COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Episcopalians at a national assembly began yesterday to confront the difficult choice before them: whether to preserve unity among Anglicans around the world by temporarily barring gays and lesbians from becoming bishops.
Irate Anglican leaders requested the moratorium on homosexual prelates after Americans in 2003 consecrated their first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Robinson joined national gay-rights advocates yesterday in urging the convention to reject any moratorium.
``It's not our job to decide what the Anglican Communion will or will not do in response to our actions," he said at a news conference during the Episcopal General Convention. ``What we're called to do is to, as faithfully as we can, discern God's will and act on it in our context."
The Episcopal Church is the US arm of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a loose association of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.
Those who support ordaining gays believe the Bible does not bar monogamous same-gender relationships. The majority of overseas Anglican leaders, however, hold a traditional view of Scripture that considers gay sex an abomination.
If Anglican leaders dislike the outcome of the General Convention, the communion could break apart. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, acknowledged this possibility in a written message to the convention this week.
He urged delegates to seriously consider the concerns of their fellow Anglicans when voting. The convention runs through June 21.
``We cannot survive as a communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ," he wrote.