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Episcopal Bishops Vote to Affirm Traditional Marriage

August 25, 1994

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Bishops of the Episcopal Church approved changes to a document on sexuality Wednesday, including an affirmation bolstering the church’s traditional teaching of lifelong, heterosexual marriage.

But one bishop said they remain divided in their efforts to deal definitively on the issue of sexuality.

The conservative ″Affirmation,″ written by 18 bishops and signed by 101 bishops, was added to a document that sought further discussion of same-sex relationships in the Episcopal Church.

The affirmation criticized the proposed pastoral teaching as ″incapable of providing the clear guidance wanted and needed by Christian people for faithful living.″

″Basically it affirmed traditional marriage,″ church spokeswoman Sarah Bartenstein said.

The draft was written by eight bishops and six members of the House of Deputies, a body of lay people and clergy. It was based on a human sexuality survey of Episcopal laity and clergy conducted after the 1991 convention in Phoenix.

The document discouraged the ordination of homosexuals, but it declared that God can be present in same-sex relationships and states gays and lesbians should not be ostracized.

The addition of the affirmation followed a narrow vote, 88-81, renaming the bishop’s proposed pastoral teaching on human sexuality a ″pastoral study document.″ Bartenstein said that move was seen by some as lessening its authority.

Bishops argued that the word ″teaching″ implies a level of agreement that doesn’t exist.

The House of Bishops, a body of 225 bishops, reviewed the paper early Wednesday at the church’s General Convention before joining the House of Deputies for a discussion of it.

One of the document’s authors, Bishop Richard Grein of New York, said it did not seek to alter doctrine.

″The committee wanted to provide the Episcopal Church with a theology by which we could discuss this issue,″ Grein said. ″It is not - repeat, not - intended to change the teachings of the Episcopal Church.″

Grein said the document had been ″downgraded considerably.″ But, he said, ″it may still do its job in a hopeful way if people will study it and enter into its teaching.″

Bishop John MacNaughton of West Texas said the amendments to the document made it ″more realistic in terms of where the whole church is.″

But he said there was still ″discontinuity″ among some bishops and ″what we need to do is to call people who are in discontinuity into some kind of relationship to the teaching of the church.″

About 10,000 Episcopalians from the United States, Mexico and Central America were expected at the Indiana Convention Center for the 10-day meeting that began Wednesday. The convention is held every three years to shape policy for the 2.5-million member church.

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