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Published: Saturday, 6/10/2006

Episcopals face sticky issues at general convention

Three years ago, the Episcopal Church USA held its triennial General Convention in Minneapolis and found itself in the forefront of public debate on church and sexuality.

In a historic and controversial vote, the delegates confirmed the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay cleric, as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire.

That vote caused a firestorm of controversy that has carried far beyond the boundaries of the 2.3-million-member denomination, affecting virtually all Protestant groups.

Starting Tuesday, about 1,000 Episcopal delegates will gather in Columbus for the 75th General Convention, the first since the landmark 2003 session.

It s going to be, hopefully, somewhat innocuous, said the Rev. Joseph Keblesh, rector of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in West Toledo, although there are a couple of real sticky issues.

When the diocese of California did not elect an openly gay bishop recently, he said, it spared the General Convention from going through the same kind of controversy as it did three years ago.

One of the sticky issues, he said, was a decision by the Episcopal Church s Executive Council to join the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Control. Episcopalians who oppose abortion are likely to contest that alliance by submitting resolutions.

Another of Father Keblesh s concerns is a proposal to revise sections of church law involving the discipline of clergy to include the laity. Father Keblesh called it a very, very bad idea.

The Rev. E. Ann Webber, interim rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Toledo, said the world will be scrutinizing the church on how it has changed since the last General Convention.

One of the issues I do believe will be followed through on is how we can communicate and remain in union when we are involved in tension, Reverend Webber said. We don t have to all think the same. We can hear each other respectfully and live in the tension of our differences because God is bigger than any one of us or any one viewpoint.

The General Convention consists of two separate legislative bodies, the House of Bishops, which is expected to have between 150 and 200 bishops participating, and the House of Deputies, which will have about 800 delegates elected from dioceses across the United States.

There are scores of resolutions to be discussed and voted upon, and one of the biggest votes will be election of a new presiding bishop. Six men and one woman are candidates for the denomination s top post. At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation are planning to hold a U2charist a service that includes scripture-laced songs of Irish rock group U2 played at high volume.

Information on the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA is available online at www.episcopalchurch.org.



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