U.S. Episcopal bishops have drafted a pastoral statement that
welcomes homosexuals, but at the same time says sex is reserved for
In a fourth draft of a proposed document on sexuality, the
bishops ask the church to uphold the ideal of lifelong faithful
unions for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, and to greet
gays and lesbians with hospitality rather than hostility.
"As it can be for heterosexual persons, the experience of
steadfast love can be for homosexual persons an experience of God,"
the draft says. At the same time, the document stops short of
advocating changes in church law on the issues of gay ordinations
or the blessing of same-sex unions.
The dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Bishop
William Frey, says: "The nicest thing I can say is that parts of it
remind me of theology by Oprah and Donahue. In its present form, it
would be the most embarrassing document the bishops have ever
A fifth draft by a committee of eight bishops and six members
of the House of Deputies is expected to be circulated to all the
bishops in a few weeks. Committee members would not comment on the
contents of the final draft but said it would not shake up the
"It's not going to be a particularly radical document," said
Bishop Frank Allan of Atlanta. "If people want to get titillated by
it, they can get titillated by something else."
Last fall, when an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
committee on sexuality released a draft statement urging members to
challenge traditional biblical condemnations of homosexuality, a
backlash erupted. The denomination appointed an advisory panel and
assured church members that any official policy would stand on
biblical foundations and the confessional tradition of the church.
To try to avoid the Lutherans' fate, the Episcopal bishops had
decided to keep the document confidential until the denomination's
General Convention beginning Aug. 24 in Indianapolis. But the
fourth draft of the report was released by Episcopalians United, a
The Rev. Todd Wetzel, the group's executive director, said:
"Several bishops and laity from the theological left and right have
questioned this clandestine process. It seems the only people
pleased with this secrecy are those who have the most to gain from
In the Episcopal Church, the denomination's legislative body
has declared both that homosexuals are children of God who have a
full and equal claim with all other people on the church and that
physical sexual expression is appropriate only within the lifelong,
monogamous union of husband and wife. …