Episcopal Priest in Chehalis Speaks on Divide Over Acceptance of Gays

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Last month, the archbishops of the Anglican Communion voted to temporarily kick the American branch of the Communion, the Episcopal Church, out of its international association to a degree for its acceptance of gays and lesbians.

Two-thirds of the 37 leaders of the Communion voted for the censorship, suspending the Episcopal Church from voting and decision-making for the next three years.

While the decision is said to have derived from the Episcopal Church’s decision in July of last year to allow its priests to perform same-sex marriages, Father Joe Mikel, priest at St. Timothy Episcopal Church in Chehalis, agrees with the Episcopal Church’s acceptance.

“If you’re gay, a lesbian, transgender human being, do I throw you on the ash heap of life?” Mikel asked. “Are they human beings? Do they need love? Do they long for inclusion and forgiveness … just like me?”

Mikel has been preaching at St. Timothy for the past couple months. He said he doesn’t see the sense in the division and believes that all humans should be loved.  But he said at his level, he doesn’t have much of a say in larger church matters.

“I’m just a local guy in a little local community,” Mikel said. 

Instead of dwelling on the divide in the church, St. Timothy focuses on helping people, including providing its Mobile Ministry, which feeds the hungry on Saturdays at the Salvation Army parking lot in Centralia.

Mikel said the discussion of sexuality has been a topic for decades, since the 1970s. One of the major turning points that began to create a divide between the Communion and the Episcopal Churches was in 2003 when the New Hampshire diocese affirmed Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop.

The election of Robinson set off “shockwaves” and caused some Episcopal churches in the U.S. to split and form other churches and move to other denominations, Mikel said.

After that, the Anglican Communion told the American branch not to ordain any more gay bishops until it could be discussed. The U.S. branch didn’t listen, and a few months later ordained a lesbian. 

Mikel said the divide is essentially between Western and Eastern cultures. The Communion has about 85 million members in 165 countries.

Mikel thinks the Episcopal Church will find a way to stick together and the American branch will not split off. 

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