The implications of having an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church began to emerge Wednesday.
“May God bless us as we move ahead into, indeed, what is a different Church than we were in yesterday,” Connecticut Bishop Suffragan James Curry said during a House of Bishops discussion of Tuesday’s vote.
Some Convention participants appeared in the Convention Center Wednesday afternoon with ashes on their foreheads. One woman said the ashes were a sign of repentance. Others were seen wearing black armbands.
Some deputies have gone home, some will stay off the floor for a period of fasting and prayer, and others will return because they feel the need to vote on “other important issues where the orthodox faith of the Church is at stake,” the Rev. Kendall Harmon of South Carolina told the House Wednesday morning.
There were 101 changes in deputations Wednesday morning, according to Convention Secretary Rosemari Sullivan.
The House of Deputies officially welcomed New Hampshire Bishop Coadjutor-elect Gene Robinson at the beginning of its morning session. Some deputies applauded and cheered while others stood silent.
“We reject this action and disassociate ourselves from it,” Harmon said.
Harmon was surrounded on the floor by about 25 supporters as he declared, “this Church has erred and must be corrected by the Anglican Communion.”
The leader of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia, Bishop Dr. Lim Cheng Ean, told the Associated Press that Southeast Asian Anglican bishops may discuss cutting ties with the U.S. church at a meeting next week because of Robinson’s appointment.
“Practicing homosexuality is culturally and legally not acceptable here,” he said. There are four Southeast Asian dioceses — Kuching, Singapore, West Malaysia and Sabah.
“We cannot comprehend a decision to elect as bishop a man who has forsaken his wife and the vows he made to her in order to live in a sexual relationship with another man outside the bonds of his marriage,” the Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, bishop of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, told AP.
In Australia, Primate Peter Carnley, archbishop of Perth, said the consent would not tear the Communion apart but that it would have a negative impact. In Sydney, Archbishop Peter Jensen said Robinson would not be welcome in his diocese, AP said. Jensen urged opponents to withhold contributions.
Harmon told the Deputies Wednesday that allowing Robinson to become a bishop was a “profound error” contrary to Scripture and tradition.
“We are not leaving the Church,” Harmon told the quiet house. “It is rather the Church which has left the historic faith and has fractured the Anglican Communion, for whose restoration we pledge our faithful and loving efforts.”
The Rev. Mark S. Anshutz told the House that his fellow Dallas clergy deputy David Roseberry had resigned from Convention. “We commend you . . . to the God who has given you to us. We pledge, I’m sure, our continuing prayers for you for the healing of the body of Christ,” Anshutz said of those who have left.
Telling the House that “God’s will has been manipulated,” clergy deputy Oscar O. Lopez said he is not sure what will happen when he goes home to the 52 missions on which he is dean. “With what just happened here, all the work I have been doing goes down the drain, and I’m very sad for this to have happened,” he said through a translator.
The House of Bishops spent the first hour of their morning meeting listening to statement from some of their colleagues about Tuesday’s consent. Their comments expressed thanksgiving and sadness. All were somber. Some reiterated their concern that allowing Robinson to become a bishop will damage relationships with other parts of the Communion. Others said they saw the possibility for reconciliation.
Douglas Theuner, bishop of New Hampshire, thanked the bishops for the “solidarity of this house,” saying that no bishop has chastised him for asking them to consent to the election of a gay priest to replace him.
“I think the unity of this house where people voted for and against this confirmation is much more profound than anything we see on the surface,” he said.
“There is a unity here that is only described appropriately as the unity of Christ.”
Washington Bishop John Chane said he saw a gift in the way the bishops came to their conclusion Wednesday. He also told the bishops about another gift they will receive from eight bishops from South Africa with whom his diocese partners in mission.
“The gift that we will share with the larger Church is that we will continue to work with you and show the rest of Communion that we can be in disagreement and still work together in mission for Jesus Christ,” Chane said the bishops told him. “That is a beginning point and it is putting new wine in new wineskins.”
Central Pennsylvania Bishop Michael Creighton said he has talked to the bishops of dioceses in Brazil, Uganda, and in the West Nile area with whom he and his people have “fond, working mission relationships.”
“They said to me publicly we cannot support your Church going there, but privately, Mike, you have to do what you have to do. And I asked them, is this going to hurt our common mission and our working together and they said, absolutely not,” he said.
Much reference has been made since Sunday to Nigerian Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon’s warning in his sermon that when America sneezes, other parts of the world catch cold. Honduran Bishop Lloyd Allen told his colleagues Wednesday morning that the ninth province, which he chairs, is in a difficult position of trying to explain how the U.S. Church made this decision. He asked for the bishops’ prayers.
“Honduras is healthy,” he concluded. “We don’t have a cold and we won’t get a cold. We will be the Church God has called us to be. Wherever we are, God’s mercy will be with us.”