U.S. Anglicans, Lutherans Struggle with Gay Issues

The 140-member House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA issued a statement on Thursday after a two-day meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, expressing their regret for having consecrated the group’s first openly gay bishop. They expressed their "sincere regret for the pain, the hurt and the damage caused...by certain actions of our church."

Their apology was a sign of their deep desire to remain a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. But they need more time to respond to a call that they stop such ordinations and stop blessing same-sex marriages.

According to Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the 2.3 million strong ECUSA, the apology was a direct response to the Windsor Report, which urged the liberal-dominated North American bishops to express regret and impose a moratorium of liturgies blessing same-sex marriages and the consecrating of gay bishops.

The church leadership meets in February in Belfast to receive the Windsor Report formally. But Griswold predicts this issue which had threatened a worldwide schism will remain unresolved for some time.

The statement reveals that the bishops struggled with the marriage and bishop issues but had not enough time to reach a consensus. However, a dissent was issued at the meeting by 21 bishops through the conservative American Anglican Council which said they were ready to accept the Windsor Report recommendations.

On the same day, a divided task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declined to recommend that the denomination bless same-sex unions or approve the ordination of ministers in gay relationships.

"Though our recommendations do not establish new policy or change existing policy, they do appeal for respect for one another's bound consciences as a matter of pastoral concern," the 14-member task force said.

The current policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America says no pastor may engage in heterosexual or homosexual relations outside of marriage. Marriage is defined as a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman. There is no official policy on the blessing of same-sex relationships but it allows homosexual pastors who remain celibate.

The task force backed a statement by its Conference of Bishops in 1993 which said pastors and congregations can be trusted to exercise "wisdom and discretion" in ministering to same-gender couples. It said that a majority of members recommended backing the current practice.