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Episcopalians To Discuss Israel Divestment at Convention

The U.S. Episcopal Church was expected to debate divestment from Israel and elect a new presiding bishop on Saturday at its general conference in Salt Lake City, where members gathered to also discuss the religion’s position on same-sex marriage, gun violence and outrage.

Faith leaders of the Episcopal Church, a branch of the 80-million member worldwide Anglican Communion, were to decide between four candidates to replace current Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first female to lead the Protestant denomination.

Bishops would vote on the four candidates – from dioceses in southern Ohio, North Carolina, Connecticut and southwest Florida – “in the context of prayer and reflection,” the church said on its website.

The presiding bishop serves a nine-year term.

The general convention, held every three years, will also explore the church’s directives on issues including gun violence, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and same-sex marriage, according to the official agenda.

A legislative session erupted in applause on Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark 5-4 ruling that Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law means that gay couples have the legal right to marry, the Episcopal News Service said.

The 2 million-member church approved a rite for the blessing of a same-sex relationship at its 2012 convention.

This year, resolutions under consideration would expand gay and lesbian inclusion in the church, including a modification to the canonical definition of marriage as between only a man and woman, according to the agenda.

Episcopal Church members will also considering several resolutions having to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, with one proposal calling on the church divest from Israel or companies that do business with Israel because of what it calls “Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

Jefferts Schori has said in the past she opposed divestment.

Bishops, priests and church members were also taking part in traditional church rites such as the Eucharist and holding sessions to discuss poverty, access to healthcare, and how to reduce gun violence in the United States.

Last week, nine members of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church were shot to death inside the house of worship by an accused gunman motivated by racism, authorities said.

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