LONDON (AP) Answering to a panel working to close a rift in Anglicanism over homosexual clergy, the leader of the Episcopal Church said his denomination has accepted gay clerics and an openly gay bishop because it is open to varying scriptural views on the issue.
U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold dispatched the significant policy memo Feb. 6, just before the first meeting of the panel, which has now released the text.
Last year, Episcopalians in New Hampshire elected an openly gay priest V. Gene Robinson to be their bishop and the church's national legislative body confirmed the move. Conservatives in the United States and the worldwide Anglican Communion condemned the action.
Griswold said the approval of Robinson, who has lived with his partner for many years, came only after 35 years of discussion about homosexuality within his church. He said Episcopalians have grown to appreciate the virtues of same-sex couples in their midst.
Some Anglicans in other nations have a ''dominant tradition'' for interpreting the Bible while Episcopalians hold various views, he said, without specifying how biblical texts on homosexuality are now understood.
Griswold also said Episcopalians' ''cultural circumstances'' and ''day to day realities are vastly different'' from those of Anglicans elsewhere. He cited the prominence of gays in U.S. politics, sports and entertainment.
Griswold's letter provoked vigorous dissent from conservative Episcopal and Anglican groups.
The American Anglican Council called it a ''vacuous justification for sin.'' It said Episcopal policy ''clearly contradicts Scripture'' and ignores beliefs of the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide.
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