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
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
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
‘ALTERCATION’ BETWEEN GRISWOLD AND WILLIAMS
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
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”.
WHAT ABOUT ECUSA’S MONEY?
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:
- 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.
- Excluded from their
meetings the Primates of the two provinces until such times as those provinces
have repented of and reversed their actions.
- Persuaded their own
provinces to refuse to accept as part of the Communion those who have adopted
and supported these unbiblical practices.
- Welcomed into the
Communion those alternative bodies of the theologically orthodox in North America.