The Episcopal Church ended its ten-day general convention in Phoenix last month in the same way it began: in a muddle about sexuality. Delegates passed a compromise resolution “affirming the teaching of the Episcopal Church that physical sexual expression is appropriate only within life-long monogamous” marriage. However, the same resolution admitted “discontinuity” between traditional Christian teaching “and the experience of many members of this body,” and directed bishops to prepare a pastoral teaching on the topic by 1994.

Some bishops, such as maverick Newark Bishop John Spong, took that as permission to ordain homosexuals. Spong did this once in December 1989 and plans to do it again on September 14. Last September, the House of Bishops “disassociated” themselves from Spong’s first ordination.

“I won’t be the only [bishop],” Spong said. “Gay people have been ordained in [the dioceses of] New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington, California, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Chicago … in the past two to three years.”

Spong and others on the Episcopal Left say gay clergy are a hidden but normative part of the Episcopal Church. Numerous gay clergy testified during committee hearings, and a handful of bishops publicly admitted to ordaining them, despite a 1979 general convention resolution declaring it was “not appropriate” to do so.

The church’s inability to stop such ordinations was evident in the House of Bishops meeting, where proposed censure of two leaders (Washington Bishop Ronald Haines and Newark Assistant Bishop Walter Righter), who have recently ordained noncelibate gays, failed. The bishops instead passed a weaker resolution describing “the pain and damage to the collegiality and credibility of this House” by such ordinations. ...

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