AP Religion Writer
June 14, 2007
NEW YORK --A key Episcopal panel defied conservatives Thursday, saying that Episcopal leaders should not cede authority to overseas Anglicans who want the church to halt its march toward full acceptance of gays.
The Episcopal Executive Council said that Anglican leaders, called primates, cannot make decisions for the American denomination, which is the Anglican body in the United States.
"We question the authority of the primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion," the council said in a statement, after a meeting in Parsippany, N.J.
The worldwide Anglican Communion has moved toward the brink of splitting apart since the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003.
In February, Anglican leaders demanded that Episcopalians allow a panel - that would include Anglican conservatives from other countries - to oversee conservative Episcopal parishes in the U.S. Episcopalians also were given until Sept. 30 to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples.
The Executive Council did not speak directly to the other demands in its statement Thursday, but said it has struggled "to embrace people who have historically been marginalized."
"Today this struggle has come to include the place of gay and lesbian people and their vocations in the life of the church," the council wrote.
The document approved by the 38-member panel of clergy and lay people is not the final word from the U.S. church. Episcopal bishops will give the denomination's official response during a meeting Sept. 20-25 in New Orleans. The prelates strongly indicated at a March gathering that although they wanted to stay in the communion, they considered the demands unacceptable.
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