By Liz F. Kay
Originally published April 7, 2007
Amid the heated national and global conflicts of the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Robert Wilkes Ihloff has managed to keep the calm in Maryland.
Retiring this weekend after a dozen years as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, Ihloff is proud to have worked through many of the tensions that have beset the church elsewhere, from female clergy to the place of gays and lesbians.
Ihloff said he is also satisfied that the diocese has supported diverse viewpoints.
"We have tried to say to people within the diocese, 'We will respect your theological perspective,' " the bishop said, even if it's not the majority one.
The diocese does have openly gay and lesbian clergy, some of whom are in long-term, committed relationships, but Ihloff has refused to authorize blessings of same-sex unions within the diocese. The global Anglican Communion has asked that none of its national counterparts, such as Episcopal Church in the United States, do so, he said.
Since 2003, some parishes have broken away or aligned themselves with bishops outside the United States who share more conservative views on scripture. Now, the House of Bishops has until September to respond to a communique from the communion's primates that called for changes such as creation of a council of Anglican bishops to oversee more conservative dioceses within the United States.
Ihloff said that would give a foreign bishop power over the Episcopal Church, which violates its canons, he said.
Despite the tension, the bishop said he felt positive after a March meeting in Texas, where the House of Bishops rallied to back the communique.
Though there had been more alienation along liberal-conservative lines over the past few years, "I feel there has been real healing," the bishop said.
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