The brothers Murdoch

NetworkDeansMichael Paulson of The Boston Globe has written one of the most poignant feature stories about the Episcopal Church's sexuality debate that I have seen in more than 15 years of writing about the topic. In writing about two brothers who are priests, Paulson reveals their deep division on sexuality ("Bill Murdoch calls homosexual activity a sin, while Brian Murdoch calls it a gift") and persuades the brothers to talk about how they have remained close. One section near the top of the article is awkward:

The Rev. Bill Murdoch, 58, an Episcopal priest in West Newbury, is so frustrated by the Episcopal Church's selection of an openly gay bishop that he is bolting and taking his parish with him. At the end of this month, he is to be consecrated a bishop by the Anglican Church of Kenya, and he will return to the North Shore to start a new Kenya-affiliated parish there.

But the Rev. Brian Murdoch, 53, an Episcopal priest in West Roxbury, is not planning to join his brother for the ceremony in Nairobi and is not celebrating his elevation to bishop.

That's because Brian, as Bill has long known, is gay.

I say the passage is awkward because Brian Murdoch's sexual orientation is not the reason for Bill Murdoch's leaving the Episcopal Church or becoming a bishop affiliated with the Anglican Church of Kenya. The brothers do, of course, disagree about whether the Episcopal Church should have consecrated a sexually active gay man as a bishop.

Bill Murdoch casts no aspersions on his brother's ministry as a priest, telling Paulson via email: "My family and I love Brian and have always been proud of his service to others for the sake of the Gospel and the many, many people Brian has loved in the name of Christ. The pain of our disagreement over this issue will not change my love for him."

Brian Murdoch raises the question of what his brother would do if Brian and his partner were to attend the consecration and then be imprisoned because homosexuality is illegal in Kenya. An interesting question, that: Does it assume that Kenya would jail two gay men merely for stepping inside its borders?

Despite these arguments with the piece, I commend it as an example of extraordinary reporting on a volatile issue.

Photo: Bill Murdoch speaks while surrounded by his fellow Anglican Communion Network deans. Bishop Robert Duncan, the Network's moderator, is in the background.

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