An aggressive campaign by conservative Episcopalians who leaked the contents of a pastoral teaching on sexuality helped to strip the 68-page report of its most controversial elements before passage at the denomination's general convention.

Critics contend the original document would have surreptitiously opened the door to sanctioning the ordination of homosexuals.

In a showdown at the House of Bishops' legislative session on the opening day of the ten-day convention that ended September 2 in Indianapolis, conservative bishops also convinced the majority in the full house to give equal footing to an "affirmation" of traditional teaching, crafted as an alternative to the human sexuality report.

The modernists gained some ground as the convention continued. On the third day of the convention, bishops decided to drop the affirmation from the study document. On the last day of business, bishops voted to spend $8,600 to have two committees study "the theological foundations and pastoral considerations involved in the development of rites honoring love and commitment between persons of the same sex."

A 15-member committee had devised five drafts of the sexuality report in response to a failure to resolve the issue at the denomination's last general convention in 1991. Bishops passed a resolution three years ago acknowledging that "discontinuity" exists between official church doctrine and the real-life experiences of some Episcopalians. This time, the House of Bishops voted to continue to study the issue, but traditionalists were pleased that several liberal elements had been deleted by the time the report passed.

"The fifth draft signaled a substantive change in the teaching of the church," Dallas Bishop James M. Stanton, author of ...

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