The homosexuality issue surged out of the closet and onto the floor of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church last month.

The debate was for and against the ordination of avowed, practicing homosexuals. Perhaps not since the United Presbyterians debated, and then rejected, ordination of practicing homosexuals in the summer of 1978 has a major Protestant denomination studied the issue so seriously.

In the end, the church’s two-chamber legislature rejected homosexual ordination. Its House of Bishops and House of Deputies (clergy and lay delegates) approved a resolution stating, in part, “it is not appropriate for this Church to ordain a practicing homosexual.” The resolution was in the form of a recommendation, not mandatory legislation; but many were pleased that now, at least, the church is on record against such ordination.

The resolution opposed the ordination of persons engaged in extramarital heterosexual relations as well, which was in keeping with an introductory explanation: “We re-affirm the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage, marital fidelity, and sexual chastity as the standard of Christian morality.”

The church did, however, hold open the possibility of ordaining persons of homosexual orientation “whose behavior the Church considers wholesome.” While gay rights Episcopalians were happy about that, they did oppose the resolution in its totality. They argued unsuccessfully to delete the final sentence, which rejected ordination of practicing homosexuals.

Many Episcopalians came to the September 9–20 triennial convention in Denver already astir over the homosexual issue. The Standing Commission on Human Affairs and Health—created by the 1976 triennial convention primarily for the purpose of studying the matter of homosexual ordination—had reported in July, after two and a half years of study, “There should be no barrier to the ordination of those homosexual persons who are able and willing to conform their behavior to that which the Church affirms as wholesome.”

The report failed to please groups at both ends of the gay rights spectrum. Integrity, an organization of self-described “gay Episcopalians and their friends,” felt generally sympathetic to the report. But Integrity members, who distributed in-house materials from an exhibition hall display booth, criticized the report for treating homosexuals as a “category,” rather than as individuals, and for inferring that their sexual orientation was a “disorder.” (Integrity president John Lawrence claimed an Integrity membership of 1,000—at least 200 of whom, he said, are priests.)

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Authors Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott signed copies of their new book, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, in the Integrity booth. Mollenkott, an Episcopalian, asserted that one’s sexual orientation—whether heterosexual or homosexual—is a gift from God. To suppress that orientation is to deny God’s will, she said. The authors approve practicing homosexuality if between persons in a “covenanted” relationship—something akin to heterosexual marriage, and say their position does not violate Scripture.

Among those groups opposed to the type of view espoused by Integrity was King’s Ministries, a Denver-based group that calls itself a healing ministry for homosexuals. Its printed materials in the exhibition hall expressed love for the homosexual, but called practicing homosexuality sin—basing that position on Scripture that includes Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and Leviticus 18:22.

The bishops’ ministry committee had submitted the resolution recommending against ordination of practicing homosexuals as a substitute for the standing commission’s report. Chairman Robert Appleyard of Pittsburgh said the substitute resolution was not the “unanimous resolution of the committee,” but that there was “general agreement.” He distributed copies of the resolution to the bishops on a Saturday afternoon, and a special Monday morning session was slotted for its debate.

Excited journalists said the resulting debate over homosexuality was sharper, more forceful, than in the United Presbyterians’ assembly in 1978—perhaps because the bishops had an entire weekend to examine the ministry committee’s substitute resolution. Many came to the Monday session with prepared statements.

Recurring arguments against antigay legislation included: sexuality is a “mystery” that can’t be legislated; candidates for ordination should be judged on an individual basis and not by “category,” and that some practicing homosexuals still can live “wholesome” lives, through responsible, long-term relationships.

Among the more vocal bishops:

• Otis Charles of Utah: “In order to survive in this world, most of us need a close, intimate personal relationship. In the homosexual’s case, it is another male.”

• Ned Cole of Syracuse, New York: “I’ve never asked them [clergy candidates] about their sex life … it’s none of my business …”

• C. Kilmer Myers of California: “This could lead to possible legal entrapments.

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… This destroys whatever pastoral relationship we bishops of the church may have [with homosexuals].”

Arguments in favor of the resolution included: Scripture and Christian tradition forbid practicing homosexuality; the church should love the homosexually-oriented person, but deny practicing homosexuality.

Among the bishops arguing this position from the floor:

• William Frey of Colorado: “We are simply being asked to restate the traditional teachings of the church of 2,000 years. We should be as inclusive as Jesus Christ who found Mary Magdalene but did not leave her in her condition.”

• Charles Persell of Albany, New York: “Don’t be put off by the feeling you’re old hat … I’m proud to be old-fashioned if that means standing for Christian morality.”

• Gerald McAllister of Oklahoma: “We are a part of the larger church … By rejecting this resolution, we would be disassociating ourselves from the vast majority of Christianity.”

In the end, the “yeas” won: the final vote in the House of Bishops was 99–34 in favor. The following day, the House of Deputies’ ministry committee submitted an amended resolution, which deleted that part speaking against ordination of practicing homosexuals. The amendment narrowly met defeat. Then, by a wider margin, the deputies voted approval of the original bishops’ resolution.

(The bishops and the deputies both must approve a resolution for its adoption by the church.)

Some Episcopalians complained that the homosexuality debate had obscured the many “good things” being done in the church.

These included:

• A new church outreach to the inner city. The General Assembly laid the foundations for an Urban Episcopal Caucus, which will have its formative meeting in Indianapolis in February.

• Several church leaders praised a spiritual renewal in the church. The Episcopal Charismatic Fellowship has grown considerably, and 16 organizations now are part of an evangelical umbrella agency, PEWSACTION.

• Presiding bishop John Allin said the church had overcome its crisis over women’s ordination. (That crisis was eased somewhat in 1977 when the bishops approved a “conscience clause,” saying that bishops could refuse to ordain women.) The breakaway Anglican Catholic Church, not the Episcopal Church, recently has come upon rocky times—being embroiled in a high church versus low church controversy.

Since 1976, 175 women have been ordained as Episcopal priests; however, only 16 so far are rectors or vicars—either because no positions are available or because Episcopal parishes won’t accept them.

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By Episcopal Church estimates, more than 20,000 persons left the denomination after the 1976 General Assembly approved women’s ordination. And there’s no guessing about the consequences had the 2.8-million-member body okayed the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

There are no self-admitted homosexual bishops in the Episcopal Church, said assistant to the presiding bishop Richard Anderson, but he acknowledged the existence of some homosexual priests. An Integrity official from New York, however, said he knew of several homosexual bishops but that Episcopalians were “too polite” to single them out.

Immediately after the House of Bishops approved their resolution, Bishop John Krumm of the Southern Ohio diocese declared that he and 15 or 20 other bishops would not implement it.

Krumm placed a copy of a protest statement on a table for bishops to sign, and 23 did so. The statement, in noting first that the resolution was only a recommendation, said: “… we cannot accept these recommendations or implement them in our diocese.” More than 80 deputies signed a similar statement.

Bishop Paul Moore of New York, who created a furor in 1977 when he ordained avowed lesbian Ellen Barrett, told a reporter after passage of the bishops’ resolution, “I care more about a candidate’s honesty, sincerity, courage … than I do about his sexuality.” So an obvious question facing the Episcopal Church is, what happens when, and if, a bishop ordains another admitted homosexual?

Will the church censure the bishop, scold him, or ignore the action? In the not too distant future, that question may have an answer.

Finding Common Ground on the Book of Prayer

Everyone came up a winner in the Episcopal prayer book debate. The progressive element saw approval for a modernized Book of Common Prayer. And traditionalists, who remained loyal to the 1928 edition, won a conditional approval for continued use of the older model.
It was a surprisingly quiet end to a debate that perhaps only veterans of the “King James only” wars can appreciate.
As expected, the church’s House of Bishops and House of Deputies quickly voted to make the controversial Proposed Book of Common Prayer the authorized liturgical book of the church. Episcopalians had used the book on a trial basis since 1976, when the General Convention gave it a first reading approval.
The question all along, however, had been the status of the 1928 book, a liturgy that is markedly similar in language and style to the original 1549 version edited by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.
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The Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer had led the opposition to the modernized prayer book. SPBCP president K. Logan Jackson complained that the new book waters down important doctrines of the church, provides too many alternatives in various worship rites (the new book is twice as large as the 1928 volume), and is “not as rich in meaning” as the 1928 edition.
But even the Nashville-based SPBCP felt comfortable with the way the General Convention resolved the prayer book debate. The bishops and deputies approved a resolution saying that “liturgical texts from the 1928 prayer book may be used in worship” according to certain guidelines and under the authority of the diocesan bishop.
The resolution made clear that the 1979 book was still the official liturgy: “… this in no way sanctions the existence of two authorized books of common prayer …” And the resolution also recommended that congregations using the 1928 book make provision for regular and frequent use of the modernized book.
Some church officials theorized that many laymen supported the 1928 book out of opposition to change, not doctrine. Many long-time Episcopalians know by rote large portions of the 1928 book. And the newer version dares to reword such bedrock rites as the Lord’s Prayer, in which “Lead us not into temptation” becomes “save us from the time of trial.” And the book introduces an “exchange of peace,” a pause for mutual greetings between worshipers, in which reserved Episcopalians feel uncomfortable.
During small-group discussions in Denver, the bishops discussed ways to implement the General Convention’s action on the prayer books; and the SPBCP board of directors met this month for the same reason. Undoubtedly, a number of parishes will continue using the 1928 prayer book. One Texas priest, who favors the modernized version, said he still would “do a burial or a wedding from the 1928 book if requested by a parishioner.” For the time being, at least, few churchmen seem dogmatic on the issue.
A Far Cry from the Book Blurbs

Friends knew her as Linda Davison, honors student who graduated from tiny Woodland Park, Colorado, High School. The 1961 “Panther Tracks” yearbook showed Linda’s attractive senior picture smile alongside a list of her extracurricular activities, including the writing and drama clubs.

Knowing her background, some of these friends couldn’t understand why Linda later wrote two books in which she presented herself as an uneducated, mixed-breed Indian who had spent a poverty-stricken childhood with her grandmother on a Kickapoo reservation. Some asked questions of the publisher, Moody Press.

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So began a three-month Moody Press investigation of who exactly is Linda Davison—better known to thousands of evangelical readers as the Indian convert, Crying Wind.

The result was an announcement to Christian booksellers on August 31 by marketing manager Floyd Robinson: “The books Crying Wind and My Searching Heart have been declared out of print,” with the cryptic explanation, “After extensive and thorough investigation, Moody Press has determined both editions include material that extend literary privilege above and beyond the editorial standards of Moody Press.” That means no more Crying Wind books will be printed, and none will be shipped from the warehouses. Bookstores will sell them only until existing stocks are depleted.

In a subsequent telephone interview, Moody Press executive editor David Douglass explained more clearly Moody’s action: investigations revealed “a number of crucial accounts were fictional.”

Douglass said most discrepancies involved the first book, Crying Wind (1977), which described the author’s “earlier years,” her claim to an Indian background and upbringing. My Searching Heart describes events since her Christian conversion, and has not been seriously questioned. (Linda Davison Stafford now lives with her husband and four children near Divide, Colorado.)

Booksellers didn’t know quite what to make of the Moody announcement. Crying Wind’s books were among their (and certainly Moody’s) fastest moving items. A summer listing of national religious bestsellers placed Crying Wind (over 175,000 copies in print) sixth among paperbacks, while the more recent My Searching Heart ranked twelfth in sales for clothbound books. (Crying Wind’s third book was ready for the Moody presses, and a fourth was being written at the time of the announcement.)

The decision to pull the books was made only after extensive interviews with Linda Stafford’s relatives and friends—much of it obtained in writing, as a legal protection. Among the apparent discrepancies in Crying Wind’s written accounts, as determined by Moody Press:

• Crying Wind, Linda Davison, didn’t spend her childhood with her grandmother on an Indian reservation, but was raised by her parents in Kansas and Colorado towns.

• She didn’t quit school after six weeks when schoolmates harrassed her for being an Indian, but graduated from high school.

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Paul Hamlet of Woodland Park—Uncle Cloud in the books—acknowledged in a telephone interview that he was Linda’s uncle. He also said Linda’s mother (his sister) was born on a Kickapoo reservation near Lawrence, Kansas.

However, he said, the family didn’t use Indian names or dress. His sister has “about as much Indian blood as I do—maybe 1/64.” He remembers that Linda had an interest in studying about Indians. She has used the name Crying Wind only since a post-high school missionary stint among Indians in Arizona, (an experience described in her book), Hamlet said.

Questions about Crying Wind’s integrity surfaced more than two years ago. At the time, Moody editors asked Crying Wind about the alleged inaccuracies, and she blamed any minor errors on her loss of memory over the years.

As a result, the preface in subsequent printings of Crying Wind stated: “Some of the names, dates, and places have been changed or slightly altered to protect the privacy of those involved.” My Searching Heart carried a similar disclaimer.

Dressed in her Indian garb, Crying Wind gave her testimony at numerous churches and conferences around the nation. The story of her rejection of native Indian religion and acceptance of Christianity endeared her to thousands. Several acquaintances attested in interviews to her Christian commitment.

Crying Wind could not be reached for comment. Her pastor, Glenn McPherson of Pikes Peak United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs, said she had been in church just the previous Sunday. But McPherson, whom Crying Wind says led her to Christ, would not comment regarding the turn of events, and said, “She doesn’t want to make any statements.”

A former classmate—a Christian whose notification to Moody set off the summer investigation—said: “I believe we can tell a lie so often that it becomes reality to us. I think this is what Linda has done.”


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