Special convention also votes to affirm membership in Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion
The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas recently rejected same-sex liturgies, which were previously approved by the national church.
On March 6, the diocese met in special convention and approved two resolutions. Members of the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, a heavily LGBT congregation on Inwood Road near Oak Lawn, were delegates to the convention.
The first resolution affirmed the Dallas diocese’s full membership and participation in both the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In 2008, the Fort Worth diocese left the Episcopal Church in part over the ordination of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
The second resolution rejected same-sex liturgies, which were approved last summer by the Episcopal Church, the U.S. body of the Anglican Communion.
Steven Toon, a St. Thomas member who was a delegate to the convention, said passage of the resolutions won’t change much in the congregation.
"I think the challenge is that we’re a very accepting church," Toon said. "The issues limit participation of gay people in the Episcopal Church. The problem I have is that Christ did not do this."
A statement from the office of Bishop James Stanton, who leads the conservative Dallas diocese, also suggested that the resolutions would have little impact.
"Bishop Stanton reiterated that nothing has changed as far as the diocese is concerned and that it must remained focused on its God-given mission," Stanton’s office said in an e-mail to Dallas Voice.
Toon said the best way to address the issue is to be proactive in the community and try to break down barriers.
"We have to accept where we are living. The only way we are going to change any of this is by going out and building relationships," he said.
Fred Ellis is a former national president of Integrity, the LGBT Episcopal group. He is also a member of St. Thomas and was a delegate to the convention.
"This will encourage people to be more active and vocal in their support of the national church," he said.
Ellis said he proposed the amendment to the first resolution that added the words "the Episcopal Church" to "the worldwide Anglican Communion."
Referring to the vote on same-sex liturgies, Toon said he believes calling it marriage intimidates some people. He thinks most members of the LGBT community don’t really want anything like biblical marriage where a woman becomes the property of the man.
"What we want are the legal rights that marriage allows," he said.
Toon said he understands Stanton’s position and thinks the bishop’s beliefs are heartfelt and genuine.
"Bishop Stanton respects the unique position of St. Thomas the Apostle," Toon said. "Our rector has an open line of communication with Bishop Stanton. The Rev. Steven Waller preaches open communication, and we always meet our pledges to the diocese. Was I upset after this vote? Yes."
Toon added that he thinks the issues should be resolved on a national level and that they aren’t diocesan decisions.
While remaining in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion "passed by a decidedly voice positive vote," according to Stanton’s office, the second resolution passed more narrowly.
"The delegates adopted this resolution by a count 185-101," Stanton’s office said.
Ellis said, "I personally don’t think the diocese has the authority to act on the covenants. I think that authority lies at the national level."
But Toon said that there was a bright side to the vote on same-sex liturgies.
"The vote was much closer than in the past," he said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 19, 2010.