The Episcopal Church in the United States has voted to end the moratorium on the ordination of gays and lesbians as bishops. With this move, they have successfully sidelined the larger issue of the rift on gay rights in the broader Anglican church.
At the Episcopalian General Convention in California, bishops voted Monday by 99-45, with two abstentions, in favor of a resolution which said that "God has called and may call such individuals" -- referring to homosexual men and women -- "to any ordained ministry" in the Episcopal Church.
The resolution was a response to one passed at the General Convention three years ago, which called for a halt to the consecration of "any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church."
That resolution was aimed at healing and reconciling the Anglican Communion after the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson.
But the earlier resolution failed to heal the wounds of the church, and last year, Anglican congregations in the United States joined forces with conservative churches in Africa and South America and moved to break away from the Episcopal Church after years of in-fighting, in part over gay clergy.
Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama, who voted against the resolution on Monday, was quoted on the Episcopal Church's web site as warning that the decision to once again allow the ordination of gay and lesbian bishops could widen the rift in the Anglican Communion.
"I think it will be interpreted internationally as a rejection" of the earlier resolution calling for a moratorium on the ordination of gays and lesbians, he said.
But the Reverend Susan Russell, president of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender Episcopal advocacy group Integrity USA said the vote signaled that the Episcopal Church was once again telling "the truth about who we are.
"It was a vote for both unity and mission. This is a church that is ready to move on. It was a clear vote for mission for this church," she was quoted as saying on the church's website.
The Episcopal Church is a US branch of the Anglican Communion, whose mother church is the Church of England.