In the next day or so, much fuss likely will be made about how the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has agreed to a one-year moratorium on approving any newly elected bishops.
The bishops made their decision in response to a recommendation in the Windsor Report and a request by the Anglican Communion’s primates that they not approve more noncelibate homosexual bishops, should any be elected, until there is a greater consensus among Anglicans. The Rev. George Conger, writing for The Living Church magazine, reports that Bishop Gene Robinson, whose election and confirmation is the source of this controversy, proposed applying the moratorium to all bishops’ elections until General Convention, which meets in June 2006.
Conger also reports that Robinson’s proposal originally came from Bishop Otis Charles. The idea of such universally applied moratoria is not new for Charles, an openly gay retired bishop living in California. While Charles served as dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., the chapel there denied its space for weddings until gay students also could be married. That practice has been renewed in the EDS chapel, in protest of a Diocese of Massachusetts policy that forbids priests to officiate at gay weddings.
Of the dioceses Conger identifies as immediately affected by the decision, five are led by a bishop who voted against Robinson’s consecration as a bishop:
Southern Ohio (scheduled election: June 11)
West Texas (October 15; PDF)
Southwest Florida (December)
South Carolina (to be determined by the Standing Committee and Bishop Ed Salmon, who is scheduled to retire in January 2006)
According to Oasis, a gay ministry supported by the Diocese of California, that diocese’s standing committee has refused to “discriminate against any qualified clergy, including gay or lesbian clergy, who might be nominated in the course of the search process.”
The Diocese of California has scheduled its election for May 2006, which means its bishop-elect could be approved by General Convention. If that bishop-elect is gay, it will repeat the high-stakes voting of General Convention in 2003, which confirmed Gene Robinson’s election.
In other words, the House of Bishops has responded to a requested moratorium on more openly gay bishops by delaying the consecration of bishops in dioceses that are less likely to elect gay bishops.