- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

Conservative Episcopalians yesterday put the best face possible on the results of this week’s emergency summit of 37 Anglican archbishops in London, even though a statement issued at the close of the two-day meeting did not call homosexual acts a sin.

Nor did the statement give the Episcopal Church the stinging rebuke some conservatives felt it deserved for consenting on Aug. 5 to the election of Canon V. Gene Robinson as the denomination’s first openly homosexual bishop.

But the nuanced statement did say that if the Diocese of New Hampshire goes ahead with its planned Nov. 2 consecration, it “will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level” whereby whole Anglican provinces will declare themselves “out of communion” with the Episcopalians.

“The ball is in [Episcopal Presiding Bishop] Frank Griswold’s court,” said Canon Chris Sugden, executive director of Anglican Mainstream, a British-based organization of 1,500 Anglican archbishops, bishops, clergy and laity in several countries. “This puts the onus directly on Frank and Gene not to go ahead.”

Plans are still in effect for Bishop-elect Robinson’s consecration that, because of the 6,000 persons expected to attend, has been moved to the campus of the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

Within a few hours of the release of the archbishops’ statement, the Diocese of New Hampshire put out a release inviting them to the ceremonies.

“One archbishop, who is not known as a conservative,” Canon Sugden said, “was absolutely astounded to hear the Diocese of New Hampshire had issued a response within 24 hours. This was met with incredulity. He said, ‘What kind of consideration was that? They haven’t even given time to think about it.’”

But Rev. Susan Russell, president of the homosexual caucus Integrity, called the consecration “prophetic,” adding there would be strained relations with other Anglicans afterward, much like previous interchurch squabbles over the ordination of women.

“We have trod this path before,” she said in a statement, “and will continue to do so. Let us do so in faith that God will lead us forward; that the church we love is big enough, brave enough and strong enough to survive this challenge to our catholicity.”

Conservatives say they do not expect the bishop-elect to step down. A board meeting of the American Anglican Council, a conservative group, meets Wednesday and Thursday at Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax to discuss strategy.

The Very Rev. Peter Moore, dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, an Episcopal seminary in Ambridge, Pa., said the Anglican leaders are waiting for the consecration to happen before bringing in the heavy guns.

“They may have decided they need one more shot across the bow,” he said of the archbishops. “It’s clear they weren’t able to agree. It seems that Frank has emerged from this quite confident of going his own way. No matter how much negative stuff he heard at the meeting, he was not going to change his mind.

“Once the consecration takes place, it may well provoke another [archbishops] meeting. We may get what we want.”

Until things simmer down, he is advising seminary students, 33 of whom will be entering the priesthood next year, to take a close look at their ordination vows.

“Seniors wonder what this means in terms of their promise to ‘obey the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church,’” he said, quoting from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. “At this point, I am recommending they not agree to do that or write a disclaimer.”

The Rev. David Roseberry, whose Plano, Texas, parish organized a summit of 2,700 conservative Episcopalians in Dallas two weeks ago and who was in London to monitor the meeting at Lambeth Palace, said the archbishops “have answered everything we asked for. We got significant wins. We are humble but energized.”

Although the statement out of Lambeth “does not rebuke [the Episcopal Church], it does point out the trigger mechanism of what will happen if the Americans go ahead with the consecration,” he said.

Mr. Moore said the postconsecration strategy is already mapped out.

“We are certainly going to start creating networks of dioceses and parishes and send money to a new location,” he said. Typically, Episcopal parishes across the country send at least 10 percent of their collections to their dioceses, which forward a percentage to the national headquarters in New York.

“We need to start this soon,” Mr. Moore said. “Parishes are wondering where to send their money. Then the lawsuits will start flying.”

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who was also in London for the meeting and who met yesterday with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said huge chunks of the Anglican Communion will immediately cut ties with the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church after the consecration.

“The consequences,” he said, “will unfold in the months and weeks ahead.”

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