Yielding to pressure from international Anglican leaders, the Episcopal Church agreed yesterday to "exercise restraint by not consenting" to the consecration of openly gay bishops, wording that some found oppressive and others called too vague.
The resolution, which technically applies to any bishop "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion," followed Tuesday's defeat by the church's largest legislative body of a more strongly worded moratorium.
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and his elected successor, Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, urged delegates at a national church meeting in Columbus, Ohio, to approve the revised proposal. The resolution will be in effect as Jefferts Schori begins her term as the first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church this year.
"Even though I do not like the language, it is the best way to manage at this point in our history," Jefferts Schori said in an interview after delegates and bishops had approved the resolution. "I don't want the gay and lesbian people in the church to feel like the door has slammed."
Episcopalians spent much of their weeklong meeting trying to respond to the Windsor Report, published by an Anglican task force a year after the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and lives with his male partner.
Those who oppose Robinson's election say the appointment of a gay man as a spiritual leader violated Scripture. Some parishes and dioceses in the United States and abroad have threatened to secede from the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the American arm.
Dismaying conservatives, the church's last-ditch effort yesterday addressed only one of three key requests made in the Windsor Report. Tuesday, delegates defeated a measure that would have halted the development of public rites for blessing same-gender unions unless the worldwide church approved. They also did not express regret for the consecration of Robinson.
"We needed to honor the language" of the report, said Bishop Henry Scriven, assistant bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. "That's what we needed, and that's what we didn't get. It's clearly a fudge."
The Rev. Ian Douglas, professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., said the resolution "was a very difficult decision, and no one is elated by it, but it did accomplish the ability to continue talking."
Springfield, Ill., Bishop Peter Beckwith, a conservative, said the American church is hurting itself by continuing to resist directives from Anglican Communion.
"I'm not interested in being in conversation. What I'm interested in is being in a relationship," he said.
The Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, a group representing gay and lesbian Episcopalians, said she had hoped that after electing its first female presiding bishop, the church would take a bolder step.
"I wish they'd held on to that sense of hope and optimism and courage that they had on Sunday," she said. "But, unfortunately, the global Anglican politics intervened and they were convinced that this was a compromise worth making to preserve the institutional church."
Manya A. Brachear and Margaret Ramirez write for the Chicago Tribune.