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« on: December 23, 2004, 02:57:27 AM »

Episcopal Bishop Says Tolerance of Heresy Better Than Schism

by Fred Jackson and Jody Brown
December 22, 2004

(AgapePress) - The Episcopal bishop of Virginia has told his diocese's annual meeting that it's better to live with heresy than split the denomination over homosexuality.

Peter James Lee is one of 60 Episcopal bishops who voted last summer to approve the appointment of V. Gene Robinson, the denomination's first openly homosexual bishop. Since then, Lee has been fighting moves by more conservative congregations in the Virginia diocese that have taken a stand against the biblical compromise.

In his speech to the 700 delegates on Saturday, Lee said: "If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy."

But in an effort to avoid schism, the convention delegates passed a resolution to set up what they are calling a "reconciliation commission" to examine ways of maintaining unity. According to The Washington Post, one of the key leaders of the conservative faction, Martyn Minns, voted in favor of the commission.

"The status quo prevailed," Minns told the Post, adding that while the vote "showed a general desire to move forward without dividing," any resolution to the crisis "may mean structural changes."

The delegates also addressed the diocese's financial problems, due mainly to conservative congregations withholding their annual contributions. The Post reports that as a result, the diocese's 2004 budget took a nearly $900,000 hit.

Robinson Just 'Another Chapter'
Lee apparently views the controversy over Robinson's consecration as bishop of New Hampshire as just another sign of the differences of opinion within the Episcopal Church that have historically been tolerated. Writing in the January 2004 issue of the Virginia Episcopalian newsletter, Lee says while Episcopalians in Virginia do not ordain people involved in sexual intimacy outside of marriage, the same does not hold true in Robinson's state.

"New Hampshire has a different view of people involved in committed, same-sex partnerships," he wrote. "My decision to consent showed respect for the choice New Hampshire made, a sign that historically we have honored differences in the Episcopal Church. The Robinson controversy is another chapter in a debate on the place of gay and lesbian people in our church that has been going on in public for at least thirty years."

Lee also discounts scriptural admonitions against homosexuality -- again, attributing the controversy to differences of opinion. He says while many people believe any homosexual activity is clearly prohibited by scripture, others believe the writers of scripture were not addressing "the realities of people with a permanent homosexual orientation living in faithful, monogamous relationships."

"The fact of the matter is that Episcopalians differ on these matters," the Virginia bishop says.

In the newsletter, Lee also addressed the issue of those churches who have chosen to withhold contributions because of Robinson's election. While some of the delegates at this weekend's annual meeting reportedly called such a move "blackmail," Lee views it as a time of growth.

"In 2004, we will do less together than what we did in 2003," Lee wrote in the Virginian Episcopalian. "My prayer is that with the passage of time, with deeper prayer, with a more charitable level of listening to one another, and with a renewed commitment to the mission that unites us, we can negotiate this controversy in a way that in the years to come, we can look back on it as a time when we became more mature in Christ and more united in our life together."

http://news.christiansunite.com/Religion_News/religion02014.shtml

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