- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

OXFORD, England — Conservative Episcopalians say the majority of the world’s Anglican archbishops will support their efforts this week to punish the Episcopal Church for elevating a practicing homosexual to the post of bishop.

Starting tomorrow, the world’s Anglican primates, or leaders of the various national churches, will be at Lambeth Palace in London for a showdown meeting over the Aug. 5 ratification of Canon V. Gene Robinson, a homosexual, as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire.

Conservatives say that two months of lobbying has amassed the support of 23 of the 38 primates for their plans to sanction the Episcopal Church in the United States, including, if neccesary, depriving it of billions of dollars in assets and disenfranchising it as the voice of Anglicanism in the United States.

A strategy session is set for tomorrow at All Souls Church, Langham Place, an evangelical parish in the West End of London. Conservative archbishops and other Anglicans — one of them being the Rev. Martyn Minns of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Va. — are arriving from around the world.

“We’ve worked out all the different scenarios as to what we’ll do,” says one of the planners, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s not all wrapped up, although we do have the numbers. We will have to cut out the cancer instead of breaking the church up.”

The “cancer” is the American church — or at least the 62 bishops and their dioceses who voted for Mr. Robinson. U.S. Episcopalians affirmed the Robinson selection at their general convention this past summer in Minneapolis and also voted in a provision acknowledging that some bishops are allowing the blessings of same-sex unions.

One scenario is for the archbishops at Lambeth Palace to demand that the American church halt the Robinson consecration, set for Nov. 2.

If the Americans refuse, they could be denied their three seats on the Anglican Consultative Council, which administers the Anglican Communion. Several hundred U.S. bishops could also be denied their seats at the once-per-decade Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in 2008.

Further discipline could include sending conservative bishops to lead parishes in liberal U.S. dioceses.

The final step would be to disenfranchise the American church altogether and install a new province in its place. One church leader, Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia, has urged that the American church be expelled from the communion.

To carry this out, the Rev. Rowan Williams, who as the Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, would have to recognize only the conservative dioceses and parishes as bona fide Episcopalians and members of the Anglican Communion.

Such a move by the Anglican Communion would give conservative parishes a legal basis for holding onto their property. U.S. courts have required that congregations wishing to depart the American church must cede the building and other assets to the diocese.

The conservative organizing is, predictably, not going over well with Richard Kirker, general secretary for the London-based Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement, which has 4,000 members.

“Our opponents are throwing everything at us they can,” he says. “We have sent an open letter to all the [archbishops] calling for them to meet with us. We are hoping they will see the merits of appointing an international commission on human sexuality because that is the only way out of this mess made by those who are resisting change.”

A group of “right-wing neo-fascist American capitalists … are funding this,” he says. They “are trying to block an open and democratic process concerning the nomination of Gene Robinson.”

His group, in turn, asked the British Home Office to block Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola from attending the summit, saying his presence in Britain might incite hatred against homosexuals. In response, the Nigerian government issued the archbishop a diplomatic passport, giving him unlimited access to any country.

Conservatives recently lobbied Archbishop Williams, who has ordained at least one practicing homosexual to the priesthood in Britain, but who asked another to forgo elevation to bishop of Reading to avoid this kind of schism.

Archbishop Williams also heard from Pope John Paul II, at an Oct. 4 meeting in Rome. The Roman Catholic pontiff told the Anglican leader that allowing a practicing homosexual bishop would pose “new and serious difficulties” to unity between Catholics and Anglicans. The American Anglican Council, which denounced the American church’s actions as unbiblical heresy at its Dallas gathering last week, received a letter of support from the Vatican.

“It’s hard for an Anglican leader to go against the pope,” says the Rev. Timothy Bradshaw, theology professor at Regents College here. The Vatican warnings “will be a strong factor in favor of the conservatives. We’re supposed to be sister churches with the Catholics and the Orthodox, and this will break relations in a major way.”

Several other Anglican clergy here say U.S. Episcopalians act “arrogantly” in the way they change church policy and expect the rest of the Anglican Communion to follow along or “clean up the mess.”

The American church voted to ordain women as priests in 1976 over the opposition of most of world Anglicanism. Since then, most provinces have followed. “The Americans think they need dance to no one’s tune,” says the Rev. Peter Walker, a New Testament and biblical theology professor at Wycliffe Hall, another of Oxford’s 39 colleges. “We’d rather American bishops teach the Scriptures rather than be prophets of the new age.”

But at the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops at Canterbury, a coalition of Third World bishops, including many from Africa and Southeast Asia, foiled a U.S.-led campaign for the ordination and “marriage” of practicing homosexuals.

Anglican bishops voted 526-to-70 with 45 abstentions for a resolution declaring that homosexual practice is “incompatible with Scripture.”

“American church got quite a bloody nose at Lambeth, but then they went back to the States and paid no attention to [the vote] at all,” Mr. Bradshaw says. “That seemed very arrogant to a lot of us.”

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