Homosexual Issue Plagues Denominations
The issue of homosexuality continues to put pressure on mainline Protestant denominations. Here is a brief recounting of what has happened among some of those churches over recent months:
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Delegates to ELCA's 2005 national convention in August angered homosexual activists in the 4.9-million-member denomination when they rejected a proposal to allow the church, under certain circumstances, to ordain homosexuals in long-term, committed relationships.
The convention upset conservatives, however, by refusing to vote for a resolution that would remove the ambiguity from the denomination's regulations regarding whether or not a minister could bless same-sex unions.
Episcopal Church in USA (ECUSA)
The fallout from ECUSA's 2003 consecration of openly homosexual Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire continues to roil the denomination, home to 2.5 million of the worldwide Anglican Communion's 77 million members.
Six Episcopal congregations in Florida have asked Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and figurehead leader for worldwide Anglicans, to allow them to report to a new bishop. The row was caused, the congregations said, because their current bishop, John Howard, approved of Robinson's consecration. The parishes, with about 4,000 members, said Howard's stand caused a "serious theological dispute."
In Connecticut, 19 Episcopal lay leaders and clergy in Connecticut have formally charged their bishop, Andrew Smith, under provisions of canon law, according to the American Anglican Council (AAC). The AAC is trying to help conservative Episcopal denominations bring themselves under theologically orthodox bishops.
Smith is charged with breaking church laws when he took actions against six conservative priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, after they objected to Smith's stand in favor of Robinson's ordination.
Smith entered St. John's Episcopal Church in Bristol and announced his suspension of Rector Mark Hansen, one of the six, and installed a pro-homosexual female priest in Hansen's place. Then Smith allegedly dismantled the church's website, hacked into its computers, and gained access to financial records.
United Methodist Church (UMC)
Rev. Edward Johnson, pastor of South Hill United Methodist Church in Virginia, was placed on a year-long leave of absence by his UMC district superintendent. His ecclesiastical crime? He refused to allow a non-repentant homosexual into church membership.
Johnson's district superintendent, the Rev. William Layman, had twice ordered Johnson to accept the homosexual man into membership. Layman acted with approval from the head of the Virginia Annual Conference, Bishop Charlene Kammerer.
When the pastor refused, he was removed from his position without salary. Johnson, who has been in the pastorate for 24 years, had pastored at South Hill for six years.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Irene Stroud, who had lost her credentials last December following an ecclesiastical trial over her admission that she was in a committed lesbian relationship, will have a new day in court. In April, a UMC appellate court reinstated her ministry credentials after overturning her conviction on an 8-1 vote.
That case will top the docket of the UMC's supreme court, according to United Methodist News Service.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
A special PCUSA panel recommended that next year's General Assembly not change a 1997 church law that limits clergy and lay officeholders to sex within marriage.
The battle over the issue has grown heated in the PCUSA. Homosexual activists continue to submit bills to repeal the rules. Meanwhile, conservatives have been frustrated that congregations continue to defy current church law and that the denomination allows ceremonies to bless same-sex couples.
An example of such open defiance occurred in the Pittsburgh Presbytery, where a female minister, Dr. Janet Edwards, performed a "marriage" ceremony for two lesbians. The ceremony integrated the couple's Buddhist and Christian traditions.