Episcopalians make promise to Anglicans to limit amount of gay bishops



By Rachel Zoll

NEW ORLEANS – Even the fiercest critics of the Episcopal Church’s liberal drift say it’s too soon to know whether the bishops’ latest pledge to “exercise restraint” in approving another gay bishop will go far enough to help prevent an Anglican schism.

“It will take months and years to really see,” said Bishop Martyn Minns, who leads a conservative network of breakaway Episcopal parishes.

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Overseas, people on both sides of the debate registered their unhappiness Wednesday. Some supporters of gay clergy accused Episcopal leaders of caving in to conservatives led by African archbishops, while traditionalists criticized what they saw presented as a cleverly worded declaration of defiance.

The 77-million-member fellowship has been splintering since 2003, when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the U.S.

Episcopal bishops released their pledge to “exercise restraint” Tuesday in the final moments of a six-day meeting – and as the decades-long debate over interpreting the Bible threatens to shatter the world Anglican Communion.

Anglican leaders had set a Sunday deadline for the Americans to pledge unequivocally not to consecrate another gay bishop or approve an official prayer service for same-sex couples.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude England, said he believed the bishops had met the Anglican request.

“If conservatives continue to press for the exclusion of the Episcopal Church, transgress provincial boundaries and decide not to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2008, they will take responsibility for provoking a tear in the Anglican Communion and will have withdrawn from the fellowship,” Coward said.