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Episcopal panel
affirms gay and lesbian members of church

Episcopal panel
affirms gay and lesbian members of church

A top Episcopal panel reiterated the church's welcome of gays and lesbians, as it began talks on whether the denomination should meet Anglican demands to roll back acceptance of same-sex couples.

The Executive Council, a committee of clergy and lay people, issued the statement Sunday at the end of its three-day meeting in Portland, Ore. The council also emphasized that Episcopalians with traditional views of sexuality have a place in the denomination too.

''We wish to reaffirm to our lesbian and gay members that they remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church,'' the council said, then offered ''prayerful concern'' for those who consider gay relationships sinful. ''We wish to reaffirm that they too remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church,'' the council said.

In 2003, the Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of Anglicanism, created an uproar when it consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Last month, Anglican leaders emerged from a closed-door meeting in Tanzania with an ultimatum: They gave Episcopalians until September 30 to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another partnered gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples. If it doesn't, the church risks a reduced role in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.

The council, which oversees the work of the denomination between its General Conventions held once every three years, created a working group to study what role the council should play in responding to the demands. The House of Bishops will discuss their response to Anglican leaders at a meeting later this month. (AP)

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