Episcopalian Crisis

Authority, Homosexuality & the Future of Anglicanism

Many Roman Catholics, ordained and lay, were understandably concerned when the Vatican issued its statement last fall barring men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from the priesthood. If a priest is faithful to his promise of chaste celibacy, what difference does it make if he understands himself to be homosexual? Many people thought it was celibacy, not sexual orientation, that mattered when it came to priestly discipline.

I share the feeling of many people in thinking it is unjust to bar celibate homosexuals from the priesthood. But Rome may have had multiple reasons for issuing such a divisive instruction. Among those possible reasons is the way in which the debate over homosexuality, and especially over the influence, status, and authority of homosexual priests and ministers, has roiled nearly every Protestant denomination. Most conspicuous among those churches where attitudes toward homosexuality pose a serious threat to ecclesial unity is the Anglican Communion.

At its 2003 General Convention, the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) voted to approve the consecration of Gene Robinson, an active homosexual living in a committed relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire. At the same time, the Anglican Church of Canada authorized the blessing of same-sex unions. A firestorm erupted, both in North America and worldwide across the Anglican Communion of thirty-eight loosely...

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About the Author

Barry Jay Seltser is a writer and researcher living in Boston.