Episcopal priest promotes church tolerance of homosexuals

In 1989, the Episcopal Church raised eyebrows when the Rev. Barbara C. Harris was named the first female bishop.

by Tricia Michel

The Episcopal Church’s approval of an elected homosexual bishop is just one of many controversial issues the church has confronted in an effort to change negative religious beliefs about homosexuality, the Rev. Neil Elliot from the University Episcopal Center said Thursday.

“We recognize there is a range of sexual orientation in our church, and we’re willing to live with that,” he said in a speech in the St. Paul Student Center. “Orientation is not the issue for us.”

Elliot spoke in the third and final session of a three-week roundtable discussion series sponsored by the Lutheran Student Movement, titled “Spirituality in the Workplace.” The series has covered topics such as terrorism and homosexuality.

The Episcopal Church recently caused controversy in the religious community when the Rev. Gene Robinson – the first openly gay man to be elected as bishop in the Episcopal Church – was approved for the New Hampshire diocese.

This is not the first time the Episcopal Church has dealt with controversial issues. In 1989, the church raised eyebrows when the Rev. Barbara C. Harris was named the first female bishop.

“I’m increasingly happy to be an Episcopalian, which makes ordination a lot easier,” Elliot said.

Jerie Smith, campus minister for Lutheran Campus Ministry, said this semester’s discussion

series focused on understanding sexuality.

“We wanted to help faculty and staff see some issues in relationship to sexuality,” she said.

The series is not meant to pressure University staff and faculty into making changes, but instead works to make campus resources more visible and available, Smith said.

Roberta Gibbons, associate director of the Aurora Center, spoke about sexual violence, and Boynton Community Program Specialist Dave Dorman presented a discussion about sexual issues on campus during the series.

Smith said next semester the center hopes to do a three-week series on terrorism.