It was Aug. 5, 2003, and bishops at the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church had just voted for the first time to let an openly gay man become a bishop. Louie Crew of Montclair, active in Episcopal Church politics for decades, was there in Minneapolis and vividly remembers trying to hide his jubilation when Gene Robinson was made bishop of New Hampshire.
"We were under strict orders not to cheer," said Crew, who is gay, recalling the scene in the auditorium that day at the Minneapolis Convention Center. "We all respected the fact that it was a momentous decision that would be very painful to a large minority of the persons present. I don't think there was anybody that disrespected those restraints."
Still, to no one's surprise, keeping the Church together afterward has been a struggle.
* The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (4.7 million members), whose weeklong meeting in Minneapolis begins today will vote on whether non-celibate gay people can be ordained as Lutheran clergy, and on a statement saying same-gendered relationships have a place in the church.
* In July, the United Methodist News Service announced that the United Methodist Church (11 million members, 8 million of whom are Americans) is on track, based on early voting results, to reject an amendment that would let any professed Christian become a church member. Conservative opponents viewed the proposed change as implicit acceptance of homosexuality.
* Last month, the Episcopal Church USA (2.1 million members) rescinded a moratorium on electing gay bishops, a moratorium imposed under Anglican pressure three years after Robinson's election. It also said clergy can bless same-sex unions.
* In June, the Presbyterian Church USA (2.3 million members) announced the rejection of an amendment that would have let non-celibate gay people become clergy.
The four mainline groups, which have about 360,000 members in New Jersey, have been losing members nationally for decades. Mainly because of conservative furor over Bishop Robinson's election, the infighting of Episcopalians has received the most attention.
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