Only 1 of 4 bishops in running voted against approving church’s first openly-gay bishop in General Convention elections last summer
NEW YORK The Episcopal Church named a slate of four candidates Wednesday to be its new leader, a group that includes the first female nominee for the post and one candidate who opposed the consecration of the denomination’s first openly gay bishop.
The candidates for presiding bishop are Bishops Katharine Jefferts Schori of Las Vegas; J. Neil Alexander of Atlanta; Edwin (Ted) Gulick Jr. of Louisville, Ky.; and Henry N. Parsley Jr. of Birmingham, Ala.
The new presiding bishop, who succeeds the retiring Frank Griswold, is scheduled to be elected June 18 during the church’s General Convention for a term extending to 2015.
Parsley is the only nominee who voted against approval of V. Gene Robinson to be New Hampshire’s bishop at the 2003 General Convention.
However, none of the nominees participated in the consecration ritual that made Robinson a bishop.
Robinson’s elevation has provoked ongoing protest from the denomination’s conservative wing. It has also created discord within the global Anglican Communion of which the Episcopal Church is a member and some churches, particularly in Africa, have broken ties with the Americans and denounced Griswold for leading the consecration.
The U.S. presiding bishop serves as a member of Anglicanism’s world body of 38 “primates.”
Integrity, the Episcopal gay caucus, said its members “commend the work” of the nominating committee and look for the next presiding bishop to continue efforts toward “full inclusion.”
But the slate drew immediate criticism from traditionalists.
Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the conservative Anglican Communion Network, said the election won’t matter unless the winner leads “the Episcopal Church back into the Christian mainstream, something that given the past records of these candidates seems unlikely.”
The American Anglican Council said the list “makes a strong statement” by including no one “representative of orthodox Anglicanism” who would resist gay clergy and blessings of same-sex unions.
The council said that although Parsley voted against Robinson, his actions in Alabama “belie his claims of orthodoxy.” Canon Kendall Harmon of South Carolina, who edits a closely watched Internet blog, agreed that Parsley is “unsupportive of orthodox members of his own diocese.”
Alexander, 52, a former seminary professor, served on the delegation that explained Episcopal policies on sexuality to an international Anglican council last year. He depicted his own changing views on sexual morals in a 2003 book.
Gulick, 57, is co-chairman of the Catholic-Anglican dialogue in the United States and serves on an international Roman Catholic-Anglican unity commission. At the 2000 General Convention he served on the floor committee that treated sexual issues.
Jefferts Schori, 51, serves on a special commission treating relations with world Anglicans. Her Nevada diocese is one of the church’s smallest (35 congregations, 6,000 members).
Parsley, 57, chairs the U.S. bishops’ theology committee and serves on the bishops’ planning committee. He is also chancellor of the University of the South.
Additional nominees can be proposed until April 1, but it’s expected the nation’s bishops will choose among names proposed by the official nominating committee. The winner of the bishops’ balloting must then be confirmed by clergy and lay delegates.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 27, 2006.