Leaders of the Anglican Communion have voted to discipline The Episcopal Church of the United States for accepting marriage equality.
The decision comes under pressure from anti-gay Anglican leaders of the churches in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. However, the anti-Episcopal decision apparently was not strong enough, or taken early enough, for Archbishop Stanley Ntagali from the Church of Uganda, who walked out of the Primates meeting because of the presence of churches that had not “repented of their decisions” about LGBTI issues.
The Primates 2016 meeting at Canterbury, England, today issued a statement about the decision, which said in part:
“Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. …
“It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal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.”
The Episcopal Church is an independent organization that is part of, but not under the jurisdiction of, the the 85-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion or its spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury. That means that Primates’ vote does not change Episcopal Church policies or practices. It merely limits participation by the Episcopal Church in Anglican Communion decision-making and as Anglican representatives on interfaith and interdenominational committees.
Even that effect might be overstated, according to Episcopal Church observer and journalist James Naughton, who told the Washington Post that the primates could be exceeding their authority.
“I’m just very puzzled about where they think they have the authority to require these things,” Naughton said. “This looks too much like a power grab to go down easily.”
However, because of that vote, Anglican Communion, comprising churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England, might be spared from breaking apart over the issue of inclusion or exclusion of LGBTI people.
Some of the leaders of conservative anti-LGBTI Anglican churches in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Rwanda and Congo had threatened to leave if the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, accepted even the presence of gay-friendly churches such as the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church at the meeting.
Keeping the Anglican Communion intact, minus full representation from gay-friendly churches such as the Episcopal Church and perhaps others, comes at the cost of emboldening anti-gay churches that reject LGBTI people. Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Sudan are among the 76+ countries worldwide with anti-gay laws and the Anglican churches there strongly support that legalized repression.
African LGBTI activists in England have planned a protest in Canterbury for Jan. 15. The theme of the rally is “Listen to LGBTI people.”
Michael Curry, the African-American presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said before the Primates voted on the disciplinary action:
“Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as the Bible says, when all are truly welcome. …
“Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, 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. 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.”
According to the Episcopal News Service, Curry told the Primates that he was in no sense comparing his own pain to theirs, but:
“I stand before you as your brother. I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this conjures that up again, and brings pain.
“The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, as we have said in this meeting, I am committed to ‘walking together’ with you as fellow primates in the Anglican family.”
In Jamaica, the Rev. Sean Major-Campbell of the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands commented that the Primates’ priorities were misplaced:
“What if the Church spent more time truly sharing love? What if the Church spent more time empowering people to be emancipated from mental slavery? What if poverty, disease, injustice, and human rights concerns, generally speaking, received even 50 percent of the passion expended on the private sex lives of adults?”
Instead of suspending the Episcopal Church, he said:
“Nonsense should have been suspended!!! God bless the Episcopal Church. Long live the Episcopal Church.”
- Canterbury rally to Anglican leaders: Listen to LGBTI people (Jan. 14, 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Stonewall CEO: A split in the Anglican Church could be dangerous for LGBT people – religious or not (Jan. 12, 2016, The Telegraph)
- Barbaric’ Anglican schism would not threaten LGBTI progress (Jan. 10, 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Anglicans’ LGBTI schism: Archbishop’s realism or bad idea? (September 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Church of England to blame for anti-gay Nigeria, Uganda? (September 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Petition to archbishops: End anti-gay purge in Kenya (September 2015, 76crimes.com)
- U.S. church plans support for LGBT-friendly Africans (June 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Anti-gay Anglicans blast archbishop for friendly chats in U.S. (January 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Eject anti-gay Anglicans or keep a poisoner at dinner? (March 2014, 76crimes.com)