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Special Report Roundtable - December 18

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


MEGHAN GRAHAM, TRURO CHURCH STAFF MEMBER: We believe that the Episcopal Church has stepped out of the Christian faith. And for me, as a youth pastor, I encourage teenagers to follow Jesus Christ. And I can't do that in a church that is not following Jesus and not adhering to scripture.


HUME: And so it was that the members of that church, Truro, out here in suburban Virginia, and the Falls (ph) Church, also in suburban Virginia, two very large and thriving congregations, agreed with along with seven -- at least seven others to pull out of the Episcopal Church of America and this, of course, is something that has been some time in coming and some thoughts on it now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio; and Bill Sammon, senior White House correspondent of the Washington Examiner -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

BRIT: Of course, these parishes number among their members, members of Congress, in the case of Falls Church, but perhaps others as well. This is a -- the Episcopal Church is relatively small in America today, in terms of numbers of its adherence, but it has an enormous place in American history and has been thought of as the, sort of the principal church representing the old -- the whole Anglican tradition America. Well now there are Anglican churches popping up. What is going on here -- Bill.

BILL SAMMON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think you have a basic conflict between this trend to embrace these fashionable, liberal, social, and political issues on the one hand, and on the other hand, the central -- a central teaching of scripture that homosexually is a sin. And I think those two things have collided and that's why you have seven or eight or nine parishes saying we want out.

HUME: Is there a serious argument about whether the scripture or the Bible as -- the Bible the Episcopalians turn to, does indeed condemns homosexuality as a sin? Is there a serious argument there -- anybody.

SAMMON: I mean, I would leave that to biblical scholars. But I think -- I mean, I'm Catholic, and we don't allow our priests to engage in heterosexual marriage, much less homosexual marriage and that's really what this is about. This church is condoning homosexual marriage and is ordain gay bishops. So it's in our face to those who believe that scripture does teach homosexuality is a sin.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, you know, I'm an Episcopalian, and I got to say, what strikes me about this is that this comes down to Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop who was ordained and the fact that the new bishop, a woman, supports Gene Robinson and supports his being there. And that this has created a terrific schism within the Episcopal Church between those who are more Evangelical in their thoughts but it's -- also it's created a schism, I think, in terms of the worldwide church because, for instance, the church I go to here in Washington has a large African presence in the congregation. When I say African, I mean immigrants from Africa. They don't want any part of gays. They don't see that in keeping as church teachings. But with people who were brought up in this country, the view is that the church and the Christian theology is that we should be tolerant of those who are different and have some sense of embracing difference. That is not their view. And the people -- the churches in Virginia that are leaving.

HUME: Well, is it one thing have tolererance and love for those who practice homosexuality and to elevate them to church leadership. That's a different matter, isn't it?

WILLIAMS: That's a different matter. And the question is, therefore, who's eligible, who's not? Are women eligible? As you know, that's something of a breakthrough in recent years in many churches...

HUME: But that isn't the issue here.

WILLIAMS: No. This is about homosexuality and now we have these churches in Virginia that are going to associate -- affiliate themselves with the African province of the church, and they're going to affiliate themselves with Peter Akinola, if I'm pronouncing that correctly -- who is the Nigerian bishop and who is the man who says he would, you know, how embraces the idea of in putting gay people in jail.

HUME: Well, he is -- what is said about that is, to be fair to him, that he's not actively pursuing that, but he's got this tremendous Muslim presence in the community there, tremendous antihomosexual antipathy there and that while he is sort of nominally in favor of that, he's not pushing it, for what that may be worth to anybody.

Fred, what are your thoughts on this. Now, you belong to one of the churches that pulled out.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: I do. I belong to the Falls Church. And my wife and I -- Barbara and I, both voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church, or disaffiliate, which the word that seems to be going around. And one of my daughters and her husband did, as well. And it wasn't just Gene Robinson, the gay bishop, that was sort of a catalyst, here, but there's been a trend in the national Episcopal Church for the last 30, 40, 50 years to move away from the authority of scripture to move away from the belief in the divinity of Christ and the resurrection and that the way our lives are saved and we go to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ. All that's been rejected by somebody in the National Church.

HUME: So, is it fair to say that it goes beyond -- this National Church of such historical consequence in America, has moved away from those beliefs as well?

BARNES: Of course. Yeah, I mean, look, you can see it at the conventions and in the election.

HUME: Church election.

BARNES: Of the new presiding bishop of the church. You know, at the last convention there was a resolution to -- stating that scripture is the final authority in our church.

HUME: And?

BARNES: And that failed.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me just quickly say, here's where this fight's going to come down to. Who keeps the church property?

BARNES: Well, that's ancillary, though to the -- there'll be a fight over it, but...

WILLIAMS: If it's a matter of conscience, and I believe it is, I - - you know, my fellow Episcopalian, Mr. Barnes, I say it's a matter of conscious. But are those churches, Fred, willing to cede their property to the bishop of Virginia in order to say we are moving away and money and property don't matter?


SAMMON: Then there's also the political question. Does this have broader political ramifications? You know, gay marriage was a big issue in 2004. Some say it had less of an issue in '06, that it's losing its impact. I think it still is an issue and going forward into '08, you saw Mitt Romney recently making a big deal about being against gay marriage. And now this controversy erupting and I think presidential candidates -- I don't know if any of them are Episcopalian -- are going to get asked about these kinds of things.

BARNES: It's not just gay marriage. If it were merely the ordination of Gene Robinson as a bishop in the church, I would not have voted to pull out, if that's all there were. But the fact is the National Episcopal Church has rejected the traditional faith that has brought so many to the church, particularly to the Falls Church. And that's why I particularly voted to disaffiliate now. But what Juan said about the property is an ancillary issue. And I know at the Falls Church we would like to buy the property from the National Church.

WILLIAMS: So, you're willing to give them their money?

BARNES: Yes. Give them the money.

HUME: It's a lot of money.

WILLIAMS: It's a lot of money.

HUME: What do you got -- how many -- 27 -- we had about 1,100 people voting in that election out there at the church?

BARNES: Oh no, there were more than that.

HUME: Well, that's what the numbers in the paper suggested that there were more a. -- but let's assume, I mean, you have to raise a lot of money to do that.

BARNES: Yeah, for this? It would be easy.

HUME: When we come back with the panel, we'll review how the 2008 Democratic presidential race is shaping up. That's next.



SEN HILLARY CLINTON, NEW YORK: He's a friend and colleague, and I have a very high regard for him. Elections are always about the future, but that's up to the voters. People have to look at candidates; they have to weigh positions on issues. It really comes down to a gut feeling when you're looking at someone, especially someone who could be commander and executive in chief and that's what elections are about.


HUME: Well, there's Hillary Clinton talking about Barack Obama in the regard that she has for him. And, of course, apparently, the regard that others have for her and for Obama was such that Evan Bayh, to name one, the Republican senator from Indiana decided that this race was not one that he could get anywhere in, so he pulled out over the weekend, announced that he was not going to run, as many thought he would. That has led to speculate that Mark Warner, who decided not to get out early, no may think there's room on the right for him to get back in.

But in any case, where are we now? Is it possible, based on what we're seeing now, that Hillary Clinton may prove to strong that Barack Obama notwithstanding, and the excitement about him notwithstanding, that this race, this wide open race we, sort of, drooled over in the Democratic ranks may not happen?

SAMMON: I think the Democratic part of the race has always been dominated by one person, and that's Hillary. Much more so than the Republican side, which was always more of a, sort of a jump ball -- you could have a lot of different scenarios. And I still think she is the dominant front-runner. I do think Barack's entry has complicated that and turned it into -- I actually think of it as a -- if you look the top tier as being three people, I look at Hillary, Barack, and Edwards, now as the alternative.

HUME: He's about to get in, right?

SAMMON: I think he's always been in. He hasn't made it official. I mean, it's got to be killing him because this guy has been running for two years, and -- you know, just trying to get a toehold in here, all of a sudden Barack Obama kind of casually decides to throws his hat in this ring, and he has catapulted up into the top tier, the second place position.

But I think those three are going to be the top three on the Democratic side. And if Barack decides not to run, or the scrutiny turns up, because right now all the coverage is so fawning and unquestioning, I think Edwards then would become the alternative to Hillary and it would become a two-person race on the Democratic side.

WILLIAMS: Or Al Gore. If Al Gore jumps in the race, the dynamic shifts tremendously, because Al Gore has the capacity to raise money, he's got a track record. The way things look like now, I think that Mark Warner may -- he may be biting his lip, because gosh, you know, the Southern governor strategy in the tradition of Clinton, in the tradition of Jimmy Carter, he fit the model. He was going to be the alternative. The question is could he have created a strategy that would have energized people?

I think Mark Warner has that capacity. Actually I think John Edwards has that capacity. You see the union money flowing into John Edwards' coffers. The question now is does Obama have any hope of raising money? I don't think he'll raise it out of the New York people, I don't think he's going to raise it out the Hollywood people, so where's the money going to come from for Barack Obama?

HUME: You think I'll have trouble raising money?

WILLIAMS: I don't think he's going to -- at the moment, Hillary has a lock -- not only because of Hillary, you got to remember, Brit, it's also Bill Clinton, he's in this picture.

BARNES: Yeah, but how about all these people that give to more than one candidate? A lot of those Hollywood and Wall Street people do, so look -- I think that Hillary is running a gamble in her campaign. It's basically; she's not going on allow anybody to get to her right. She's running, basically, a general election campaign, believing that she's powerful and she can defeat any of these other candidates.

HUME: But isn't she's turning against the war, though, in such a way as to try to placate that part of the Democratic.

BARNES: She as, sort of. But she hasn't repudiated her vote in favor of the war, she hasn't withdrawn that. John Edwards has. John Kerry did and said it was wrong, but she hasn't. And when you get her on health care issues, she's now interested in some, you know, things with market forces, how they can work to expand and health care in the United States. She's not going to let a Mark Warner get to her and Evan Bayh wasn't going to get to her right. And that's basically a campaign that she doesn't want to do anything or say anything that would ruin her, as so many Democratic candidates have been ruined, in the general election.

SAMMON: She cultivates this image as a centrist, but I looked up her liberal rating the other day on Americans for Democratic Action, it's 100 percent.

BARNES: No, but look, still, I know, those ratings didn't mean everything. Compare her to the other candidates running and she's still to the right of them. That's what's important.

SAMMON: What's interesting to me is that on the Democratic side you have more people getting out of the race then you do on the Republican side. You've got, you know, Bayh getting out, you got Warner getting out, you got Russ Feingold getting out. On the Republican side you only have Bill Frist getting out, which tells you there's still -- there's still possibilities. You could see a guy like, maybe even, Mike Huckabee out of Arkansas might do something. I'm not -- I don't think it's likely, but he could make something out.


WILLIAMS: There's dynamism on this -- and the Democrats, I think, look for Bill Richardson. I think Bill Richardson's a dark horse in this race.

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