Anglican commission upbraids US church and it's critics

October 19, 2004

Bishop V Gene Robinson
LONDON — An Anglican church commission has urged the U.S. Episcopal Church not to elect any more gay bishops and called on conservative African bishops to stop meddling in the affairs of other dioceses.

The commission, created last year after the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, called on Monday for apologies from both sides, and for reconciliation among the world's Anglican churches.

The immediate reaction, however, suggested no move toward reconciliation. The head of the Episcopal Church pointedly did not express regret for Robinson's elevation, drawing fresh denunciations from conservative opponents who believe the U.S. church has strayed from biblical truth.

The report also urged the Canadian and American churches to refrain from blessing same-sex unions, arguing that North American liberals had breached "the proper restraints of the bonds of affection" among Anglicans.

"Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart," said the unanimous report of a 17-member commission headed by Irish Archbishop Robin Eames.

The report, which didn't criticize Robinson personally and didn't call for anyone to be punished, "represents the highest degree of consensus that was attainable," said Drexel Gomez, archbishop of the West Indies, a commission member and a leading conservative critic of the U.S. church.

Eames told a news conference the report didn't offer any easy solutions to the church's crisis, and sought reconciliation rather than punishment. "You cannot impose reconciliation," Eames said, citing his own experience of Northern Ireland's peace process after three decades of violence.

But Eames rejected a reporter's suggestion that the world Anglican church was "helter-skeltering toward meltdown." "I like to think we are learning the realities of a pluralist, sad and divided world," Eames said.

The Anglican church traces its roots to the Church of England, whose archbishop of Canterbury is the communion's spiritual leader.

But both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church are now among the smaller members of the communion, which has grown strong in Africa.

African bishops spearheaded a resolution overwhelmingly adopted in 1998 by Anglican bishops which declared homosexuality "incompatible with Scripture" and opposed gay ordinations and the blessing of same-sex unions.

In consecrating Robinson, the report said, the Episcopal bishops "acted in the full knowledge that very many people in the Anglican Communion could neither recognize nor receive the ministry as a bishop in the church of God of a person in an openly acknowledged same-gender union."

The report urged the Episcopal Church "to express its regret." Until there is an apology, the report said, those who participated in consecrating Robinson, including Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, should consider whether to withdraw from functions of the Anglican Communion.

The commission also called on the Episcopal Church to place a moratorium on promoting any other person living in a same-gender union to the bishopric "until some new consensus" emerges.

Griswold has previously expressed regret for the turmoil and has withdrawn as co-chairman of an Anglican ecumenical body.

"We regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans," he said Monday.

But Griswold said his church was seeking to live the Gospel "in a society where homosexuality is openly discussed and increasingly acknowledged."

"Other provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret that there are places within our communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are," Griswold said.

A U.S. bishop, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, accused Griswold of "regrettable arrogance."

"How can he go on leading a church which has been asked to turn back?" asked Duncan, leader of the American Anglican Council, a conservative grouping opposed to Robinson's elevation.

The Rev. Johnson Ebong, provincial mission and evangelism coordinator in the Church of Uganda, said an apology from the Episcopal Church wouldn't be enough.

"Apology is not the word used in the Bible. We use repentance, meaning turning away from sin and sinning no more," Ebong said.

The Anglican Communion Network, a grouping of dissenting Episcopal congregations, expressed disappointment the commission failed to recommend discipline for the Episcopal Church, saying unity should not be maintained at the expense of biblical teachings.

"We must not allow a desire to hold the church family together to allow us to maintain the fatal disease that grips (the Episcopal Church) and by association, the Anglican Communion," the network leaders said.

In its report, the commission urged bishops not to intrude into other dioceses. In Los Angeles, for instance, some congregations have aligned with Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, provoking a lawsuit contesting ownership of church properties.

"The Anglican Communion cannot again afford, in every sense, the crippling prospect of repeated worldwide inter-Anglican conflict," the commission said.

Its report recommended that the churches draft and sign an "Anglican Covenant" that would deal with relationships among the national churches. The report envisioned this as a long-term process, concluded with a formal signing. No date was suggested. – Sapa-AP

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Church report Monday could affect 77 million Anglicans [15/10/2004]



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