, rector of St. John the Divine Episcopal
Church, is a leader of traditionalist diocesan clergy. His church has
recently aligned with the conservative American Anglican Council.

But Hall said he supports the bishop's position. Hall believes the
bishop and the church worldwide are waiting for the titular head of the
Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, to issue a
statement on the Robinson issue this fall.

"In some ways, everybody is waiting for somebody else to make some kind
of decision," Hall said.

The Rev. Helen Havens, rector of progressive St. Stephen's Episcopal
Church in Houston's Montrose area, will support the bishop's request.

"He is simply suggesting, as many people have suggested, that we would
be far better off sharing our ideas, praying together, listening to each
other, being civil to one another rather than duking it out in a
legislative battle on the floor," Havens said.

The Rev. Joe Reynolds, dean of Christ Church Cathedral and a
progressive, said debating issues is part of church tradition.

"That is the nature of the Episcopal Church -- we like to fuss,"
Reynolds said. "I don't think anyone will say the Episcopal Church is
terribly united right now. But I don't think the Council will be divisive."

The annual meeting will begin with a service Thursday night at Tyler's
First Baptist Church, the only church in the East Texas City large
enough to accommodate the delegates. Business sessions will be held
Friday and Feb. 14 at Harvey Convention Center.

Wimberly also will ask the diocese to focus on missions and outreach. He
plans to convene a diocesan-wide gathering with a goal of increasing
average Sunday attendance by 10 percent.

The council will also vote on a $5.6 million diocesan operations budget
and a $3.2 million missionary budget, which funds missions, outreach and
other programs, said Ron Null, diocesan treasurer. About $400,000 will
go to the national church, slightly less than last year, Null said.

The overall missionary budget is down 5 percent from last year's $3.4
million budget. He said that reflects continuing economic woes and some
parishes' displeasure with the national church's actions.

"It is not anything that is crippling the ability of the diocese to do
good missionary work," Null said.

END

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