The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops has been meeting behind closed doors for months, working with a committee to craft a "pastoral teaching" on sexuality.

When the fourth draft of the secret document was distributed to the bishops, a copy was leaked to a renewal group, Episcopalians United (EU).

EU leaders, evangelicals, and other conservatives then sounded the alarm that the draft would weaken the denomination's commitment to Scripture and not prohibit homosexual unions and ordinations.

Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning said EU's public release of the draft teaching has been "utterly reprehensible." Central Florida's Bishop John Howe, responding in a letter to Browning, said EU has "let the cat out of the bag; and a sorry cat it is." Howe said the document as it stands is "blatantly unresponsive" to the bishops, and "unacceptably unchristian."

In addition, the recently released fifth draft appears to grant a "local option" to bishops in ordaining homosexuals.

This month the denomination's triennial general convention will gather in Indianapolis to struggle not only over sexuality, but also over the decline in local support for denominational bureaucracy.

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