Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Students forge ties in wake of schism

When the students of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke University speak about their community, they often speak of friendship and pain in the same sentence.
At the AEHS, part of Duke Divinity School, future church leaders pray together, take communion together, share classes and meals and conversation. Most are preparing for ordination as deacons or priests.

Yet despite their common goals, recent controversies in the Episcopal Church have complicated their sense of unity, particularly about the role of gay clergy and some dioceses' decision to bless same-sex marriages.

Director Jo Bailey Wells recalls a friendship between two students that highlights the conflict. Lauren Kilbourn and Andrew Rowell had sought each other out at AEHS, hoping to better understand each other's opinions. Kilbourn, a lesbian in a committed relationship, supports the ordination of gay clergy. Rowell adheres to conservative views of homosexuality. For a year they met weekly for coffee and prayer.

"Each of them at times during the year shared with me how much it meant to them and how much they respected the other," Wells said. "At the same time each of them during the year shared with me how completely painful it was and how they didn't want the other to see how much they cried in light of some of their conversations."

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