Shaky Compromise on Gay Blessings and Ordinations Set

Colorado conservative Episcopalians to restore financial offerings and pledges; liberals to halt gay union 'blessings' and gay clergy ordinations
( [email protected] ) Aug 31, 2004 09:39 PM EDT

After six long months of deliberations, traditionalists, liberals and gays in the Episcopal diocese of Colorado came to a shaky compromise: liberals should not push for any further ordinations of gay clergy nor bless same sex unions, while conservatives should end their financial boycott of the diocese.

Since last year, when the Episcopal bishops of Colorado (along with the majority of U.S. bishops) voted to elect an openly gay man as fellow bishop to the New Hampshire diocese, a fierce debate had stirred within all levels of the ECUSA ranks. Internationally, churches representing over two-thirds of the 77 million Anglicans worldwide broke ties with the ECUSA for its decision; Nationally, conservative bishops and parishes formed their own network of traditional Anglicans; within states, such as Colorado, conservatives began withholding their offerings to the diocese; Locally, parishes began breaking away from the national and local dioceses.

Colorado had been one of the hardest hit states in the aftermath of last year’s decision. Dozens of conservative churches held back their offerings and pledges to the Colorado diocese; last year, the pledges to the diocese shot down by $500,000. Additionally, several parishes called for “Episcopal oversight”, where the church receives oversight from outside bishops who did not vote to elect Robinson.

The new report, released this week, generally advises the Bishop of Colorado to place the same-sex union “blessings” on hold until Episcopalians across the country discuss it at their next general convention in 2006.

Additionally, the Bishop was advised to halt the appointment of new gay clergy within Colorado, but said the gay clergy already serving should remain.

As a trade off, Colorado traditionalists were asked to promise not to pursue Episcopal oversight, and halt the financial boycott of the diocese.

"It calls on clergy and laity to reclaim a common discipline," said John Huffman, pastor of Ascension Episcopal Church in Salida and a member of the panel that released the report.

Bishop O’Neil, leader of Colorado’s 35,000 Episcopalians, had not yet responded to the report.

The Rev. Don Armstrong, leader of one of the diocese’s largest churches, said he was dissatisfied with the report, calling it a ploy to return traditionalist donations to the diocese.

"He’s (O’Neill) trying to get us to sit still while everybody gets used to having practicing gay clergy in the diocese. This will push us to redouble our efforts to get others to restrict giving and seek Episcopal oversight," Armstrong said.