Episcopalians, Sex, and Schism

The IRD will be reporting from General Convention in Austin

Austin, TX—Episcopalians gather this week for a triennial General Convention that will once again face key decisions centered upon human sexuality and expression.

Officials in a handful of domestic Episcopal Church dioceses that have opted out of the denomination’s trial same-sex marriage liturgies are warily eying the changes that the General Convention may bring.

Bishops and deputies gathered this July in Austin, Texas will consider beginning a multi-year process to add same-sex marriage rites to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), last revised in 1979. Unlike trial liturgies, BCP content cannot be proscribed by diocesan bishops.

The denomination has shrunk precipitously since the early 2000s, with more than one-quarter of church attendees having vanished. Five dioceses and hundreds of parishes have split from the denomination since the 2003 consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson as the first openly-partnered gay bishop.

The addition of same-sex marriages conducted within the Episcopal Church has not significantly lessened a decline in the overall number of church weddings, which have dropped by 44 percent in the past decade (14,805 marriages in 2006, compared with only 8,343 in 2016, the most recent reporting year).

The Episcopal Church has approximately 1.8 million members in the United States, plus a handful of overseas dioceses primarily located in Latin America and the Caribbean. The General Convention, which meets every three years, is the denomination’s top legislative body.

Churches across the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part, are divided over hot-button issues like homosexuality and abortion, with U.S. church officials being more theologically and politically liberal than their overseas counterparts. IRD supports a theologically orthodox perspective that affirms traditional church teachings.

What:  The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

Who:  Almost 900 clergy and lay deputies of the Episcopal Church, plus nearly 300 bishops

Where:  Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701

When:  Thursday, July 5 through Friday, July 13


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