Oklahoma Episcopalians reject resolution

Saturday, November 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Approval of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop will not be formally opposed by Oklahoma Episcopalians.

Lay and clergy delegates at the Oklahoma Diocesan Convention voted 184 to 109 Friday against suspending the rules to allow a resolution of opposition to be introduced.

In August, the national church approved V. Gene Robinson as bishop in New Hampshire. The action sent shock waves through the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the American branch, and has spawned talk of a church split.

Charles Newcomb, a delegate from All Souls Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City who attempted to introduce the resolution, said he did not think its rejection reflected the view of most Oklahoma Episcopalians.

"People with agendas tend to get elected as delegates," he said. "I believe this resolution would be passed overwhelmingly if it were voted on by all the Episcopalians in Oklahoma. But it won't be."

The Rev. Mike Athey, Episcopal chaplain on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus, said it would have been inappropriate for the Oklahoma Diocese to make a statement in the matter because Robinson was legally approved by elected delegates.

"Basically, the issue gets down to biblical interpretation and human dignity," Athey said. "If you're going to call a gay and a lesbian person fully included in the body of Christ, that means that they should have full access to the sacraments, particularly ordination and marriage.

"We've already said we want to be an inclusive body, then we send this message that there are some people out there who really aren't fully initiated into the body.

"It's a matter of trying to align who we say we are with how we actually act," he said.

Bishop Robert M. Moody, head of the Episcopal Church in Oklahoma, said the church has faced crises from the beginning that have threatened to tear it apart, including ethnic issues in the first century, slavery in the 19th century, and women in leadership in the 20th century.

"In the 21st century," he said, "the church is struggling with the issue of sexuality. This issue is so powerful, so deep, so complex," he said.

"We are in a stressful time of uncertainty," Moody said. "Schism is threatened overtly between provinces of the north and provinces of the south, in Africa and South America.

"Even though schism threatens our church, and many voices cry out in favor of it, it does not need to happen," Moody said. "If leadership and goodwill prevail, there need not be a schism."