by Michael J. McManus
The words of the "Primates of the Anglican Communion,"were courteous and veiled in their meaning. "We request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council" until 2008.
To be asked to "voluntarily withdraw" from the Anglican Communion is a "polite way to suspend them from the Communion," as Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya put it.
Why? "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," as the Primates delicately stated the issue. The leaders of 77 million Anglicans shudder to even describe the practices which they find so offensive.
The statement mutes the abhorrence felt by most Anglican bishops around the world at the U.S. consecration of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire though he is a divorced, non-celibate homosexual. In 1998 by a stunning vote of 527-69 Anglican bishops opposed "legitimatizing or blessing same sex unions" and "ordaining those involved in same gender unions."
Both Canadian Anglicans and American Episcopalians violate those injunctions by using carefully crafted rituals to bless same-sex unions and ordain gay clergy.
The Anglican Primates, Archbishops who oversee Anglican churches in scores of countries, have given U.S. and Canadian Churches three years to stop these practices and express contrition, or they will be expelled from the Anglican Commnion.
"The accused have been given a long rope to hang themselves," Archbishop Bernard Malango of Central Africa told David Virtue, who authors a widely read website, www.virtueonline.org.
Rev. David Roseberry, Rector of Christ Church in Plano, TX, the largest Episcopal Church in attendance (2,200 on Sundays) considers the outcome "miraculous," in part because the "Global South is now leading the Anglican Communion. This is where the life and vitality of the church now is. How incredible that God would give them the courage and the strength to take a strong stand."
The "Global South" refers to Latin American and African Anglicans who vastly outnumber white northern Episcopalians and Anglicans. Nigeria's 18 million Anglicans are six times that of Canada and the U.S. Africans are far more orthodox in their Christian belief, and are now standing up to their historic colonial masters, and demanding their fidelity to Scripture, if they are to remain in communion.
"It was such a wonderful way of putting the Episcopal Church in its place, as if to say to a child, 'You go to your room and think about what you have done. If you want to join the family again, recognize that there are rules, serious rules. We do have boundaries,'" asserts Roseberry.
Another reason the outcome is miraculous is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, ordained a practicing homosexual as Primate of Wales. However, he was not chosen to lead the Anglican Communion by his fellow Primates, but by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Queen, an historical anomaly that began when King Henry VIII severed relations with the Catholic Church and set up a separate Anglican Communion to approve his divorce.
However, Archbishop Williams set aside his own leanings on the gay issue, and now says of Canada and America, "Someone is going to have to say, 'Yes, we were wrong.'"
Why? He faced a real prospect that Global South Primates would pull out of the Anglican Communion and create their own, clustered around Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who asserts, "Our prayers do not have to go through Canterbury to get to God."
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Frank Griswold participated in the elevation of Bishop Robinson only days after signing a statement he would abide by traditional biblical standards of sexuality at a 2004 Primates meeting. He is such an anathema to other Primates for his moral apostasy that for the first time in centuries they did not receive Communion together.
However, the Primates were gracious in their suspension of the Canadian and American churches, giving them three years to consider "the principle of inter-dependence" which was breeched.
But the warning is clear. If a national church goes against the historic Christian teaching that sex belongs within marriage, it will be expelled from the Communion.
Will the Episcopal Church express contrition and mend its ways? That is highly unlikely. The Episcopal House of Bishops meets in two weeks. I doubt it will reverse course.
Griswold said afterwards "I can't imagine a conversation saying we got it wrong."
END TXT Copyright 2005 Michael J. McManus