It saddens me, even as an outside observer, to report that in the ongoing worldwide meeting of Anglican church primates, they have requested that US and Canadian Anglicans voluntarily withdraw themselves from the greater Anglican body until 2008. (link) According to the article, and I see no reason why this wouldn’t be the case, it appears to have come to a head over the appointment of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire.
This seems to be quite a troubling move, as it seems that Anglicans have really been able to remain in communion despite disagreement over a number of issues in the past. What does the future hold, especially for Anglicans in the US and Canada? Will there end up being two churches after all, or can the Episcopalians/Canadian Anglicans remain united as one body and united under the Archbishop of Canterbury?
Given the latest events, I wonder if there will be an internal rift within the Anglican church in the US/Canada, and the conservatives will become part of the worldwide Anglican communion, while those not opposed to the ordination of Bp. Robinson will end up becoming a splinter group.
There already is an internal rift in North America. A minority - but a sizeable one - has been distressed by the innovations in the US and Canadian churches and has tried to remain aligned with Canterbury and the other Anglican churches around the world in Africa, South Asia, and South America (who represent the vast majority of Anglicans in the world). To say nothing of maintaining dialogue with Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations who also have cut or curtailed discussions with the Episcopal Church over the issue.
I think it’s tragic… but the Episcopal Church was warned back in October of 2003 that going ahead with the consecration of Robinson, and moving ahead with the blessings of same sex unions, would have this exact effect (“tear the fabric” of the Communion).
It looks like the Canadian and US churches have been given some time to respond via their national convention/synods. I really can’t imagine them backing down on the issue.
So I don’t know what will happen. Hopefully, there can be some kind of arrangement where the dioceses and parishes who wish to remain in communion with Canterbury can be released from ECUSA (with their property), or some kind of arrangement made to allow them to remain with the Communion. But it will take a couple of years to play out (the next scheduled General Convention of ECUSA is in 2006 in Columbus). The House of Bishops meets next month, however, and will have to have some kind of response.
This will at least give some breathing time, some space for both North American Episcopalians/Anglicans and other Anglicans to calm down and work out a way to mend the rift. I think the key issue is not so much what was done but how it was done.
The point is that there are many Episcopalians/Anglicans who are, whether justified or not, very offended by what was done, how it was done, and the attitude of those who did it. Whether this act was right or wrong is, right now, irrelevant: the important fact is that the Anglican Communion has become less of a communion because of vociferous opposition on both sides.
Perhaps some distance will let hotter heads cool down and cooler heads prevail, so that people will realize that Christian unity is an important thing to preserve.
That was what was happening prior to the 2003 General Convention. The Episcopal Church had no formal teaching on homosexuality or the appropriateness of same-sex blessings, so people on both sides could ignore their differences. There was tension, but we lived with it.
But when GC’03: a) approved the consecration of a bishop who lived in a homosexual relationship and b) approved the option for local dioceses to administer same-sex blessings, the conservatives/orthodox/reasserters suddenly found their church formally approving of behavior that they believed was clearly in violation of Christian and biblical morality. Not only was the church disregarding both scripture and church tradition (two of the three ‘legs’ of Anglicanism’s three-legged stool), they were putting the Episcopal Church’s relationships with the greater Anglican world, and for that matter the rest of Christendom, in jeopardy.
It’s a matter of conscience for both sides. Everyone believes that they are being most obedient to God’s will. I can’t imagine how the two contrary views can ever coexist again. How can there be a compromise? One side will never agree that homosexual relationships are sanctified or blessed or anything other than contrary to God’s will; the other side will never back down from including active homosexuals in all levels of church life, including in the episcopate and in the sacrament of marriage.
I think we’re likely, eventually, to see the US and Canadian churches (with others from Europe) form their own network of churches outside the Anglican Communion, where they can do whatever they want without worrying about Anglican orthodoxy. But that’s just a guess, and it won’t happen right away.
The next interesting thing to happen will the the House of Bishop’s meeting next month and how they respond to the statement from the Primates.
Skammer and I disagree profoundly in how we’d handle this situation if one of us were in charge. But I agree in every particular with what he’s said here; it’s the perfect concise analysis of what happened. The only thing I’d add is that GC2003 had the choice thrust upon them; they either had to ratify or deny ratification to +Gene’s election as bishop; they had to accept, amend, or deny the initiatives presented them for a liturgy for same-sex unions (they amended to local option). It was not as if they could walk away from the issues.
This is probably going to get me yelled at or pitted but I say it anyway: Is unity really that important? It isn’t as if all christians agreed on everything only a couple years ago. Theres’s already dozens, if not hundreds of seperate different denominations already, and two or three schisms(Eastern Orthdox and RCC, as well as RCC and Protestant).
I probably don’t have a dog in this fight, not being a member of the angelican or Episcopalian churchs, but if niether can agree on this, I don’t see why seperating is such a bad thing.
It sounds like (and correct me if I’m wrong) that unity is a cherished tradition in Anglicanism, unity through diversity. That which would disrupt unity is kind of like injuring one of the three legs of the Anglican stool, as tradition is steeped in unity.
Of course, this is a far outsider’s perspective who knows nothing!
I think there will be an unavoidable schism, but I don’t see it as necessarily a bad thing. However, one nit-picky point - the canadians and americans have been asked to voluntarily withdraw from a key body (not the key body) and it would mean that they are not full members of the Anglican family (all from the above cited article). In other words, they are still part of the Anglican communion, just not participating in all aspects of it.
Because the church is a family. The fact that my own family has endured more than its share of divorces and broken relationships and that such are common won’t make it any less painful or tragic to me if my (future) marriage ends in divorce someday.