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Episcopal Bishop to Stop Blessing Same-Sex Unions

Times Staff Writer

In a move to win back three breakaway Southern California parishes and placate conservative critics internationally, the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles said Tuesday he will observe a personal moratorium on blessing same-sex unions. However, he said his priests were free to continue officiating at homosexual ceremonies.

At the same time, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county Los Angeles diocese, called for an international church summit in Los Angeles, including dissenting African bishops who have claimed jurisdiction over the three parishes.

Bruno said he wanted to seek an accommodation in the controversy that erupted in August when the three parishes unilaterally declared that they had left the diocese and the U.S. Episcopal Church over differences involving Scripture and homosexuality. They said they had placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in Uganda.

But only hours after Bruno disclosed his moratorium and summit proposals Tuesday, they were rejected by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, primate of the Anglican Church in Uganda, and Bishop Evans Kisekka of the Diocese of Luweero in Uganda. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

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“Our churches in Los Angeles came to us like children who were running away from home, and we have offered them a safe place to be,” they wrote in a letter faxed to Bruno. “We will not relinquish them into a spiritually dangerous situation.”

They called on Bruno and the Los Angeles diocese to repent from “your participation in and promotion of unbiblical behavior and teaching.”

The three dissenting parishes are All Saints Church in Long Beach, St. David’s Church in North Hollywood and St. James Church in Newport Beach.

Bruno was among a majority of U.S. Episcopal bishops who consented to the election by the Diocese of New Hampshire of an openly gay priest in a long-term relationship with another man as its bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson. Bruno also presided at a same-sex blessing in Los Angeles of a male couple, one of whom is a senior priest.

“I wish for you to know that I regret any confusion, hurt or offense any of my actions may have elicited in other members of our church or in the Anglican Communion,” Bruno wrote.

A high-level Anglican Communion commission appointed by the archbishop of Canterbury last month proposed such expressions of regret by the American church for elevating Robinson, as well as a moratorium on same-sex blessings.

In recent weeks, other Episcopal bishops, including the presiding bishop and primate of the national church, the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, have issued similar expressions of regret. But they have fallen far short of what conservatives have sought, which is an outright declaration of repentance and a promise not to ordain gay priests in same-sex relationships as bishops, or to bless same-sex unions.

Bruno said Tuesday he stood behind his votes for Robinson’s consecration and for a resolution at a national church convention that gave tacit approval to local bishops to allow same-sex blessings in their diocese.

Orombi and Kisekka said expressions of mere regret were insufficient. “What is needed is clear repentance in both word and deed,” they wrote.

Bruno also sent word of his positions to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Williams, who had written the Los Angeles bishop Nov. 9, called Bruno’s proposal a “generous response” to bring about reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Bruno said Tuesday he would indefinitely delay filing church charges against a retired Episcopal bishop in Texas, the Rt. Rev. Maurice M. Benitez, who is standing in for the African bishops in overseeing the three breakaway parishes. But Bruno is proceeding with the civil lawsuits seeking to regain control over the parishes.

Bruno also disclosed Tuesday that he had authorized another bishop to provide pastoral -- but not legal -- oversight of Christ the King Church in Santa Barbara, which has also objected to the stands that Bruno and the national church have taken on homosexuality. That church has not seceded and remains under Bruno’s authority.


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