Name gay study group, say activists

by
04 June 2009

by Ed Beavan

Bishop Henry Parsley THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Bishop Henry Parsley ...

THERE have been calls this week for the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the US to identify members of a group set up to undertake a theological study of same-sex relationships in the life of the Church.

The group is described as “a diverse and balanced panel of theologians”, and has already begun its work, having been appointed by the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee. It has been designed “to be a contribution to the listening process of the Anglican Communion”.

The Chicago Consultation is calling on the Bishops to name the scholars on the new panel. The Consultation’s co-convener, Ruth Meyers, Professor of Liturgics at Seabury Western Theological Seminary, said it was “saddened that the House of Bishops Theology Committee has chosen to begin this important scholarly work without making public the names . . .

“Such important work deserves to be no less than a model of the transparent governance that the Episcopal Church has upheld for centuries. As theologians, priests, bishops, and lay people . . . we call upon the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee to release at once the names.”

Louie Crew, founder of the pro-gay Integrity network, described the decision to keep the group anonymous as “an abomination”.

However, the Rt Revd Henry Parsley, Jr., who chairs the Theological Committee, said on Wednesday that to keep the names secret was the best way of ensuring that the subject was fully discussed.

In his response to the calls for openness, posted on the diocese of Washington’s Episcopal Café blog, he said that the panel “very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons.

“It has always been the committee’s intention to publish the names of the panel when the work has reached the appropriate stage. We believe that, for a season, the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them.”

The project was designed to give theological voice to “a full range of views on the matter of same-sex relationships in the Church’s life, and to foster better understanding and respectful discernment among us”. It was also a contribution to the “listening process” of the Anglican Communion and should have completed its work by early 2011, he said.

He undertook to pass on any comments from church members to the theologians “to enrich their reflection and dialogue”.

Comments should be sent to the bishop at hparsley@dioala.org.

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