Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and the formularies of every mainline Protestant denomination except for the United Church of Christ remain opposed to blessings same-sex unions or allowing noncelibate gay clergy.

Indeed, Catholic leaders feel such concern about recent pressures in favor of homosexual marriages that this week they have released a 12-page document titled "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons."

"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," the document said. "Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."

Protestant churches say it differently, but also discourage homosexual clergy from acting on their desires. Some examples:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: "Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships."

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): "Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

The United Methodist Church: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."

The Rev. Ephraim Radner, a deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Colorado, is concerned that convention will harm ecumenism if it votes to forge ahead—essentially alone—in blessing same-sex unions.

"The credibility of our dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church is in serious question," Radner told The Daily Encompass. "I think most Roman Catholics and Orthodox see the dialogues as a courtesy rather than anything that's going anywhere."

Radner has served on the Episcopal Church's Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relations for three years, and has written extensively about ecumenical theology.

He cited a recent article in The Anglican by theologian Robert J. Wright that reminds Episcopalians of General Convention's commitment, in 1991, not to move ahead in blessing same-sex unions without consulting its ecumenical partners.

Radner expressed similar concerns about Convention's pending decision to confirm Gene Robinson as the ninth bishop of New Hampshire. The question of confirming an openly gay bishop is not easily separated from the question of whether to bless the very type of relationship the bishop has with his partner.

"They're equal," Radner said of the two issues. "The notion that they're separable is a fiction—certainly it is to our ecumenical partners."

Radner is especially frustrated that he senses little concern among his fellow deputies about how the Episcopal Church's stances on blessing gay unions would affect ecumenical discussions.

"I don't think anybody cares," he said. "Who really cares about the ecumenical partners?"

The common assumption seems to be that the Episcopal Church will lead the way, perhaps in some prophetic mode, and that its ecumenical partners will in time see the wisdom of its decision.

Radner believes that blessing gay unions not only would harm ecumenical discussions, but also would further imperil the work of Christians in nations with heavy Muslim populations.

"The credibility of interfaith discourse by Anglicans throughout the world will be severely undermined," Radner said.

Radner believes that convention's being so far along toward making such decisions "is extraordinarily short-sighted and uncompassionate."

Douglas LeBlanc is Associate Editor of Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere

See LeBlanc's earlier dispatches from the General Convention:

Integrity Doles Out God's Not-So Inclusive Love | The Integrity Eucharist has become a triennial sort of mass pity party.
Dispatch: Gene and Me | My history with the openly gay man elected bishop of Rochester

In 2001, LeBlanc reflected on his friendship with Integrity founder Louie Crew.

More coverage of the General Convention is available from the ECUSA website, which has streaming video. Conservative and orthodox perspectives are available from Classical Anglican Net News, the American Anglican Council's A Place to Stand, and David Virtue's Virtuosity.