Can Episcopalian Priests Marry

Can Episcopalian Priests Marry – [Episcopal News Service] In 2013, recognized by Rev. Susan Gage’s vocation to the priesthood while a parishioner of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. At the time, clergy in the Diocese of Florida warned him that the recognition and ordination process there favored heterosexual candidates over openly gay and lesbian bishops. Although he has a long-term partner, he does not want to be known as a homosexual. Instead, he met with Bishop John Howard to see if he would allow him to continue his vocation. His answer stunned her.

According to a transcript of the conversation Gage provided to ENS during a phone interview this week, Howard said, “You can call, but it’s a rule in our diocese that we don’t ordain those gay ‘E,’ ” he said. .

Can Episcopalian Priests Marry

Reverend Guy Alexander serves as Associate Dean for Pastoral Care at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville. Photo: St. John’s

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Another priest contacted by ENS, Reverend Guy Alexander, lives in the Orthodox Diocese of Florida and has served there since 1998. He currently serves as associate dean of pastoral care at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville. Alexander was also gay and, by his own admission, celibate during his 25 years of ordained ministry in the diocese. He chose, but Alexander said he had no other choice.

When Florida Bishop Stephen Jacko received him in the past, the bishop “stressed that as long as I have the status of bishop in my diocese, I will remain celibate unless I marry a woman,” Alexander said in an email to Episcopal News. service Mr. Howard replaced Mr. Jacko in 2004, and “that understanding continued with Bishop Howard,” said Mr. Alexander.

Florida has long been known as one of the church’s most conservative dioceses, but specific allegations of discrimination against LGBTQ+ clergy and priesthood candidates have been widely discussed outside the diocese. This is the first time I have seen it. The allegations form the basis of an inquiry report questioning the legitimacy of two elections in 2022 to replace Mr Howard, who stands down later this year.

Reverend Charlie Holt was elected Auxiliary Bishop twice. After the first elections, to be held in May 2022, were challenged, an investigation by the Church’s Court of Inquiry found that there was no quorum of the clergy and that “irregularities in the process of the congress itself cast a shadow. on its legitimacy.” Mr Holt withdrew his approval of the results and the standing committee ordered a new election.

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Last week, the diocese published a new report to the Court of Audit on objections to the run-off election in November. In that case, the review court found, in part, that the pattern and practice of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination under Howard’s leadership may have distorted the clergy list enough to influence Holt’s unanimous selection as an associate justice. the bishop. Order of the clergy. The court also found that there is another problem with how the lay delegates are chosen to be eligible to vote in the bishop’s election.

On February 23, a group of LGBTQ+ leaders in the Episcopal Church issued a letter asking the bishops and the standing committee to withhold approval of Holt’s election, citing what the Court found to be an act of discrimination. , which in part addressed other concerns about Mr. Holt for the position. “It is clear from the trial that the Diocese of Florida has intentionally and systematically excluded and marginalized LGBTQ+ clergy and laity,” the letter said.

Howard categorically denied discrimination in the diocese. In a letter to the reviewing court dated January 11, 2023, included in an appendix to the report, he said that gay and lesbian clergy seeking official residence are not subject to “special or different- other conditions.” “I didn’t set any conditions,” he said. , added, “I did not set any conditions.” Priests must take a vow of celibacy. »

While Howard himself did not respond to ENS’s questions, his public affairs minister, the Reverend Alison Defour, made a similar denial on Howard’s behalf in response to a series of questions from ENS about this article. In Gage’s case, Howard said he doesn’t remember meeting him.

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For Alexander, it would be surprising if the diocese of Florida did not require celibacy from gay priests. “I have decided that my calling is to marry a man, and if the current policy remains, I will give my license [to the priest],” he told ENS. Citing his busy schedule this week, he declined a phone interview request and asked for an email instead.

Gage went on to discern a vocation to the priesthood in the Diocese of Georgia. He was ordained there in January 2022 by Bishop Frank Logue. Now married, she and her husband still live in Florida, but she commutes about 90 minutes each way to serve as pastor at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Valdosta, Georgia. .

“I’m actually very happy with the Diocese of Georgia,” he said. “I realized that life is completely different when you cross the border.”

Howard will reach the church’s retirement age of 72 in September. In February 2021, he called for the election of bishops as co-judges. If Holt does not receive the necessary ecumenical approval and another bishop is installed, the Florida Standing Committee will assume the role of church authority for the time being.

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On February 17, the Standing Committee announced the results of the appeals court, saying that the court “exceeded its authority” and that it “identified the erroneous policy and practice of the diocesan based on many anonymous complaints.” They accused him of “discernment”. situation”. This is not clearly independently verifiable. »

ENS was able to identify and contact some of the individuals who made the main allegations contained in the Review Tribunal report. They were also able to identify others with direct experience of diocesan practices and Howard’s position. Some of these individuals require ENS identification. Others acknowledged the allegations, which have been made public, but declined to be interviewed on the record.

Howard has long publicly expressed conservative views on gay rights, same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general, while diocesan leaders have sought to deny allegations of discrimination. Just now, 20 years after he took office, uncertainty has begun to emerge as to who will lead the diocese in his absence as the long-simmering schism has erupted within the diocese.

Bishop John Howard of Florida will read the results of the auxiliary bishop election for the November 19, 2022 election. Image Source: Diocese of Florida

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The Episcopal Church has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1994, when the General Conference approved a simple addition to the canon of missions. , ethnic origin, gender, nationality, marital status, sexual orientation, disability or age. The church expanded on this statement in subsequent meetings.

A more extensive revision in 2003 provided that sexual orientation “cannot be a factor in the determination of church authorities whether a person is an officially qualified priest”. The proposed amendment also states that bishops cannot deny priests a license to serve because of their sexual orientation.

The 2003 General Conference also voted to approve the Diocese of New Hampshire’s selection of the Reverend Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church. At the same General Conference, the Bishop of Florida confirmed Howard as an associate judge, and Howard and Robinson were ordained one day apart in November 2003.

Howard was subsequently appointed bishop of the diocese on January 29, 2004, when Gekko resigned, and in his first speech at the diocesan conference, he left no doubt about his views on the ordination of homosexuals.

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“Let me be clear: I am a theological conservative,” he said, according to the minutes of the convention. “As the bishop of this diocese, I will support and promote the institution of marriage. And as long as I am the bishop of this diocese, I will continue to support and promote the institution of marriage. And as long as I am the bishop of this diocese. , I will continue to support and develop the institution of marriage.

After returning from the General Conference in 2006, Howard again spoke out against allowing openly gay clergy in his diocese.

“Although it is not a sin to be homosexual, the practice of homosexual genital sex is not approved by the Church and is not blessed by the Church, and those living in same-sex relationships are not ordained in this diocese. Such a relationship will not be celebrated by the church in this diocese,” Howard was quoted in an article in the diocesan newsletter about the bishop’s briefings to congregations in the diocese. One of the sources of this article gave ENS a copy of the newsletter, but we are unable to link to it online.

In 2009, after the General Conference approved a pilot liturgy for same-sex blessings, an article in the Florida Times Union quoted Mr. Howard saying that the blessings are not available in his parish. He also reiterated his opposition to openly gay priests serving in Florida dioceses.

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De Fur, Howard’s canon for the laity, did not directly comment on the stories in his response to ENS for the bishop.

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