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Sunday, August 20, 2017
Date Posted:

World Anglican Leaders Send North Americans Into The Cold

4 MARCH 2005
British Church Newspaper

World Anglican Leaders

Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion have agreed to temporarily isolate the US and Canadian churches from a key Anglican body following a rift over the issue of homosexuality.  The decision whether to expel the North Americans has been postponed.

The leaders, knows as primates, of 35 of the communion’s 38 autonomous provinces, asked the North American churches to “voluntarily withdraw” from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the main coordinating body of the 78-million communion, for at least three years.  The Primates meeting does not have the power to expel anyone.

The North Americans are, however, to be invited to an ACC meeting in Nottingham, in June where they will be asked “to set out the thinking behind the recent actions of their provinces”.

The rift between the two wings of Anglicanism was precipitated by actions in 2003 of the Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada.  The US church consecrated the openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, while New Westminster introduced a rite of blessing for same-sex unions.

Both actions were in breach of a declaration by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the 10 yearly meeting of Anglican bishops, that homosexual relations are contrary to Scripture.

In October 2004, the Windsor Report, produced by a commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as leader of the communion, called on the North American churches to “express regret” for their actions.


The primates met behind closed doors in Northern Ireland between 21 and 25 February at the Dromantine Centre run by the Roman Catholic Society of African Missions.  The Primates said in a communiquĕ: “There remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion.”

The meeting began on a discordant note when Archbishop Eames asked Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), to preach in Belfast Cathedral.  At the same time Eames refused to allow Archbishop Greg Venables of the southern Cone of South America, who is opposed to homosexual ordination and blessings, to preach in a large Evangelical parish in Northern Ireland.

No common Holy Communion service could be held because 22 primates have publicly stated that they are out of Communion with the North Americans.

Opposition to the North Americans’ stance has come particularly from Anglican provinces in the developing world, led by Africa.  The primates asked the North American churches to observe a moratorium on further blessings of same-sex unions or the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage.

The two North American churches were asked to withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council at least until the 2008 Lambeth Conference which gathers Anglican bishops from around the world.  The North Americans will be excluded from the Lambeth Conference if they do not say they repent.


Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the US church, made it absolutely clear after the meeting that, though he was sorry that the Africans were so upset, there was no question of repenting or saying that ECUSA regretted what it had done.

Virtue Online reports from ‘reputable sources’ that Griswold and Rowan Williams had an altercation on Friday night 25 February.  Griswold accused Williams of being an ineffective leader of the communion.  Griswold did not stay for the press conference.  It is generally assumed that Griswold left angry that Williams was not supportive of the Episcopal Church’s newly developed doctrine of sexuality.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was asked to set up a reference group to ensure alternative pastoral provisions for groups in theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their provinces.  This is primarily for the benefit of North American churches opposed to homosexual ordinations and blessings, who are being forced to leave the Anglican Communion for continuing Anglican Churches.


The Primates agreed neither to encourage nor to interfere in one another’s dioceses.  This is aimed at those bishops, especially Africans, who are going to the rescue of dissenting anti-homosexual churches, particularly in North America.

The Primates sought to squash the suggestion that the Archbishop of Canterbury should be a kind of Pope with powers to interfere in other Provinces than his own.  The Anglican provinces guard their independence jealously.

Regrettably the Primates endorsed the so-called Historic Episcopate, that is the supposed Apostolic Succession from which priests claim to derive their sacramental gifts.

The Primates declared that the, “victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.  We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship”.


The US Episcopal Church is a very substantial contributor to Anglican Communion central finances and to provinces to the global South.  Observers were awaiting word about the future of this funding.  (ENI and other sources).


The Rev David Phillips, Director of Church Society comments, “We are alarmed that the Primates meeting has again stopped far short of what is required at this time”.  He regretted that the Primates had not:

  1. Set out a clear statement asserting that the actions of ECUSA and the Anglican Church in Canada (and of those who support them) are beyond the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

  2. Excluded from their meetings the Primates of the two provinces until such times as those provinces have repented of and reversed their actions.

  3. Persuaded their own provinces to refuse to accept as part of the Communion those who have adopted and supported these unbiblical practices.

  4. Welcomed into the Communion those alternative bodies of the theologically orthodox in North America.

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