ST. CHARLES, ILL. -- Episcopal bishops, in an interim report on human sexuality, called for suspension of "ancient judgments" against homosexual and lesbian members until the church has made a more thorough study of homosexuality.
Bishop George N. Hunt of Providence, R.I., who heads the church's Commission on Human Affairs and Health, told 165 bishops attending the annual meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops here Sept. 30 that not enough is known about the causes of homosexual orientation for the church to set forth moral principles and policies.
"If we can listen to our homosexual brothers and sisters, we may make some discoveries that will add to what we already know from Scripture, tradition and reason," he said.
"We need to hear such things as when they first realized and/or feared that they were homosexuals, the reaction of their parents, the reaction of their church, the price they have paid for being what they are and their hopes that keep them steadfastly within their church," said the document.
The 10-page interim report, which is scheduled to be presented in final form to the 1988 Episcopal General Convention in Detroit, dealt briefly with monogamous marriage, extramarital sex, premarital sex and sex between married heterosexuals, but it focused more sharply on the question of intimate relations between couples of the same sex.
The report of the 12-member panel declared that commission members "uniformly agreed that lifelong, monogamous marriage is the normative or ideal context for moral intimate sexual expression between Christians."
The panel also agreed that "extramarital sexual relations are immoral because they violate the sacred commitment of the marriage bond."
In regard to premarital and postmarital intimacy, the report asserted that some such relationships "obviously . . . intend to mirror, at a significant level, the faithfulness of marriage." But the widespread and increasing number of them "seem to us to witness more to promiscuity than to fidelity," the commission observed.
"We cannot recommend that they be affirmed by this church as acceptable relationships," the commission wrote.
The report raised questions, however, about the "pastoral implications" of citing "a rigid code of do's and don'ts" to unmarried Christians.
The commission contended that homosexual relations present a "different set of issues" because they deal "with what a person is" as well as with physical activity.
The commission said that biblical writers who discussed homosexuality were not referring to persons with homosexual orientation.
"What they inveighed against was what we would call pedophilia and other predatory or coercive behavior and men promiscuously giving vent to their lust with other men," the report said.
The report's authors said that an increasing body of scientific evidence suggests that sexual orientation results from "prenatal brain formation," which should be taken into account in devising policy.