LONDON (BP)–Anglican leaders at an emergency meeting in Canterbury issued a statement Oct. 16 that distances the worldwide body from a controversial action by the Episcopal Church (USA) and warns of an even further divide if an openly homosexual bishop is consecrated.
In days leading up to the meeting between the world’s primates and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams — the Anglican spiritual leader — it was thought that conservatives might have enough votes to remove the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. But that did not materialize, and instead a statement was issued.
The two-day meeting was called after the Episcopal Church (USA) confirmed its first openly homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, in August.
The Anglican statement, passed unanimously by the 37 primates, criticizes both the decision by the Episcopal Church and the one by the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada allowing blessings of same-sex couples. It warns against Robinson’s consecration, scheduled for Nov. 2. Robinson has said he will not back down.
“If [Robinson’s] consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy,” the statement reads. “In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).
“This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).”
Similar actions apply to the situation in Canada, the statement said.
Interestingly, the statement calls homosexuality a “chosen lifestyle.”
“In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop,” it states.
The primates — who are the head bishops of their respective territories — reaffirmed their “common understanding” of the “centrality and authority of Scripture in determining the basis of our faith.” They also reaffirmed a non-binding resolution passed by worldwide bishops in 1998 that stated homosexuality is “incompatible with Scripture.”
“Therefore, as a body we deeply regret the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church (USA) which … could be perceived to alter unilaterally the teaching of the Anglican Communion on this issue,” the statement passed Oct. 16 reads. “They do not.”
Echoing what bishops in other parts of the world have warned, the statement acknowledges that actions of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Canadian diocese threaten Anglican relationships “with other parts of Christ’s Church, our mission and witness, and our relations with other faiths, in a world already confused in areas of sexuality, morality and theology, and polarised Christian opinion.
“… To this extent, therefore, we must make clear that recent actions in New Westminster and in the Episcopal Church (USA) do not express the mind of our Communion as a whole, and these decisions jeopardise our sacramental fellowship with each other.”
The primates asked that a commission be formed to consider the Archbishop of Canterbury’s role in maintaining worldwide communion during times of crisis. The primates asked that the commission study ways in which concerns are addressed. They asked that the report be issued within a year.
The meeting in Canterbury came on the heels of a meeting by conservative American Episcopalians in Texas criticizing the actions of the Episcopal Church.
The entire statement can be read on the Internet at: