The last time the General Convention of the Episcopal Church met, in 2003 in Minneapolis, it took two controversial actions that sparked a worldwide crisis in the Anglican Communion: It consented to the ordination of V. Gene Robinson, a non-celibate homosexual man, as bishop of New Hampshire, and it passed Resolution C051, which recognized “that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”

In response to these actions, by December 2003, nine of the communion’s 38 other provinces had declared themselves to be in “broken” or “impaired communion” with all or part of the Episcopal Church, with at least one province, the Anglican Church of Kenya, declaring that it would no longer accept missionaries from the Episcopal Church, and another province, the Church of Nigeria, vowing to boycott international gatherings attended by representatives of the Episcopal Church.

Within the Episcopal Church itself, conservative dioceses also broke relationships with the Diocese of New Hampshire, and parishes in several dioceses left the Episcopal Church altogether. Others parishes withheld financial support from their own dioceses in protest.

In an attempt to avoid a permanent rift both within the Episcopal Church and between it and other provinces, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion, in October 2003 appointed the Lambeth Commission on Communion, an international consultation of lay and ordained Anglican theologians. A year later it issued the Windsor Report, which among other things called upon the Episcopal Church “to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached,” and to effect a moratorium on ordaining any further bishop living in a same-sex union “until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.”

The current General Convention will be called upon to respond to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. While resolutions are open to amendment before passage, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, and the President of the House of Deputies, the Very Rev. George L.W. Werner, appointed a Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, which recently proposed eleven resolutions that recommend particular actions the Episcopal Church should take in response to the concerns of the Windsor Report. These resolutions will be considered when the 2006 General Convention convenes in Columbus, Ohio, June 13, 2006.

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