Colorado’s Episcopal Bishop Rob O’Neil on Thursday announced that he would suspend the blessings of same-sex unions, but not the ordination of gay clergy in his diocese, halting the development of an already shaky truce between conservatives and liberals in the district.
On Tuesday, a task force of liberal, conservative and even gay members of the Colorado diocese released a recommendation, urging for a “time of restrain” among the members. Specifically, the recommendation asks liberal Episcopalians to halt blessings of same-sex unions, O’Neil to hold off on naming new openly gay clergy and conservatives to release their financial boycott of the diocese.
Responses to the recommendations, which took six months in the making, were mixed; some Episcopalians saw it as the optimal choice, others were not so pleased. Many conservative leaders called the task force recommendations an attempt to silence them and take their funds while the diocese heads toward the full blessing and ordinations of gay individuals.
"I think it's basically just an attempt by the peace-mongers in the diocese to get conservatives to behave themselves and be quiet while they move forward with the liberal agenda," said the Rev. Don Armstrong, a conservative and rector of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs.
Bishop O’Neil’s comments in some ways reaffirmed those fears. O’Neill said he believes the church should “eventually move toward same-sex ceremonies and gay clergy” and that he would not adopt “whole hog” the recommendation on halting the election of gay clergy.
"There are those who believe division is inevitable in the church. I do not," O'Neill said. "I begin with the assumption that the great strength of Anglicanism is (its ability) to contain diverse viewpoints in the context of a strong and orthodox faith."
Both O’Neill and the conservative leaders said they would release full statements and guidelines later this week.
Meanwhile, according to Armstrong, some 15 Colorado parishes have begun looking for another bishop to align with.