Episcopal bishops expressed "sincere regret" Thursday for consecrating the denomination's first openly gay bishop without full consideration for overseas Anglicans who objected, saying they prayed for forgiveness so they could maintain ties with sister churches around the world. However, American church leaders took no action on requests from Anglican leaders for a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops in same-sex relationships and on authorizing official prayer services for same-gender couples. The bishops said they did not want to "act in haste."
The bishops issued their statement after a private two-day meeting in Salt Lake City, where they discussed recommendations from an emergency Anglican panel on how the 77 million-member Anglican Communion can remain unified despite deep disagreements over homosexuality. The 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of Anglicanism. "We as the House of Bishops express our sincere regret for the pain, the hurt, and the damage caused to our Anglican bonds of affection by certain actions of our church," the bishops said. "We express this regret as a sign of our deep desire for and commitment to continuation of our partnership in the Anglican Communion."
Utah bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish said the statement was not an apology for consecrating New Hampshire bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives with his longtime male partner, but for the tensions that his election created within the communion. Despite that distinction, Bishop John Chane of Washington, D.C., said Robinson told the bishops that "this is probably the most difficult meeting he's ever been in."
Robinson, through his spokesman, declined to comment.
Last October an Anglican panel released recommendations for resolving discord within the communion over homosexuality in a document known as the Windsor Report. It will be discussed in several worldwide meetings before any action is taken. Anglican leaders are scheduled to gather next month in Northern Ireland to consider the report further. Conservative bishops who had boycotted earlier bishops' meetings participated in the Salt Lake gathering but left disappointed that no further action was taken. Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan, who leads a network of dissenting conservative dioceses, said the bishops use "graceful language" but their inaction "contradicts the words."
Presiding bishop Frank Griswold, head of the Episcopal Church, said the apology was meant "to make it clear that we take the report seriously." The panel had asked the Episcopal Church to apologize for the crisis caused by its actions, and Griswold and others have expressed regret before. However, some critics said the apologies were meaningless.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, said in a November letter to Anglican leaders that apologizing alone "doesn't go deep enough." Griswold has formed a committee to fulfill another request of the panel, to provide a theological explanation of why gays in same-sex relationships can serve as bishops "We need to be far more intentional in conversing with people across the communion and not to simply make decisions on our own without taking into account the sensibility," he said. (AP)