The 2.1 million U.S. Episcopalians will have to ponder three urgent questions now that their General Convention in Minneapolis has approved the election of an openly homosexual cleric as next bishop of New Hampshire:

  1. Will their tiny denomination (there are fewer Episcopalians now than convicts in jail) remain in communion with the rest of the world's 70 million Anglicans? Their chances are slim, given the warnings of the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, archbishop of Lagos and primate of Nigeria, who has of late become the world's most forceful Protestant voice.

  2. How will the Minneapolis decision impinge on ecumenical relations with much larger partners, especially the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to which Episcopalians are in a sense married by a treaty titled Called to Common Mission, or CCM? Great is the danger that it will accelerate the ELCA's expected implosion over the issue of—guess what?—homosexuality.

  3. Is the Episcopal Church USA still a church in the historical and theological sense of the word? Since Minneapolis there are solid reasons to doubt that the ECUSA as a denomination can seriously make this claim (this does not mean, though, that its faithful dioceses and denominations, a minority, should be read out of the Body of Christ).

What is a church? The Greek word, ek-klesia, defines it clearly: "called out" (of the masses)— by God, not libido. "Church" is not an assembly of the elect chic with the right to decide which political, sexual or other preference, or any fad for that matter, may be considered holy.

"Church" is not an organization whose clerics—representing Christ at the altar—can declare their same-sex partnership "sacramental," as did the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson before his election to the New Hampshire ...

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