On Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis, after celebrating Holy Communion only a few hours earlier, the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies observed the Lord's Day by debating whether to confirm an openly homosexual man as a bishop. Then the deputies gave him the equivalent of a landslide victory.

Several primates from the Southern Hemisphere had announced the week before the Episcopal Church's General Convention that if this gathering approved Gene Robinson as the next Bishop of New Hampshire, it would place itself outside the fellowship of most the world's 72 million Anglicans. "You'll get over it," responded about 60 percent of these 800-plus deputies, representing roughly 2.3 million Episcopalians. (For comparison's sake, consider that Nigeria's Anglican leaders, many of whom must contend with hostile Muslim neighbors, count 17 million people in their care.)

Conservative deputies fought heroically, blending appeals to Scripture, tradition, reason, Anglican polity, and some personal experiences to plead that their fellow deputies not dismiss fellow Anglicans so glibly.

Lonell Wright, an African American deputy from New Orleans, responded to the oft-repeated liberal argument that Scripture condones slavery, and thus can be disregarded in anything squirm-inducing that it says about sex outside of marriage. "Anybody who tells me that Scripture condones slavery," he said, "does not get it."

George Marshall of Schenectady, New York, appealed to giving his family a church to believe in. "My children and my children's children don't go to church anymore. They lost faith—not in God, but in an institution that doesn't know what it believes or why," he said. "For the sake of my children, please don't do this thing."

The Rev. Donald Curran ...

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