The Anglican Communion has temporarily suspended The Episcopal Church, restricting the activities of the American province over last year’s unilateral and “fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our provinces on the doctrine of marriage.” In an eight-point statement released Jan. 14, the 38 archbishops meeting this week in Canterbury said they sought unity in the face of ongoing deep differences.
The announcement was leaked in advance of a press conference scheduled for Jan. 15. Forestalling speculation about the nature of the statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby released the complete document today. Throughout the statement, the archbishops emphasized the division created within the Anglican Communion by the Episcopals’ independent decision to redefine marriage. As a result, the archbishops required “that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”
Observers outside the private meeting speculated how the communion would enforce the requirements.
In a statement posted by Episcopal News Service Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, said the church has sought to be inclusive—“for all are one in Christ.”
“For so many who are committed to following Jesus in the way of love and being a church that lives that love, this decision will bring real pain,” he said. “For fellow disciples of Jesus in our church who are gay or lesbian, this will bring more pain. For many who have felt and been rejected by the church because of who they are, for many who have felt and been rejected by families and communities, our church opening itself in love was a sign of hope. And this will add pain on top of pain.”
The decision answered speculation going into the meeting that the communion would split—dividing the 85-million member church over doctrines of human sexuality and marriage as defined by Scripture. Welby, who called the meeting in September, asked for prayer and reconciliation in the face of allegations that those who held to the biblical doctrine of marriage, primarily the African provinces, would stage a walk-out of the proceedings should the wayward provinces not be taken to task. Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda did leave the gathering on Jan. 12 after the rejection of his resolution asking The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to “withdraw from the meeting and other Anglican Communion activities until they repented of their decisions that have torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level.”
Last year, The Episcopal Church announced it would solemnize same-sex unions, altering its canon to no longer recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The change was precipitated for years by regional bishops and clergy deciding independently to recognize and bless same-sex marriages. The Anglican Church of Canada has done likewise but was not called out in the primates’ statement.
But the primates said they could no longer let the Americans’ breech go unheeded.
“The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union,” they wrote. “The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”
Nor could the U.S. church’s influence be ignored. The statement chided The Episcopal Church and said, “Possible developments in other provinces could further exacerbate this situation.”
“Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us,” the statement went on to say. “This results in significant distance between us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.”
The statement reiterated numerous times the desire for unity among the communion, which represents the world-wide body of Anglican Church members. Although “significant distance” remains over issues of scriptural interpretation, the archbishops stated their resolve to “walk together” in rebuilding trust.
A task group will be established to “maintain conversation among ourselves,” the primates concluded. Welby is expected to discuss the issue in more detail on Friday, Jan. 15.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service Photo courtesy: Wikipedia Publication date: January 19, 2016