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25 February 2005

Kicked out of the Anglican Communion?

Some of the news reports that you can read online right now make it sound as such.  One, from the AP, said,

Anglican Church Asks U.S., Canada to

Leaders of the global Anglican
Communion declared Thursday that they want the U.S. Episcopal Church and the
Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from the communion’s councils temporarily,
and to explain their attitudes toward gays which have split the

The statement was issued by primates a day earlier than planned,
following their meetings this week at a Roman Catholic retreat in Northern

The U.S. church precipitated the most serious rift in the
communion’s history when it affirmed the election of V. Gene Robinson, who
openly lives with a male partner, as bishop of New Hampshire. Both churches have
been criticized by conservatives for sanctioning blessings of gay

The statement emerged a day earlier than planned from a meeting
of church primates in Northern Ireland. It called for the U.S. and Canadian
churches to explain their thinking at a meeting in Nottingham, England in

“In the meantime, we ask our fellow primates to use their best
influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on
public rites of blessing for same-sex unions and on the consecration of any
bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage,” the
statement said.

A non-Anglican friend of mine was understandably pissed about this, as
it makes it sound like it’s our (LGBTIQ people) fault for the whole
mess.  I responded:

Well, it’s getting interesting, but not for the reasons that
this article indicates. 

Let an Anglican explain

That quote was ensconced in a very long
statement discussing how the Anglican Communion can deal with the crisis.  And
the long statement was in some sense a commentary on a dense theological
document that came out five months ago.  And, on some level, gays are not the
crisis, but the catalyst for a larger crisis for us Anglicans — what does it
mean to be an episcopal (bishop-centered) church without being Roman (i.e.,
hierarchical and top-down)?  If some churches (like the US and Canadian
churches) go ahead and do something that the rest of the Anglican Churches find
wrong, how do we as a larger group of churches address that, without having a
centralized authority (like a pope) to order some people to stop/start doing
something they believe to be right and good?

the conservatives, it’s not gays who have split the church, but radical, sinful
Americans and Westerners (because this is very much a North-South,
developed-developing world issue).

overwhelming majority of American and Canadian bishops support the consecration
of LGBT people to the episcopacy and the blessing of same-sex covenantal
relationships.  Best guess numbers indicate that it’s only about five percent of
Episcopalians nationwide who align with the conservative position.  Mostly, it’s
several very outspoken American bishops, and bishops of the West Indies,
Nigeria, Kenya, Singapore, and a few other African and Asian nations. 
Archbishop Tutu and his successor, Archbishop Ndungane, have endorsed the cause
of justice for LGBT people.  And nowhere is it as simple as a
liberal-conservative paradigm might indicate, because those are not good labels
in this context.

Yes, it’s about the gays, and no,
it’s not about the gays.  As Anglicans, we have a tough polity, and if it
hadn’t been issues of justice for LGBT issues, it would have been something else
down the road one or two decades from now that would have precipitated this. 
That said, LGBT issues (and the “ick-factor” along with the course of Western
history for the last 1500 years) and our push for full recognition and inclusion
in the Body of Christ have played a significant role in pushing this crisis to
where it is, and this is partially a fight about our rights.  And those of us in
the church can’t and won’t give up that fight.

quote in the article was way decontextualized (as it was a single sentence from
a document of several pages of text), in that it’s the same continued request to
the American and Canadian churches to slow down — at least for the present —
and give everyone some time.  They might have cherry-picked this quote (“We also
wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral
appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be
committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people.  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.”) or this one (“We as a
body continue to address the situations which have arisen in North America with
the utmost seriousness.  Whilst 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
underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured, and the
effectiveness of our common mission severely hindered.”) Neither makes any real
sense out of context.

Furthermore, the head of the
Episcopal Church (USA) has not yet issued a statement in reaction to this (just
a news bulletin that he’ll issue one soon), but if the past is any
indication, he’ll probably throw lots of support behind LGBT people in the
church and voice his continued support for the consecration of the Bishop of New
Hampshire.  He himself was the chief consecrator at the Bishop of New
Hampshire’s ordination and consecration. 

right.  Enough said.  Now you know the beginnings of enough to make sense of
that AP wire story.

I find myself on the slow and gradual side of unity.  Being an
ex-evangelical, I still look for dramatic conversion experiences more
than I look for gradual transformations.  As one of BF’s advisors
is fond of pointing out, “We’ve only been at this for 2000 years; we’ve
hardly begun to figure it out.”  And that’s the operative thing I
tell myself much of the time as we work through this — there’s a good
chance I will not see this resolved in my earthly life.  It’s not
about any of us particularly, no matter what the cost.  It’s about living
together in righteousness and love, and accepting those costs.

Posted in Rayleejun on 25 February 2005 at 11:04 am by Nate