Bishops of the Episcopal Church recently learned that many Episcopalians who responded to a survey disagree in significant numbers with traditional church teaching on sexual morality.

Meeting in Panama City in late September, the bishops heard a report from Bishop O’Kelley Whitaker about sexuality dialogues conducted in Episcopal parishes during 1993. General Convention, the Episcopal Church’s legislative body, called for the dialogues to be completed by its next meeting in 1994.

Whitaker, who led a nine-member committee guiding the talks, delivered a 15-page preliminary report on human-sexuality discussions. The committee asked dialogue participants to rate their assessments of various statements. The 18,000 survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that:

“Homosexuality is a genuine sexual orientation for some people” (81 percent); “The chief standard for right and wrong is not specific texts but the character of Jesus revealed in the Gospels” (80 percent); “Single people should abstain from genital sexual relations” (57 percent); “Supporting committed relationships between gay or lesbian persons could strengthen the Christian community” (53 percent); “If I were single, I would abstain from genital sexual relations” (50 percent).

Whitaker said the responses do not indicate a scientific finding of Episcopal convictions on sex.

Before hearing the report, the bishops learned that Integrity, the caucus of homosexual Episcopalians, had invited some of the bishops to a reception. “The reception was a chance for us to say hello, to be a witness, to say we are here and we’re interested in what’s going on,” said Integrity’s Fred Ellis III. The reception was allowed, even though bishops had agreed not to permit any outside interest ...

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