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Sunday, September 26, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Episcopal bishops to discuss church's healing

By John K. Wiley
The Associated Press

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SPOKANE — A theologian urged Episcopal Church bishops to "place God in the center" of discussions as they await a report on the church's ongoing dispute over homosexuality.

Miroslav Volf, a Yale Divinity School theologian and author of a book on reconciliation, opened the meeting of about 100 bishops on Friday.

"The greatest challenge as theologians is to keep God at the center of our efforts," Volf told the bishops, who are spending four days discussing issues that have led to a near-schism in the church.

"Love for the other passes through God," he said.

A group of Anglican leaders, called the Lambeth Commission, is drafting a plan to preserve its international association despite a deep rift over homosexuality and other issues. The commission's report is due to be published Oct. 18.

The consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson to head the Diocese of New Hampshire last year shocked many conservative Episcopalians and Anglicans worldwide.

The Episcopal Church is Anglicanism's U.S. branch, with 2.3 million members.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who was criticized by some conservatives for consecrating Robinson, said the annual "House of Bishops" meeting would stress reconciliation and understanding "the other" within the communion.

Griswold wrote the bishops in advance of the meeting, urging patience while waiting for the Lambeth Report.
 
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"It is important for us in the Episcopal Church to remember that we are part of a reality larger than our own experience of what it is to be a church, and that the body of Christ embraces the whole world," Griswold wrote.

"There will always be the invitation to deepen and renew our understanding of the gospel and God's ways, which frequently exceed our immediate comprehension."

Despite the divisions, Episcopal leaders are focusing on reconciliation and acceptance of "the other," Griswold said.

There have been calls to suspend the Episcopal Church from the global communion, and some conservative Episcopal churches have formed relationships with African bishops rather than accept oversight from bishops who approved of Robinson's appointment.

The Anglican communion has a reported 77 million members worldwide.

In the United States, a handful of the more than 100 Episcopal dioceses have joined the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes in opposition to denominational leaders.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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