COLUMBUS, OHIO The Episcopal General Convention debated another defining vote Monday in the wake of electing its first female presiding bishop: whether the church should temporarily bar gays from becoming bishops to preserve Anglican fellowship.
Delegates began considering a moratorium at the request of world Anglican leaders, who remain angry over the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop - V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
But the session ended before any vote could be taken on prohibiting homosexual bishops. Debate was scheduled to resume this morning, one day before the convention ends.
The Rev. Frank Wade opened the debate in the House of Deputies, comprised of lay people and clergy, by asking delegates not to view the request from Anglican leaders as an ultimatum, but as a plea for peace. "No one is being asked to stop being different. No one is being asked to stop believing differently from others," Wade said. "The question is how do we live together."
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion. If overseas leaders dislike the outcome of this week's meeting, the association of 38 national churches could splinter apart. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the communion's spiritual leader, has expressed concern that the feud over homosexuality and the Bible will cause a permanent rift.
The situation has been complicated by Sunday's election of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first Episcopal presiding bishop - the first woman ever to lead an Anglican province. Only two other Anglican provinces - New Zealand and Canada - have female bishops and many Anglicans believe women should not be ordained.