Carroll's Episcopal Church leaders say they want to downplay the more controversial issues, such as sexuality, being discussed at this week's convention in Phoenix.

"The Episcopal Church also is concerned about the environment, human justice and peace in the world," said the Rev. Jo Taylor, priest at St. George's Episcopal Church in Manchester. "I don't think we should play up issues that are part of general society."

Nevertheless, human sexuality and the adoption of liturgies that include masculine and feminine images of God have caught the attention of members, said the Rev. Ron Fisher, priest at Ascension EpiscopalChurch in Westminster.

Facing the convention, which began last week and ends Saturday, is a proposal that each diocese decide who is asuitable candidate for ordination. The resolution was written to deal with homosexuals.

Although the proposal reflects the national Episcopal church's belief that each diocese is an independent unit, Fisher said many are concerned it will create factions in the 2.4 million-member church.

"When we looked at the ordination of women, we made a national decision, and the concern is that we should be making anational decision on this as well," he said.

Fisher said he is unsure how the proposal will fare during the convention -- which has 3,000 delegates and visitors -- since it involves many theological and political factors.

Maryland representatives do not have a consensus on the issue.

"We have had a lot of discussion, but there is no clear indication of where our people stand on the issue," Fisher said.

Fisher said an openly practicing homosexual never has been ordained in the Maryland diocese, and he would be surprised if this would happen under the current leadership and without a statewide consensus. He says homosexuals should not become priests because the clergy should express the highest possible morals.

"It is not known whetherhomosexuality is a choice of behavior or not, and I don't hold that against them," Fisher said.

"But I think the only proper expression of sexuality is within the context of holy matrimony."

Making sure that men and women feel equally accepted by the church has generated several liturgies which include feminine images for God.

The services, which would be used in addition to the current prayer book, are designed to bring out God's asexual quality. Fisher -- who hasn't seen the new liturgies -- said he thought they would be accepted.

Some church members are concerned that language changes moved some Episcopalians away from the Bible. That prompted six Maryland priests, including Fisher, to issue a declaration of faith, addressing severaltheological concerns.

The most controversial of those is the saying that Jesus was God in the flesh, and that this should be preached to all people. While the declaration condemns anti-Semitism, it also repudiates "the false teaching that eternal salvation is already given to the chosen people of Israel."

Although some have read that asanti-Semitic, Fisher said the statement merely means Episcopalians should teach what they believe without saying it is the only path to salvation.

"We openly state that we don't know how God is going to bring the people of the world to himself; that is a mystery we are not to probe," Fisher said.

"But we believe that Jesus is the incarnate God and that we, as Christians, should preach what has been revealed to us."

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