- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

The U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada must cease ordaining homosexuals and conducting blessings of same-sex unions by 2008 or withdraw from the worldwide Anglican Communion, the denomination’s archbishops ruled yesterday.

In the meantime, the two churches cannot participate in the governing body of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, according to a five-page communique issued last night from a conference in Northern Ireland.

“There remains a very real question about whether North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion,” the document said.

“We request the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw” from the Anglican Consultative Council, which operates the day-to-day functions of the Anglican Communion under Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The Rev. Jan Nunley, an Episcopal Church spokeswoman, said no decision had been made on whether the U.S. church, represented at the conference in Northern Ireland by Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, would abide by the request.

The three U.S. members of the Anglican Consultative Council “will speak with the presiding bishop when he returns from Ireland next week,” she said.

In the communique, 35 archbishops and presiding bishops representing the national churches on six continents gave their U.S. and Canadian members until the summer 2008 Lambeth Conference to decide whether to split from the worldwide body or adhere to Anglican policy that forbids both actions.

The Americans and Canadians also have been summoned to a meeting in Nottingham, England, in June to explain why they departed from Anglican policies in both matters.

The Canadian church began conducting same-sex blessing ceremonies in May 2003 and the U.S. Episcopal Church in November 2003 consecrated a homosexual bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, a divorced man living with his male lover.

Bishop Griswold issued a brief statement yesterday admitting that the communique “will not please everyone.”

“It is important to keep in mind that it was written with a view to making room for a wide variety of perspectives,” he said.

Several Episcopal dioceses, including the Diocese of Washington, have been conducting same-sex blessing ceremonies, although Washington Bishop John B. Chane has asked parishes to refrain from doing so while the matter is being debated in worldwide Anglicanism.

However, Anglican bishops during the 1998 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England, voted in a statement saying sex between homosexuals is “incompatible with Scripture.” That policy still holds, the communique said.

The statement is a victory for Anglican conservatives, who oppose the same-sex ceremonies and Bishop Robinson’s consecration.

The Rev. Martyn Minns, the canon at Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, who is in Ireland monitoring the meeting, was not willing to use the word “victory” yet to describe the bishops’ findings, instead calling them “a very strong rebuke.”

“It’s clear the Americans and Canadians have been suspended for three years while they consider whether to be Anglicans or not,” he said.

Several Anglican provinces already have split with the U.S. Episcopal Church over the Robinson matter, and several archbishops from Africa, Southeast Asia and South America have conducted services and offered Episcopal oversight for conservative Episcopal churches in dioceses with liberal bishops.

Although the U.S. and Canadian churches’ separation isn’t final, the communique is the closest yet to declaring a split within the worldwide body.

In a radio interview with the British Broadcast Corp. (BBC), Australia’s presiding bishop said an outright break in the Anglican Communion could come.

“There do come times when the authority of the Bible is at stake — and this is one of those times — where to stay together becomes a great difficulty,” said Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia.

“I hope we can stay together [but] … there are times where strong views are held and where division does occur,” Bishop Jensen said.

Church liberals garnered one victory in the document; a clause from the conservative archbishops saying they would not initiate or encourage such “interventions” in American dioceses for the next three years.

“During this period,” it said, “we commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions.”

However, the archbishop of Canterbury will appoint a panel to supervise pastoral care for conservative parishes under liberal bishops.

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