LONDON (BP)–A much-anticipated report studying the rift over homosexuality within the Anglican Church calls for a moratorium on openly homosexual bishops and same-sex ceremonies but stops short of calling for the removal of Gene Robinson as an Episcopal Church bishop.
The Anglican Church’s Windsor Report was released Oct. 18, more than a year after the Episcopal Church confirmed Robinson as the denomination’s first openly homosexual bishop. The move has threatened to split the 70-million worldwide Anglican body — of which the Episcopal Church is a member.
“By electing and confirming such a candidate in the face of the concerns expressed by the wider Communion, the Episcopal Church (USA) has caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians both in its own church and in other parts of the Communion,” the report, written by the 17-member Lambeth Commission, reads.
The 93-page report also criticizes the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada for allowing blessings of same-sex couples.
The report recommends:
— that the Episcopal Church “express its regret” that it harmed the worldwide body.
— that those who took part in the consecration of Robinson “consider … whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion.”
— that a moratorium be placed on bishops “living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.”
— that American and Canadian bishops who authorized the blessings of same-sex unions “express regret” that they harmed the worldwide body.
— that a moratorium be placed on same-sex union blessings.
— that a covenant be written expressing the beliefs of the worldwide body. The report includes a draft covenant.
The report received both praise and criticism from two conservative organizations — the American Communion Network and the American Anglican Council — both of which are working for reform within the Episcopal Church. The two organizations issued a joint statement.
“We have strong concerns … about the fact that they call only for the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) to ‘express regret’ and fail to recommend direct discipline of ECUSA,” the statement read.
“… We see a critical need for a Core Covenant and applaud this recommendation by the Commission. In addition, we support the recommendation of a moratorium on the ordination and consecration of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same sex unions as well as the invitation to those who participated in the consecration of V. Gene Robinson ‘to withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion.'”
The report repeatedly calls for healing and reconciliation within the Anglican community. Conservatives, though, said that unity must not trump biblical truth.
“We understand and embrace the justifiable concern for the unity of the communion, and we treasure real unity,” the ACN and AAC said in the statement. “We cannot in good conscience, however, support such unity at the expense of truth. We must not allow a desire to hold the church family together to allow us to maintain the fatal disease that grips ECUSA and by association, the Anglican Communion.”
Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, gave no indication that his denomination was ready to change its position.
“Given the emphasis of the Report on difficulties presented by our differing understandings of homosexuality, as Presiding Bishop I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry,” he said in a statement. “Other Provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are.
“The Report will be received and interpreted within the Provinces of the Communion in different ways, depending on our understanding of the nature and appropriate expression of sexuality. It is important to note here that in the Episcopal Church we are seeking to live the gospel in a society where homosexuality is openly discussed and increasingly acknowledged in all areas of our public life.”
Griswold’s statement was criticized by the two conservative organizations.
“We are deeply saddened that within minutes of the Windsor Report’s release, the Presiding Bishop has already rejected its core presupposition that is the church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality,” the statement by American Communion Network and the American Anglican Council read. “We call upon Bishop Griswold to express godly sorrow, immediately implement a moratorium on ordinations and consecrations of practicing homosexuals as well as the blessing of same sex unions, and we call on all bishops who have supported the consecration to withdraw from the councils of the church, as the report suggests.
“The Episcopal Church is now faced with serious and difficult choices. They can follow the lead of Bishop Griswold which will ultimately lead to the demise of the Episcopal Church or they can choose to embrace the core covenant recommended by the commission, reject false doctrine and preserve faithful unity.”
The report itself acknowledged the deep divisions within the Anglican community and even held out the possibility that a split could be imminent.
“There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together,” the final page of the report read. “Should the call to halt and find ways to continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart.”
For information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage