Friday, June 27, 2008

CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA: Convention reaffirms full-inclusion resolution

[Episcopal News Service] At its 138th annual convention, the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania reiterated a previous convention's resolution supporting the full inclusion all people in the church.

The new resolution stated that the diocese, "being guided by the Holy Spirit, reaffirms its commitment to celebrate the richness of our church communities to insure that all persons regardless of sex or sexual orientation are full and equal participants in the Life of Christ's Church."

Diocesan Communications Officer David Shively said in a news release after the convention that the resolution passed only after lengthy discussion during which it was acknowledged that the upcoming Lambeth Conference of Bishops makes it important that dioceses "support and encourage a continuing dialogue on issues of sexuality."

"This resolution was offered in that spirit of encouragement," Shivley said.

He also said that the resolution "does not seek to influence any specific group or entity, but rather to reaffirm the willingness of the clergy and laity of this diocese to enter into productive discussions on issues of human sexuality," adding that the resolution anticipates that the 76th General Convention in 2009 will also debate sexuality issues.

During his address, Bishop Nathan Baxter told the convention that he believes that there are "sound grounds" for the full inclusion of all in the church, regardless of sexual orientation.

"But such decision must be intentional, not precipitous," Baxter said. "I also believe that such decisions must be made through the theological and spiritual discernment of whole Church and not just the political work of the fearful uncertain or the angry certain."

Baxter said he will establish a “Bishop’s Commission on Full Inclusion” to continue that discernment.

"I will respect and support gay and lesbian laity and clergy of this diocese as Christian sisters and brothers," he continued. "However, I reiterate my position as of last convention, that there will not be permission for same-sex blessings nor will I give my consent for the consecration of a bishop in a same-sex relationship until the Episcopal Church has granted such permission."

The complete text of Baxter's address is available here.

The convention took place June 6-7 at Bucknell University, in Lewisburg.

Convention delegates also approved two resolutions dealing with the establishment of disaster preparedness plans at the parish and diocesan level, and approved a resolution encouraging the planning, development, and expansion of ministries for youth, according to the diocesan news release.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for Episcopal Church governance, structure, and trends, as well as news of the dioceses of Province II. She is based in Neptune, New Jersey, and New York City


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